Human Rights Commissioner Richard Tankersley's Waitangi Day speech

Human Rights Commissioner Richard Tankersley's Waitangi Day speech

February 6, 2015

Tēnā koutou, rau rakatira mā. He mihi mahana ki a koutou e pae ana, e tau ana. Ki a koutou o ka whānau kaitiaki o Haketere, tēnā koutou.

Ki ōku whanauka nō Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe me Waitaha, tēnā koutou.

Ki a koutou o kā iwi o kā hau e whā, puta noa o Aotearoa, me te ao whanui, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

To everyone here, to all you community leaders including you, Reverend Tevita, and Your Worship, Mayor Angus McKay, and those you have called together, good morning.

My greetings to the people who are the guardians of this place, Hakatere, Ashburton; to my relations of Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe me Waitaha, Ashburton families, kids, mums, dads, grandparents and to everyone here from the many tribes and peoples of Aotearoa-New Zealand and the world beyond our shores, greetings once, twice, and three times.

I am Richard Tankersley, I live in Christchurch, and I’m a Commissioner with the Human Rights Commission. It’s an honour to be with you on this important day in Ashburton’s calendar to bring the best wishes of New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission.

In particular I bring greetings from our Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy who was invited in the first instance to be your speaker today. When she received the invitation she had already accepted an engagement to speak in Tauranga and I am very happy to be here in her stead. I hear people refer to Ashburton as being in the Heartland, and I can only agree. Ashburton is a land that is full of heart. The people of this town have demonstrated to the rest of us how a community can get through its toughest times; by sticking together and backing each other up. Way to Go Ashburton. We are proud of you, we mourn with you for your loss.

But for today: we party with Aotearoa-New Zealand and we party with you! Multicultural Bite is one of the many things the rest of Aotearoa can learn from Ashburton. This is the sixth year that ‘heartland’ locals have been able to travel the world without leaving home. Learning about each other is a great thing, and we all know that food is a fun and delicious way to come together and share our differences and celebrate our diversity.

Now, more than ever, the world needs events like Multicultural Bite. It’s hugely appropriate we celebrate like this today, because today marks 175 years since our founding cultures established our nation state and agreed that all Kiwis have rights. Not just European, Maori or rich Kiwis: the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed that all Kiwis have rights. The Treaty is this country’s first human rights document and I am proud that this is what our nation is founded on.

Back in 1840 the notion that all people had human rights was a revolutionary concept. In 1840 slavery was legal in most nations, Solomon Northup – a free-born black American and the author of 12 Years A Slave – was kidnapped into slavery, a year after we signed the Treaty of Waitangi. New Zealand was built on human rights and it’s a foundation we are continuing to build on.

Our demographics have changed since 1840 and New Zealand’s changing face is now a multi-ethnic one. The Changing Face of New Zealand is younger and more ethnically diverse than ever before. I don’t need to tell you about what’s going on in the world when people from different ethnicities fail to get along with one another, it’s in our news media, 24-7. That’s why dates like today’s are so important to us here in New Zealand because events like Multicultural Bite make us strong.

Happenings like Multicultural Bite help us to forge connections, and they are our insurance policy against what we are seeing taking place overseas. Occasions like Multicultural Bite help guarantee a future for our kids that is about peace, respect and coming together as a community.

So Hakatere, Ashburton, our warmest wishes for today, and congratulations on six years of connecting, celebrating and enjoying each other on this special day in our calendar. Ashburton Multicultural Bite he mihi nui – ka pai!

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou tēnā tātou katoa.

Dig Deeper: 

Learn about our work on human rights and the Treat here

Commissioner Richard Tankersley

Based in Christchurch, Richard Tankersley was appointed a part-time Commissioner in September 2008. He brings South Island issues and experience in the iwi, health, education and training, community and voluntary, and public sectors to the Commission. Richard’s iwi affiliations are Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Waitaha.

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