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New Year Honours list 2024: Asians recognised for serving community

8:12 am on 9 January 2024
Clockwise from top left: Anuradha Ramkumar, Marie Lindaya, Athula Wansinghe and Anne Perera.

Clockwise from top left: Anuradha Ramkumar, Marie Lindaya, Athula Wansinghe and Anne Perera. Photo: Supplied

More than half a dozen Asian individuals have been recognised in this year's New Year Honours list for their services to the ethnic community.

Marie Lindaya has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to multicultural communities in New Zealand.

"I'm very surprised, humbled, honoured, very grateful and validated that I must have done something good in my lifetime," Lindaya says.

Marie Lindaya has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the multicultural communities.

Marie Lindaya. Photo: Supplied

Lindaya has supported and advocated for multicultural communities in the Nelson-Tasman region for more than 30 years. She co-founded Multicultural Nelson Tasman in 1994, supporting migrant and former refugee communities.

"The news of receiving such an honour marks a momentous joyful occasion for the wider communities I serve, and my family in the Philippines," Lindaya says.

Anuradha Ramkumar, Prem Singh and Anne Perera have also been included on the list, becoming Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

They join four other Asian recipients who were recognised for their contributions to sport as well as their services to New Zealand's diverse communities.

Anuradha Ramkumar has been providing opportunities for future generations of New Zealand Indians to maintain links to their cultural heritage through dance.

Anuradha Ramkumar. Photo: Supplied

Ramkumar established Nrityabhinaya-Anuradha's School of Indian Dances in 1996, which has spearheaded the growth and development of two classical styles of Indian dance forms - Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam - in Auckland.

She has been providing opportunities for future generations of New Zealand Indians to maintain links to their cultural heritage through dance.

"It's an honour that inspires me to continue passionately sharing the beauty of Indian dance forms and fostering cultural unity," Ramkumar says.

Prem Singh

Prem Singh. Photo: Supplied

Singh, a founding member of the Wellington Fiji Association, has been an advocate for the integration of migrant communities and former refugees into New Zealand society for more than 30 years.

"(The award) is a recognition that goes beyond me and highlights the collective effort of our multicultural communities," Singh says. "My journey has always been about working alongside these hard working and vibrant communities, learning from them and contributing however I can."

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Singh organised vaccination drives for vulnerable members of the community and coordinated fundraising initiatives and donations for those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023.

"(The award) is a call to keep listening, learning and leading with compassion to ensure that our efforts align with the needs and hopes of our communities," Singh says. "This recognition is a milestone that inspires me to redouble my efforts, to keep pushing boundaries and to keep finding new ways to uplift and empower those around me."

Anne Perera has been recognised as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her contributions to food science and nutrition.

Anne Perera. Photo: Supplied

Perera is a specialist in food and nutrition who has worked in industry, research and academia in New Zealand since 1981.

"I feel really humbled and honoured to be on this elite list to be recognised as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit," Perera says.

Following retirement in 2010, she has been a food and nutrition advisor to Small Industries Development Organisation in Tanzania and helped rebrand the Tanzania Association of Food Scientists and Technologists.

"I never expected to receive such a high honour for the professional and community work I have done over the past 40 plus years in this adopted land of mine," Perera says.

Meanwhile, Hansa Naran and Manisha Morar were honoured with The Queen's Service Medal for wider services to the Indian community.

Hansa Naran

Hansa Naran. Photo: Supplied

Hansa Naran has been contributing to the Indian community in various capacities for more than 30 years.

"This award is not just a recognition of me as an individual who started life in New Zealand as a housewife around 50 years ago, but also an endorsement of the valuable services provided by the organizations that I have worked for," Naran says.

Naran helped manage more than $500,000 in funds raised for India during the Covid-19 pandemic and has been a justice of the peace since 2014.

She has donated to incubators, and provided clothing to children's missionaries as well as traditional sarees for women who cannot afford bridal clothing in India.

"I hope this award encourages many other women, especially those from migrant backgrounds, to step out of their comfort zones and utilize their talents and strengths to their fullest potential," Naran says.

Manisha Morar has been honoured with The Queen’s Service Medal for her contributions to the Indian community.

Manisha Morar. Photo:

Morar is a prominent leader and respected voice in the Indian community.

For more than 25 years, she has served the Wellington Indian Association, holding several voluntary roles including president, Gujarati language teacher and historian since 2010.

"When a community is thriving, it fosters happiness and efficiency among its members," Morar says.

"The passion I have for my work and its accomplishments stem from this communal strength, and I am grateful as I know these are not solely my achievements."

Athula Wansinghe has been awarded with The Queen’s Service Medal for his services to the Sri Lankan community and cricket.

Athula Wansinghe. Photo: Supplied

Athula Wansinghe has been awarded with The Queen's Service Medal for his services to the Sri Lankan community and cricket.

Wansinghe, vice president of the Sri Lankan Association of New Zealand, played a significant role in coordinating support following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the 2018 Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am happy, delighted and honoured by this award, given in recognition of my contribution to the community and cricket in New Zealand," he says.

Wansinghe is also a senior umpire and a junior cricket coach in the Wellington region.

Sadun Kithulagoda

Sadun Kithulagoda. Photo: Supplied

Sadun Kithulagoda has contributed significantly to Wellington's Sri Lankan expatriate community for more than 20 years.

Kithulagoda has been a member of the United Sri Lanka Association since immigrating to New Zealand in 1992 and was the programme director of Sri Lankan community radio station Lak Handa for 25 years, creating a fortnightly programme to connect the Wellington Sri Lankan community.

For his services to the community, Kithulagoda has been honoured with an Honorary Queen's Service Medal.

"In accepting this award, I aspire to encourage anyone who may be starting their own journey to persevere through any hurdles that may come their way," Kithulagoda says. "This award is a symbolic achievement not only for me but everyone who has assisted me on my journey thus far."

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