NZ’s first Indian MP named as new Breast Cancer Foundation ambassador - News & Updates • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

NZ’s first Indian MP named as new Breast Cancer Foundation ambassador

Prominent member of New Zealand’s Indian community, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, has been named as Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s newest ambassador.

Mr Bakshi became NZ’s first Indian-born MP in 2008 and served four terms in Parliament. Now, the country’s leading breast cancer charity is delighted to welcome him to the Foundation to help raise vital breast cancer awareness.

“After witnessing the impact of breast cancer on my loved ones, I have come to realise the importance of educating people and providing support for those who need it,” Mr Bakshi said.

“I’m excited to contribute towards Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s vision of zero deaths from breast cancer. My goal is to increase awareness about the significance of early detection, extend support to those affected by breast cancer, and advocate for better healthcare resources and services for patients and survivors.

“Unfortunately, cultural stigmas and a lack of awareness is still preventing timely diagnosis and treatment. By engaging with the Indian community, we can dispel myths, promote regular breast screening and offer culturally sensitive support. Ultimately, the goal is to save lives and create a healthier, more informed society.”

Ah-Leen Rayner, chief executive of Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, says it’s vitally important for the charity to reach more Kiwi-Indians about the importance of early detection: “Asian women in New Zealand are getting breast cancer at a younger age than other ethnic groups, and also have the lowest breast screening participation rates. So, there’s a lot we must do to ensure more Asian women survive breast cancer.

“Kanwal has already helped us to secure some fantastic engagement opportunities for our nurse educators to attend a Diwali festival and the New Zealand Sikh Games. He’s also fostered new relationships with supporters who have since become key funders. Kanwal is a respected community leader and we are grateful to have him join us as an ambassador, playing a vital role in the promotion of early detection.”

Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in NZ, with around 3,500 women diagnosed across the country every year. The good news is breast cancer is most easily treated when detected early – the 10-year survival rate for women who are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer through screening is 95%. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ encourages women to be breast aware from the age of 20 and to consider starting mammograms at 40.

Mr Bakshi entered Parliament as a National Party list member based in the Manukau East electorate in South Auckland. During his time in Parliament, he chaired the Law and Order Select Committee, served on the Commerce and Governance and Administration select committees, and was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Police. He has worked to bridge socioeconomic gaps, focussing on fostering growth among small businesses, and been a steadfast advocate for migrant workers and students.

Beyond politics, Kanwaljit has devoted his time to charitable endeavours including the Indian Global Business Chamber and the Seva Charitable Trust.