13 March 2002

The first meeting of the people involved in setting up the Migrant Action Trust. Initial discussions centred on organising an immigrant social event where migrants from North Asia, South East Asia and South Asia would be invited. The event was intended to be the catalyst to forming an interest group which would serve as the voice of migrants in New Zealand. Although this event never eventuated due to lack of funding, the meeting itself did lay the groundwork for the eventual creation of MAT.

14 June 2002

A meeting was held, facilitated by Alice Lacaba and attended by Birgit Grafarend–Watungwa, Sherry Lifeng Huang, Douglas McKay, Noli Lacaba, Richard Barter, Lydia Ducaiova, Agnes Granada, Jaromir Pistora and Whaleng Quek.

It was Alice who suggested starting a migrant-initiated non-profit organisation primarily addressing migrants’ settlement issues and challenges. Alice’s idea provided direction for the meetings that were held in the rest of 2002. Most of these meetings were held in the premises of Tearfund.

15 January 2003

Migrant Action Trust (MAT) was incorporated under Charitable Trust Act of 1957 (registration number AK/1268650). The original board members were Harry Singh (Chairperson), Richard Barter (Secretary), Agnes Granada (Treasurer), Noli Lacaba (Trustee) and Natalia Maz (Trustee).


Tearfund provided an office space within their premises which allowed MAT to have a face in the community of Auckland.

July 2006

Work and Income awarded MAT a 3-year grant to run the DOOR4Migrants programme. The programme showcased two of MAT’s primary services – namely, employment enhancement and the Micro-Enterprises’ Development (MED) – and allowed MAT to address key issues/concerns of migrants that were not being adequately addressed by institutional services at the time.


MAT advocated and petitioned on behalf of migrants who were affected by the government’s unfair work-to-residence policy. Migrants with work-to-residence visas only had 6 months to find jobs related to their professional fields despite the Labour government of the time advising on its own website that it may actually take more than 6 months. This was changed to 9 months in 2007. A petition was also filed with the government in 2007 to give holders of temporary work visas holders who had lost their jobs more time to find work. The petition, which took more than a year to process, was unsuccessful.

At present

MAT originally functioned with only one staff member for a number of years, supported by 40 plus on-call volunteers. Today, MAT employs six staff and has access to many volunteers who are willing to share their skills and talents to make a difference in the migrant community.