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Race Relations Conciliators Interviewed

26 October 2004

Race Relations Conciliators Interviewed For Oral History Project

New Zealand’s former Race Relations Conciliators reflect on this country’s race relations over the last 30 years as part of an oral history project that will be handed over to the Turnbull Library’s Oral History Centre this week.

The Race Relations Conciliators Oral History Project covers the period 1972 to 2001 and consists of seven interviews with Race Relations Conciliators and key staff about important cases they handled, the focus of their term, and the day-to-day running of the office.

The project was initiated by Conciliator Rajen Prasad during his time in office and was jointly funded by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator. Interviews were carried out by Megan Hutching, Senior Oral Historian for the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The Race Relations Act, which established the role of Race Relations Conciliator, was passed in 1971 and came into effect on 1 April 1972. The Office of the Conciliator was amalgamated with the Human Rights Commission in 2001.

The first Conciliator, Sir Guy Powles, was appointed in December 1971 and held the post for 18 months. He was succeeded by Harry Dansey. Subsequent Conciliators have been Hiwi Tauroa, Walter Hirsh, Chris Laidlaw, John Clarke, Rajen Prasad and Gregory Fortuin. The current Race Relations Commissioner is Joris de Bres.

Ken Mason, who was Deputy Conciliator for many years, and Pita Sharples, who was the Executive Officer, were both interviewed for this project because Guy Powles and Harry Dansey had died before the project began. All the other former Conciliators, with the exception of Gregory Fortuin, were also interviewed.

All media representatives are invited to attend the handover at 10.30am, Thursday 28 October, Executive Offices Foyer, National Library Building, Molesworth Street.


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