By Laurens Ikinia
A son of former migrant refugees who came to New Zealand from DR Congo, Africa, has fulfilled a childhood dream by being elected a councillor in a byelection for Palmerston North City Council.
Orphée Mickalad was one of 11 candidates who contested the seat in a recent byelection and he won with 7123 votes. He was sworn in last week.
Mickalad told Asia Pacific Report that he was blessed and extremely grateful to be elected as a fresh, young city councillor.
“It is truly a blessing, especially someone from a migrant refugee background, to come to this country and to stand for public office – and get elected,” said Mickalad.
He said it was something good and worth applauding.
The 30-year-old said it was his dream of becoming a politician. While he was growing up he observed people suffering in his home country from bad leadership that caused trouble for many innocent lives.
It was his ambition to make changes on policies and laws to empower the community that he would be representing.
‘When I grow up’
“When I grow up, I was telling myself, I want to be a good politician to make laws that will actually benefit people rather than destroy their future,” said Mickalad.
He had arrived in New Zealand 15 years ago as a migrant refugee teenager.
Mickalad describes himself as a young councillor, saying that he is keen to listen to anyone bringing up important community issues.
He said the strength of his personal policy was coming up with fresh ideas and perspectives.
After consulting with the community, he tries to accommodate all aspirations and compiles them in the form of policy that he would bring to the table.
He groups the policy into four sectors – including economic development, the environment, housing, and infrastructure.
“After my consultation with the public, I realised what was important to them was better housing, the environment, and also economic development.”
Mickalad completed his high school studies in Palmerston North and earned two degrees from Massey University.
He calls on other migrant communities in Aotearoa-New Zealand to be “courageous”.
“For migrant communities all I have to say is that we should not sit back and just relax, hoping that people will bring change for us. It is important for us to stand up and put ourselves out there.”
He said he could have been fearful over whether rivals would not accept hm “because of who I am or because of what I look like”. But he had “boldly” advocated over issues that were important to the community.”
Mickalad said he was delighted to bring to the table issues that existed in the migrant community.
“I believe God had a big part in gaining this seat. Just trusting God and making sure that all of us have something to give to society,” he said.
“I do believe that one way or another, even if we are not elected to council we can get involved in community organisations.”
Laurens Ikinia is a Papuan Masters in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology who has been studying journalism. He contributes to Asia Pacific Report.