The stories of everyday New Zealanders have power. This was a key message by the four stellar speakers at the recent Give Nothing to Racism symposium hosted by Diversity at AUT and orchestrated through AUT's Dr Andrea Vujnovich and Professor Edwina Pio.
Give Nothing to Racism is a campaign by the Human Rights Commission, encouraging people to eliminate racism by giving it no encouragement, no respect, no place and no power.
More than 80 people, including two MP's (National and Labour), the US Consul General and the Honorary Swedish Consul attended the event. The event was chaired by Professor Edwina Pio, AUT's Professor and University Director of Diversity. In setting the context for the event, Professor Pio noted that stories are embedded in our DNA. We need a creative repertoire of stories to bring recognition for the micro generosities possible every day in our homes, communities and places of work to redefine and reframe public discourse.
Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner spoke of her experience launching New Zealand's first nationwide anti-racism digital campaign, "That's Us". She said at the heart of the Give Nothing to Racism initiative are people and their everyday stories.
Robin Shackell, British Consul General, focused on the need to find out more about other people's struggles and understand them. He challenged audience members to look around the room, pinpoint someone they didn't know, and ask them about their story at the end of the session.
The Young New Zealander of the Year 2017, Rez Gardi, described her experience as a refugee resettling in New Zealand as a child. She said that some children are told the stories of Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, whereas she was told stories about the oppression of her people in Kurdistan. Her account of grappling with being different, denying being different and ultimately accepting and advocating being different painted an evocative portrait of life for young refugees in a new country.
AUT alumnus and recipient of the AUT Internship Ambassador Award 2017, Toiroa Williams, wore a t-shirt with the words "Presence is Power" and told the audience education, knowledge and awareness are vital, as this is where change happens. He referenced the Māori proverb "Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi" (with your food basket and my food basket, we can feed the people) that is close to his heart and whānau, and the need to tell his own story and that of his community in Opotiki.