Diversity and acceptance at heart of hui

Issue: Volume 98, Number 19

Posted: 8 November 2019
Reference #: 1HA27R

Education was a central theme of a recent Youth Diversity Forum that focused on the future of race relations in Aotearoa.

Youth leaders gathered in Christchurch to address racism, education and spirituality in response to the mosque attacks of 15 March. 

Nearly 100 youth leaders from around the country came together in Ōtautahi, Christchurch, over the weekend of 4–6 October. The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and mana whenua Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu, held the Youth Diversity Forum to support a cross-ethnic discussion, addressing racism, education and spirituality in response to the mosque attacks of 15 March. 

The weekend started off with a pōwhiri to welcome manuhiri; following this were energising addresses from the MP for Te Tai Tonga, Rino Tirikatene, who spoke on behalf of Minister Jenny Salesa; National Commission Education Commissioner Carol Mutch; UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Shahin Najak; Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt; and Human Rights Commission officials Vanushi Walters and Bart English. 

In line with UNESCO’s mandate of building peace through dialogue, the focus of the hui was on the future of race relations in Aotearoa. 

Education was central to this, with participants saying the education system is instrumental in initiating change in Aotearoa. UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Shahin Najak said the group wanted to see a shift in education.

“We want to see a change in the way history is taught in our country. We want to look at an unbiased perspective, to see both pre-colonial and post-colonial – to allow more youth around the country to have a better understanding of where they come from.”

Nicola Meek, Ministry of Education Associate Deputy Secretary, who attended Sunday’s discussions, noted the education system was undergoing its biggest transformation in generations and asked rangatahi directly for their views. Tertiary education and the training of teachers was raised as an issue, with one participant citing the importance of trainee teachers being offered more opportunities to study the history of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, thereby ensuring they are equipped to teach the next generation. 

Youth leaders came from all backgrounds and religious and cultural conversations were at the centre of the forum – spanning spirituality in Aotearoa and the role of social media in young people’s lives. 

Panel discussions addressed questions such as “What does Te Tiriti-based multiculturalism look like and how do we get there?” and “What makes a New Zealander and what does belongingness look like?”

On Sunday the rangatahi were welcomed by mana whenua to the Tūhaitara Coastal Park to plant 100 kahikatea trees. Kahikatea compete with each other to grow taller but underneath their roots are interconnected, which strengthens them to grow higher. 

“We were able to unite and become something stronger – that is what I loved,” said one participant. 

At the end of the weekend’s kōrero, youth presented their key messages at the forum’s closing ceremony to 35 leaders from a wide range of organisations; these messages will also contribute to New Zealand’s position at the 11th UNESCO Youth Forum 2019 and discussions at the 40th UNESCO General Conference, both in November in Paris.

Youth leaders called for diversity to be celebrated and welcomed, for intergenerational relationships to be fostered for reciprocal learning, for inclusive spaces that nurture belonging, and that we learn from conflict to overcome struggles peacefully and with compassion. 

Rangatahi were clear that they want to have more open conversations with members of parliament, and that to keep growing as a nation these conversations need to be held with our leaders, and that the messages are received and heard.

“Our vision for Aotearoa is that everyone will accept, respect and understand each other – regardless of their difference and that will only happen through courageous conversations,” said youth participant Sakhr Munassara.

UNESCO Global Citizenship Awards open

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO acknowledges educational or community groups who are encouraging New Zealanders to become responsible and active global citizens with the biennial UNESCO Awards in Global Citizenship Education. 

Applications for these awards open on 4 November and close on 27 March 2020.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:49 am, 8 November 2019

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