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150 young people make bold statement on racism

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 4 June 2019

150 young people make bold statement on racism

The views of over 150 young people from across Aotearoa have been published today in a statement calling all New Zealanders to confront racism.

The youth statement ‘Confronting racism with justice and unity’, gives young people a voice in the national discussion on race relations following the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.

It states “…our society has been having a long-overdue conversation about racism, prejudice and unity. Many voices have been heard. By and large, young people have not.”

The statement represents the views of a diverse group of young people aged 15 to 30 from Kerikeri to Riverton. They include high school students, university students, young professionals and activists.

“These young people are a beautiful example of New Zealand’s diversity, and I don’t just mean ethnicity – they represent different religions, rural and urban experiences, different stages of life,” says Aidan MacLeod of the New Zealand Baha’i Community, who helped draft the statement.

The statement was prepared based on discussions at the Race Unity Hui – a series of three conferences for young people to share their views on race relations, held between March and May 2019.

“We hold these hui because we know the power young people have for constructive social change,” says Suzanne Mahon, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Baha’i Community.



“What’s needed now is for adults and people of influence to consider this statement and act on it. Fortunately, prominent New Zealanders are starting to listen.”

“These reflections of young people on racial unity are courageous. They offer thoughtful solutions that need to be part of the national discourse,” says Paul Hunt, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner.

“I’m encouraged by the call from the young people at the Race Unity Hui for us all to confront racial prejudice and institutional racism,” says Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft.

“We need to listen to young people when they call on us to dismantle systemic racism, and their reminder to us that the responsibility lies not just with individuals, but also with our communities and institutions.”

“Racism is having a devastating effect on New Zealanders, including our young people. The youth statement challenges us to confront racial prejudice – whether overt, unintentional or institutionalised,” says Guy Ryan, former Young New Zealander of the Year.

The young people who participated in the Hui are pleased to see their views shared with the New Zealand public. Year 13 student Jimah Ruland-Umata from Rotorua Boys' High School says its crucial that young people are part of the conversation.

“Giving youth a platform to speak about race relations is like recycling, we don't really see the point of it until it's far too late. Every generation faces a new challenge and for the youth of today, it's fixing the problems of the old.”

The National Race Unity Hui on 11 May was attended by the Minister for Youth, the Minister for Ethnic Communities and MPs from the National Party, Labour Party and Green Party.

Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan says our youth are our leaders of today and tomorrow and their diverse voices must be heard.

“The statement acknowledges the role that every New Zealander has in countering racial prejudice. We each have a choice to make in how we respond to one another – with love or hate, forgiveness or retaliation.”

Opposition spokesperson for Ethnic Communities Melissa Lee says, “The statement is a bold expression of issues that deserve consideration by leaders across the country and makes it clear that more education and more understanding is needed across all diverse communities in Aotearoa.”

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern sent a message of support to the National Race Unity Hui, stating "Following the tragic events in Christchurch, this year's Race Unity Speech Awards and Hui hold even greater significance. ...I am sure the event will inspire thoughtful, open and positive discussion."

About the Race Unity Hui

The Race Unity Hui are organised by the New Zealand Baha’i Community, a religious community concerned with promoting the oneness of humanity at the local, national and international levels. The Wellington Hui was co-organised and sponsored by Multicultural New Zealand. The other sponsors and supporters of the Race Unity Hui are the Human Rights Commission, NZ Police and the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust.

ENDS

Notes for editors:Further information about the Race Unity Hui available at https://www.raceunity.co.nz/hui-2019

Videos from the Race Unity Hui are available at www.youtube.com/raceunity. Videos may be made available for embedding on request.

[Scoop copy of statement: Confronting_racism_with_justice_and_unity__a_youth_statement_on_race_relations__June_2019.pdf]

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