This World Refugee Day, 20 June, New Zealand Red Cross recognises the invaluable contributions former refugees across Aotearoa have made in bringing our communities together during New Zealand’s toughest times.

They are caregivers, community support workers, journalists, cleaners, nurses, truck and bus drivers, supermarket assistants, border workers, farmers – many working in essential services  with jobs which can often go unnoticed but have been vital for Aotearoa to get through lockdowns.

“The previous year has been a very challenging time,” says Rachel O’Connor, New Zealand Red Cross GM Migration. “And while many of us were able to stay home during lockdown, essential workers played significant roles in the community to ensure that we had access to vital services we all needed. New Zealand Red Cross wants to acknowledge the work of essential workers and on World Refugee Day we reflect on how some of those essential workers came from refugee backgrounds.”

To celebrate these amazing people and their contribution to our community, New Zealand Red Cross is launching its ‘Essential Kiwi Legends’ campaign. It profiles essential workers with refugee backgrounds to raise awareness about ordinary people who have faced extraordinary circumstances. With their lives disrupted by conflict or persecution, refugees simply seek a safe environment in which they can resettle and freely engage in society.

“On World Refugee Day, we want to acknowledge the people in our community who have a refugee background – their hard work, their skills, and everything they contribute to make New Zealand a better place, including during our COVID-19 response. We are grateful they are part of our community,” says Rachel.

Ahead of World Refugee Day, New Zealand Red Cross challenges Kiwis to get involved in marking this important day: 

  • Embarking on Red Cross Journey from 17 June–30 July: members of the public can join Red Cross’ fitness challenge by covering a distance matching a journey that many refugees have taken while raising funds to help people in need.
  • Offering a former refugee a job: Kiwi businesses and employers can work with Red Cross’ Pathways to Employment team to hire refugee-background job seekers.
Rachel adds: “Community support is a key ingredient for refugee settlement in towns and cities around Aotearoa. We must work together, as successful settlement takes a whole of community approach.”

Media contact

For more information or to set up an interview with a former refugee in your region, please contact Elodie Berthe, Communications Manager (Acting) on 027 404 1691 or

Notes to media

New Zealand Red Cross is the primary provider of community refugee settlement programme in Aotearoa, supporting and empowering new Kiwis as they rebuild their lives here. We provide support to former refugees to make their transition to life in New Zealand as smooth as possible, including in finding work.

 Our Pathways to Employment team is always looking to connect with employers to find their perfect fit, while making the selection process as efficient and enjoyable as possible. We work with refugee-background job seekers who have a vast range of skills, qualifications and employment histories. We will work with employers to identify and fill skill gaps in the workplace. Interested employers can reach out via our website.