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Meeting and Forum at Parliament - Tuesday 24 Aug.

Human Rights Commission
Media Advisory - 18 August 2004

Meeting and Forum at Parliament - Tuesday 24 August

Following the desecration of the Bolton St and Makara Jewish cemeteries, writers James and Helen McNeish have called for people to focus on "A Way Forward for Racial Harmony", embracing New Zealanders of all cultures and backgrounds. Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has given his support to this citizens' initiative, which will take the form of a meeting in the forecourt at Parliament at 12.30pm on Tuesday 24 August, and a Forum to discuss constructive proposals to achieve greater racial harmony and safety for all communities in New Zealand. This is to build on the unanimous resolution of Parliament last week, and the statement of support for the resolution from Maori, Pakeha, Pacific, Asian, Middle Eastern and other community leaders tabled in the House.

The Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, has given his approval for the meeting and will issue the invitations to the Forum. Attendance at the Forum is by invitation only.

Details are as follows:

Public meeting: Forecourt of Parliament, 12.30 pm. Speakers will include Sir Paul Reeves, Hon Chris Carter, Minister of Ethnic Affairs, Sukhi Turner, Mayor of Dunedin, Dr Ngatata Love, Wellington Tenths Trust, Roger Moses, Principal, Wellington College, three youth representatives and James McNeish.

Forum: Banquet Hall, Executive Wing, Parliament Buildings, 1.30- 3.00 pm. The forum will be hosted by the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, and co-chaired by Bob Harvey, Mayor of Waitakere and Joris de Bres, Race Relations Commissioner. Invitees are being asked to bring along and contribute their own suggestions for positive actions and programmes.

Both events will be open to the media.

Background information:
A wake up call from writers James and Helen McNeish

Please join us, Sir Paul Reeves, Dr Ngatata Love, Mayor Sukhi Turner, Headmaster Roger J Moses, other concerned New Zealanders and the people of Wellington at large on the forecourt of parliament for a meeting on racial harmony in the wake of the incidents at Bolton street and Makara cemeteries

We invite you to join us on the forecourt of Parliament at 12.30 pm on Tuesday 24 August. You may also wish to attend a forum which will be held immediately afterwards inside Parliament, from 1.30-3.00 pm. The Forum, "A Way Forward", will be an open discussion co-chaired by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres and Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey. We want to hear your ideas to help us develop specific proposals and long-term action.

We have received indicative approval from the Speaker of Parliament, Rt.Hon. Jonathan Hunt. Because space inside Parliament is limited, and there are security considerations, we will need to confirm acceptance of your participation in the Forum with his Office. Please respond by noon on Thursday 19 August to fionar@hrc.co.nz if you wish to attend.

Background

As we are sure you are aware, we as New Zealanders face the growing challenge of developing a society which is more welcoming of diversity, made more poignant by recent events.

Tuesday 10 August's unanimous, cross party resolution in Parliament, condemning the desecration of Wellington Jewish cemeteries as an outrage and a form of terrorism, is widely welcomed. But it is only a beginning. We want to give expression to Parliament's historic resolution. We want to focus on constructive ideas and initiatives which look to the future.

We want to support the mission of the Race Relations Commissioner to promote racial harmony, which leads us to rise above politics and division.

Other people who have already identified with our initiative include Phil Amos, Chris Carter, Chris Laidlaw, David Lange, Bob Harvey, Ngatata Love, Melino Maka, Paul Morris, Roger J Moses, Rev John Murray, Ken Muramatsu, David Moskovitz, Terence O'Brien, Michael Powles, John Prebble, Ian Prior, Lani Tupu, Ross Wilson and Lydia Wevers.

The search for ideas has two aims - to stimulate commitment towards greater tolerance, and to help inform and strengthen existing initiatives so that all ethnic and religious groups may feel they can live in this land without being threatened by their "difference".

People are shocked, shaken up. Already we are heartened by the support coming in from New Zealanders of all cultures and backgrounds, as evinced by the statement from community leaders tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

Ours is an independent citizen initiative. Former Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves will be the keynote speaker in the forecourt.

We believe that the implication of what has happened at Bolton St and Makara goes far beyond a single targeted community: that it is both a signal and a test for all New Zealanders. We have a vision of racial harmony in a healthy society which we hope all New Zealanders share.

We would welcome ideas in short statements we might quote in appropriate settings such as at the meetings at Parliament. You can send your suggestions to diversity@thinktank.org.nz .

Support is being facilitated by Anthony Haas at the Centre for Citizenship Education, via email ahaas@decisionmaker.co.nz

If you would like an invitation to attend the Forum please email Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, at the Human Rights Commission, at fionar@hrc.co.nz.

Warm regards

James and Helen McNeish


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