Students tackling racism head-on

Issue: Volume 97, Number 6

Posted: 5 April 2018
Reference #: 1H9iEo

A prestigious Race Relations Day event left a lasting impression on a group of Auckland students who were invited to attend by the Governor-General.

Students from three Auckland schools were delighted to receive an invitation from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy to a special event at Government House in Auckland on 17 March to mark Race Relations Day 2018.

The students from Jean Batten School, Mission Heights Junior College, and the Fo Guang Shan Chinese School in Flat Bush were in good company; in addition to the Governor-General, the event was also attended by Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, Young  New Zealander of the Year Rez Gardi, and 7 Days’ star, Jeremy Elwood.

The event drew on the main message of New Zealand Human Rights’ Give Nothing to Racism campaign: that racism starts small and lives in everyday actions and comments that people typically laugh off. The campaign, featuring film-maker Taika Waititi, says we need to stop encouraging such behaviour to prevent it from turning into something more extreme.

Principal of Mission Heights Junior College Ian Morrison said the campaign resonated with the Auckland students.

“The message of ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ is simple yet powerful. This is very relevant in the multicultural society of Auckland where we live. It is better if young people learn about such vital issues early on in their lives. Students were very inspired listening to the speakers about how we all can make a huge difference with our little actions to remove racism.”

Year 10 Mission Heights student Victoria Kree agreed.

“The stories told throughout the day, of prejudice, discrimination, and overcoming it all, were both harrowing and inspirational,” said Victoria.

Victoria believes the event will “benefit students for years and years”.  She said students learned about the detriments of racial discrimination, whether it is a small joke at another’s expense or institutional racism.

Students were particularly moved by Rez Gardi’s personal account of relocating from a refugee camp in Pakistan to a completely new country. Rez started life in New Zealand as a refugee with nothing, to working as a human rights advocate and working on projects for the refugee youth.

Fellow Mission Heights student Amanda Lee agrees Rez’s speech was a highlight.

“Her speech opened our eyes to the endless possibilities that one could hold, as well as showed that those who start with nothing can rise above their stations and surpass expectations.”

Amanda said the event inspired the students to learn how their actions could help bring about change.

“[The event] inspired us to work harder to ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ and support those who are affected by discrimination and prejudice in their lives.”

“We learned about racist climates and what we can do to make a difference,” agreed Victoria.

Students were also inspired by a musical item by Venice Qin that carried the message of keeping strong when others push you down.

Research published on Education Counts, Promoting Positive Race Relations in New Zealand Schools: Me Mahi Tātou, highlights the challenges schools, teachers and communities face in addressing cultural diversity. It notes that differences in cultural values, in parents’ and students’ expectations of schools, and attitudes about cultural and racial diversity are issues in many schools, although they are not always acknowledged.

The report collates a number of policies and strategies developed that have proven effective in addressing positive race relations across a range of schools and extends the challenge to other schools “to reflect on these experiences, ideas, and insights and be encouraged to create positive educational experiences for all children”.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:59 am, 5 April 2018

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