National | Education

Nineteen Asian student associations back Māori and Pasifika campus spaces

A sign at the University of Auckland marks an area for Māori and Pasifika students. Source: Supplied

Asian student organisations across Aotearoa have issued a joint statement expressing their solidarity with Māori and Pasifika spaces on university campuses.

In March, the Act party called a tuākana room at the University of Auckland “segregated spaces,” and asked Auckland University and “any other” places to “explain to the Kiwis who pay their bills”.

The tuākana room was only accessible to Māori and Pasifika students.

“Blocking access to spaces based on ethnicity has an ugly past and has no future in New Zealand,” the party said in a social media post.

The statement, signed by 19 Asian student associations and supported by the Asian Legal Network, came in response to the party’s claims, which the authors described as “inaccurate, divisive, and harmful”.

The organisations asserted that spaces for Māori, as tangata whenua, should be guaranteed as part of the obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

They emphasised that all tertiary campuses were built on indigenous land and that Te Tiriti was fundamental to Aotearoa and to the presence of non-indigenous people (tauiwi) in the country.

“Attacks on Te Tiriti are also attacks on everyone’s sense of belonging,” the 19 associations said in the joint statement.

The statement highlights the necessity and benefits of safe spaces on campus, which many groups rely on to build community, share cultures, and exchange lived experiences.

“These spaces are also necessary given the many instances of interpersonal and systemic racism on campus.

“In our experiences, these spaces have been welcoming and collaborative. Student learning is also supported by increasing attendance, bettering student experience and boosting overall educational outcomes,” the statement continued.

It also directly addresses complaints like those made by the Act party, saying “such attacks also give licence to attack other groups.”

“The rhetoric paints an inaccurate picture of safe spaces. This risks challenges to other safe spaces on campus, such as prayer, family, queer and women spaces. We are deeply concerned that such rhetoric will also be used against Asian groups.”

“We support Māori spaces as protected under Te Tiriti and with Pasifika spaces on campus, as equitable, inclusive and necessary spaces.

“We stand in solidarity with our fellow Māori and Pasifika students.”