A graduate programme motivated by something bigger
Chikita Kodikal from Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission and Ministry for Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme in office sitting in chair

“I firmly believe the barriers faced by minority and marginalised communities can be addressed at a larger scale, through the public sector.”

This year we welcomed our new Graduate Advisor Chikita Kodikal. Chikita joined us as part of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme to support our Diversity, Leadership, and Inclusion mahi over an 18-month period.

“I recognise that the Programme, which has given me the opportunity to work at Te Kawa Mataaho, is not solely limited to a first employment opportunity for myself, as it is motivated by something much bigger. It is a platform that intends to reflect the community it serves and by doing so it is playing its part in constructing a new image of what it means to be an inclusive Aotearoa.”

Chikita says the spirit of service has always been at the heart of everything she and her whānau have done.

“It is an honour to learn from and be supported by team members who share the same spirit of service. I am excited about contributing to the Commission’s work and creating an impact in this space.”

Diversity and inclusion

It is important that New Zealand’s Public Service reflects and understands the society it serves. The Act affirms this principle because:

  • a diverse workforce will have the experience and expertise to better contribute to the design and delivery of policies, services and other initiatives meant to improve the lives of all New Zealanders
  • New Zealanders will have greater trust and confidence in a Public Service that they can see reflects the communities it serves
  • inclusive workplaces are fair for employees and reflect the statutory obligation of the Public Service to be a good employer – we should be a good employer and model inclusion as an aspect of fair and equitable employment practices and give all an equal opportunity to demonstrate merit for employment or promotion
  • it prepares the Public Service to be ready for a more diverse future for New Zealand.

Our Public Service, under the Commission’s leadership, has been undertaking focused diversity and inclusion work for the last five years. In that time, we have made some significant gains, particularly in the gender balance of leadership roles.

Our 2020 demographic data show some promising results that we can attribute to our diversity and inclusion efforts to date.

  • Our Public Service workforce is more representative of women. We have achieved gender balance in Public Service leadership: 53 percent of leaders in the top three tiers are women, including 50 percent of chief executives This compares with six years ago when only 29 percent of chief executives were women.
  • Our Public Service Workforce is more ethnically diverse. Our new recruits are more ethnically diverse than the existing public service workforce. Representation for Māori, Pacific peoples and Middle Eastern/Latin American/African ethnic groups is higher than the New Zealand labour force.  For example, Pacific peoples make up 9.7 percent of the Public Service work force, which is higher than both the New Zealand population level (8.3 percent) and the New Zealand labor force (6.3 percent).
  • The number of Māori chief executives in the core Public Service has increased over the last four years to six. There are now 28 Māori in tier 2 leadership positions, up from 9 in 2016 and representing a more than 200 percent increase in five years. In the last five years, we have almost doubled the number of Pacific leaders in the top three tiers of leadership, from 22 to 41.

Despite this progress, we know that disparities continue to exist within the Public Service workforce, including, but not limited to, an under-representation of Māori, Pacific peoples, ethnic minorities, Rainbow and disabled people in Public Service leadership roles, as well as continued gaps in gender and ethnic pay. So, over the last year, we have focused on embedding gains and extending our efforts. For example, we have:

  1. appointed Naomi Ferguson, Commissioner of Inland Revenue and Peter Mersi, Secretary of Transport as the co-chairs of Papa Pounamu (the governance group for the Public Service-wide diversity and inclusion work programme, see below) and the Functional Co-leads of diversity and inclusion to lead our diversity and inclusion work programme across the whole of the Public Service
  2. appointed a dedicated Kaikōmihana Tuarua mō Te Hautū, te Kanorau me te Whai Wāhitanga | Deputy Commissioner, Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion within our organisation to lead diversity and inclusion activities across the public sector and support Papa Pounamu
  3. strengthened the performance expectations for chief executives to include specific diversity and inclusion expectations
  4. Mandated a unified approach by making five elements of the diversity and inclusion programme a mandatory requirement for all public service agencies.   These five priority areas (see below) will have the most positive impact around improving diversity and inclusion across all dimensions of Public Service work
  5. required all Public Service agencies to publish diversity and inclusion plans and publicly report progress against the Papa Pounamu work programme in their annual reports.
A pie graph showing that across the Public Service workforce 50 percent of Chief Executive roles are held by women, and that 53.2 percent of leaders in the top three tiers are women.
50 percent of Chief Executive roles are held by women; 53.2 percent of leaders in the top three tiers are women


Papa Pounamu supports the PSLT to meet their diversity and inclusion aspirations and commitments.

During this year, Papa Pounamu confirmed a work programme that set out five priority areas that will make the positive impact for all diversity dimensions. The PSLT agreed to make these five areas mandatory in their agencies: addressing bias, cultural competence, inclusive leadership, building relationships and employee-led networks.

A bar graph showing that Pacific peoples make up 9.7 percent of the Public Service work force, 8.3 percent of the New Zealand population level and 6.3 percent of the New Zealand labor force.
Pacific peoples make up 9.7 percent of the Public Service work force, which is higher than both the New Zealand population level (8.3 percent) and the New Zealand labor force (6.3 percent).


To help all agencies deliver on the commitments, the Commission:

  • published a suite of advice on the five priority areas and provided resources, tools and information on available learning solutions
  • shared and curated learning resources that could be used for training purposes, such as Mana Āki – a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-developed resource to improve understanding of cultural competence
  • provided reporting guidance to support agencies with the requirement that all Public Service agencies publish diversity and inclusion plans and publicly report progress against them in their annual reports
  • identified and supported a range of initiatives to encourage the development of Māori, Pacific and ethnic leaders in the public service, including through research fellowships and mentoring programmes.

One of the commitments is to support employee-led networks. To better enable this, from February 2021, we became the host agency for the Employee-led Networks team. The team was previously hosted at Inland Revenue and primarily focused on supporting the Government Women’s Network. The move to our organisation enables the team to provide support to a wider range of cross-agency employee-led networks and aligns well with the five priority areas of Papa Pounamu. The team provides guidance and practical support on networks’ development, strategic priorities, resources, events and projects, including the Women in Public Service summits. The team's primary focus is to help employee networks succeed at influencing and create a Public Service where they feel included and represented.

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