National | Meng Foon

Race Relations Day: Commissioner ‘optimistic’ for future

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says Kiwis should learn from the past as they move into the future on Race Relations Day in Aotearoa. Photo / Supplied

Young people as emerging leaders hold the keys in terms of race relations and we should listen to their voices, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says.

His comments come on Tuesday which is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or Race Relations Day in Aotearoa.

Foon said it the day presented an opportunity to reflect on the importance of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in society.

"That reflection must always come with the acknowledgement of this day’s history,” he said.

March 21 is the anniversary of South Africa’s 1960 Sharpeville Massacre that saw 69 black protesters killed by police during a peaceful demonstration.

"Racism and the accompanying apartheid system were the roots of those killings and they remind us to learn from the past as we move into the future,” Foon said.

He said the learning of New Zealand’s history in schools is a major step towards building understanding.

The Government’s new school curriculum focusing on Aotearoa’s history will be rolled out this year.

Schools are expected to teach students about Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the ongoing development of New Zealand’s national identity and to learn history from hapū and iwi in their regions.

Foon said the theme for Race Relations Day in 2023 is Ka hao te rangatahi: Empowering inspirational leadership.

"This refers to emerging leaders that will hold the responsibility for creating a more inclusive society,” he said.

"Their ability to mobilise and stand for what is right is impressive and leaves me with great optimism for the future as they hold the keys in terms of race relations in Aotearoa New Zealand."

Foon said Kiwis must be deliberate in the direction they want Aotearoa to go in terms of race relations.

"Relationships are important and we must build upon these connections and see the beauty in each culture and community,” he said.

"Our youth and young people have the skills and heart to do this, it’s time we listen to their voices and open up spaces for them to lead us into the future.”