Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Standing together & “sharing real stories”

Diversity advocate Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (center) at Auckland’s Polyfest on Thursday.

‘Stand together,’ urges New Zealand’s human rights commissioner, DW, 15 March 2019

Stand together as an ethnically diverse nation, New Zealand’s human rights commissioner has urged after Christchurch’s massacre. Mosques spokesman Mustafa Farouk says his community is “doubly shocked.”

New Zealand’s Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt urged Kiwis to stand together Friday as the toll from a gunman’s apparent racist attack on two mosques mounted in the South Island citystill rebuilding after its 2011 earthquake.

“New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world,” said Hunt, whose commission is also known as Te Kahui Tika Tangata in Maori, New Zealand’s other official language since 1987.

“This is not New Zealand,” Mustafa Farouk, president of the South Pacific island nation’s Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ) told Fairfax media. “We go around the world telling people we are living in the most peaceful country in the world,” he said, adding “we are doubly shocked.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” recalling previous earthquakes and the 1979 Erebus airliner sightseeing crash in Antarctica that saw the loss of 257 lives.

‘Premeditated attack’

Visibly shocked, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, a former immigration minister, urged the city’s population of about 340,000 to “pull together” after what she described as an extremist’s premeditated attack.

“Christchurch is a city that welcomes people from all cultures, religions and backgrounds and it breaks my heart to see this happen in our city,” said Dalziel.

A large silver fern frond — a national symbol alongside the Kiwi bird — was placed by local residents Wendy and Andy Johnson near the targeted Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park.

“We cut the silver fern out of our garden just to let all our Muslim community know that our hearts are breaking for them today,” said Wendy. “There’s no tolerance for this in our society.”

‘Racism is an issue in New Zealand’

Susan Devoy, former race relations commissioner, ended her tenure last year saying “racism is an issue in New Zealand.”

Devoy told pupils in Auckland last March that fighting racism boiled down to “sharing the real stories of New Zealanders” and treating each other with mana, the Maori word for respect.

“We knew that many Kiwis didn’t think we had a problem with racism or prejudice here,” said Devoy, recalling an anti-racism campaign begun in 2016 to document New Zealanders’ experiences.

Devoy cited testimony from Wong Lui Shueng, a fifth generation New Zealander who grew up in a small country town.

“Her story shocked people because after 70 years, she remembers with minute detail how a gang of boys had racially attacked and tormented her throughout her childhood.  But the day her friends stood up for her, she told us, her world changed forever,” recalled Devoy.

“She told us that people need to recognize that when we say things like ‘don’t mix with them, they smell’ or ‘don’t talk to them, they eat weird food,’ that’s how racism starts.”

Germany 2009: Stabbing of woman in Dresden court

Identities self-defined in statistics

New Zealand statistics — collated on the principle that residents and citizens define their own identities — list about 25,000 persons of “not further defined Middle East” origin as well as those who described themselves as Iranian/Persian, Egyptian, Arab, Iraqi, Somali, Egyptian, Lebanese and Israeli/Jewish.

New Zealand’s diverse, 4.9-million population stems, for example, from Chinese arrivals during its 19th-century gold rush days, recent decades of refugee arrivals from world war zones such as Syria, and recruitment begun in the 1980s of halal slaughterers for New Zealand’s key meat export trade.

During the Nazi era, exiled Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper authored his two-part book The Open Society and its Enemies at Christchurch’s Canterbury University.

The Canterbury Museum was founded in 1863 by geologist/ explorer Julius von Haast, originally from Bonn, Germany.

Statistics New Zealand highlights growth in New Zealand’s major ethnic groups, including indigenous Maori, at 15 percent, Asian at 11.8 percent, and Pacific Islanders at 7.4 percent, alongside 3 million with “European ethnicities,” often referred to as Pakeha New Zealanders.

Ardern (center back) attended Auckland’s Polyfest on Thursday
‘Passports’ exhibition at Te Papa

Te Papa, the national museum in the capital, Wellington, has long-term exhibitions featuring New Zealand’s founding 1840 Waitangi Treaty,and “Passports,” documenting New Zealanders’ origins.

Migrants’ stories of arriving from Britain and Ireland, as well as from neighboring Pacific islands, China, Dalmatia (former Yugoslavia), Greece and India, are told.

Among New Zealand’s children, 42 percent identify with two, three or even more ethnicities, says Te Papa, citing a study done by the University of Auckland.

“Seventy percent of children were expected by their parents to identify as European, a quarter as Maori, and a fifth as Pacific,” says Te Papa.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has more than half a million residents born overseas, recorded Statistics New Zealand in 2014, with languages spoken being mainly English, Samoan and Hindi.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Mr Brian Oldman, South Australian Museum PO Box 234 Adelaide, South Australia 5001 Australia, © CAMD 2022
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