RACE UNITY CONFERENCE 2018
Race, Unity and Justice
The Race Unity Conference is a collaborative space where youth and their supporters discuss and explore opportunities for the improvement of race relations in Aotearoa. This year’s Conference explored the relationship between race, unity and justice.
The Conference was held on Saturday 12 May at Te Māhurehure Marae, Auckland and was immediately followed by the National Final of the Race Unity Speech Awards.
The keynote session at the Conference was a dialogue between human rights lawyer Rez Gardi (Human Rights Commission, Young New Zealander of the Year 2017) and academic Dr Arama Rata (Waikato University) on the relationship between unity and justice. “Unity would mean being free to embrace cultural and racial differences but not being forced to assimilate to a mainstream culture,” said Ms Gardi. Dr Rata spoke about how the Treaty settlement process has created justice and unity but has been limited because “mainstream New Zealand society has been left out of the process. There needs to be more engagement from non-Maori to achieve unity and balance.” Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan commented that this dialogue was “one of the best discussions of race and justice I’ve been to, as it went a lot deeper than most others.”
The Conference was attended by over sixty people, including university students, young professionals, senior high school students, and the semi-finalists and finalists of the Race Unity Speech Awards. All who attended participated in small group discussions, facilitated by Baha’i youth, which were used as the basis for a Conference Statement. The Conference also included in-depth workshops on te Tiriti o Waitangi, sculpture, performing arts and youth civic engagement.
The Conference was also attended by Michael Wood MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Ethnic Communities) and Melissa Lee MP (Opposition Spokesperson for Ethnic Communities). Ms Lee commented that “it is very encouraging to see youth from across New Zealand taking part in this conference to discuss the issues of race, unity and justice. We must continue to do more to ensure that New Zealand is a friendly and inclusive society that strives to eradicate racial prejudice.”
The views shared at the Conference have been summarised in a Conference Statement, titled ‘Race, Unity and Justice’. Those who attended the conference connected strongly with the principles of unity and justice, and are asking New Zealanders to make specific changes to align our institutions, our community life and our personal lives with these principles. Academic and writer Max Harris has commended the statement, saying it “articulates the challenges that lie ahead of us if we are to dismantle structures of colonisation and institutional racism in Aotearoa New Zealand. We (in particular Pākehā) need to challenge racism within our own communities and ensure we live up to the guarantees of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
What earlier conference participants have said:
- “I enjoyed being a part of such a moving and motivational experience”
- “Through competing and attending the conference, I have met so many great people, it has opened my eyes to new perspectives. I have been made aware that the issue of racial unity is – on a wider scale – unity of the society we live in, and reached an understanding of just how important unity is.”
- … thank you for making this opportunity available to all of us …and thank you for showing me the multitude of ways we can make change in our society.”
- “..it would be good to extend the days to a week for this sort of important event.”
- “Thanks for such a wonderful opportunity! It’s been a great honour and because of it I have gained more confidence in my everyday life! Thank you!”
- “Keep doing what you’re doing, you have no idea how incredible this experience that you have provided for us is!”
- “Thanks for an amazing experience. I hope to be back next year, fingers crossed!”
- “Amazing event! Thank you so much; I went away inspired and equipped to do my bit towards achieving a racially diverse NZ”
- “Everything was awesome!”
- “I enjoyed taking part in the intriguing and thought-provoking workshops. I found then really stimulating”
- “The whole experience was fantastic… I really enjoyed listening and comparing all of the different viewpoints on how we can improve and enhance Race Relations in Aotearoa.”