Our work

Cultural diversity and harmonious race relations are promoted through a variety of activities around Race Relations Day, and every day through promoting and protecting the rights of diverse ethnic and religious groups. The Commission encourages all Kiwis to stand up against religious abuse and discrimination; to not be bystanders. Our work in religion, belief, interfaith activities, and religious diversity is led by Commissioner Richard Tankersley.

We work in partnership with others to help individuals and organisations around New Zealand to understand their rights and meet their legal responsibilities. We do this by working with government, business, community partners, education providers, the media and workplaces.

Statement on Religious Diversity

The Statement on Religious Diversity was first published in 2007 and has since been endorsed by a wide range of faith communities. It provides a basis for ongoing discussion of religious diversity in New Zealand.

It sets out a number of principles which are grounded in international human rights treaties and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, including:

  • freedom of religion, conscience, and belief
  • freedom of expression
  • the right to safety and security
  • the right to reasonable accommodation of diverse religious practices in various settings.

The statement also emphasises that the State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law, and that New Zealand has no official or established religion.

It encourages education about our diverse religious and spiritual traditions, respectful dialogue, and positive relationships between government and faith communities.

It offers a framework within which religious issues can be discussed both by faith communities themselves and within the wider New Zealand community.

The statement includes further commentary on each of the individual principles. Read the full statement and commentary here. If you want hardcopies  send an email to [email protected]

Translations are available in:

Religion in New Zealand Schools

This paper ‘Religion in New Zealand Schools – Questions and Concerns’ has been prepared by the Human Rights Commission and Professor Paul Morris of Victoria University.

The paper is based on frequently asked questions and concerns about religion in schools, with a focus on state primary schools. It sets out relevant legislation about religion in schools and is intended to act as a resource for Boards of Trustees, Principals and the wider school community in thinking about how schools can give a place to religion whilst ensuring security and dignity for all.

Read the paper here: Religion in New Zealand Schools (Accessible Version)

Religion in the workplace

The Commission worked with the Victoria University Religious Studies Programme to develop guidelines on religion in the workplace, arising from discussion on the topic at the 2009 religious diversity forum.

The report, Religious diversity in the workplace: questions and concerns, raises awareness of issues that may arise and offers guidance in understanding and accommodating religious diversity in the workplace.

Review of human rights: freedom of religion and belief

In 2010 the Commission published Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 – Ngä Tika Tangata o Aotearoa. This included a chapter on the right to religion and belief

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme is a community initiative which is facilitated by the Human Rights Commission. There are a number of participating organisations related religion. Read more about the programme here.

National Interfaith Network Aotearoa New Zealand

A national interfaith network was established to facilitate cooperation and exchange between faith communities and government in New Zealand and in the Asia Pacific region in the furtherance of peace, security and harmonious relations.

The network is facilitated by the Race Relations Commissioner and comprises networks of national and local religious communities and organisations, national and local interfaith groups, academics and others involved in religious studies, government agencies and local government and individuals with an interest in the issue.

Its purpose is to provide opportunities for engagement within and between these networks at a variety of levels, to support and publicise groups that undertake interfaith activities, projects and programmes that contribute to religious tolerance, public understanding of religions and interfaith cooperation for peace, security and harmonious relations.

Muslim Women, Dress Codes and Human Rights

Commission published a report on Muslim Women, Dress Codes and Human Rights: An Introduction to Some of the Issues (Word), drawing on international and local experience, including a District Court decision issued on 15 January concerning two witnesses wanting to wear a burqa in court.

Religious Diversity Forum

A religious diversity forum was held as part of the New Zealand Diversity Forum in 2007. The theme was cooperation between faith communities and government for understanding, peace and security.  The forum, which was attended by Cabinet Ministers, senior government officials, local authorities and faith community representatives, considered the following topics:

  • Education: Building tolerance, understanding and values in New Zealand’s secular education framework, focusing particularly on the new draft school curriculum.
  • Community: Building positive local religious diversity, including programmes run by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, Family and Community Services, Auckland City Council, and the Human Rights Commission’s national interfaith network.
  • The Nation: Developing a national statement on religious diversity, discussing the first draft of a statement prepared by Victoria University Religious Studies Professor Paul Morris.

National Interfaith Forum and Youth Forum

The first National Interfaith Youth Forum was held in 2008. It focused on Creative Encounters Generating Change. Delegates endorsed the Statement on Religious Diversity, and supported activities to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the development of a national youth interfaith network, and regional youth interfaith councils. The importance of developing educational resources on religious diversity was acknowledged, and youth input was sought into policy and legislative changes.

Balancing rights: Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Discrimination

The Commission has provided an opinion on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act. Read can read it here.

Speak Up” – “Kōrerotia

Speak Up” – “Kōrerotia is the radio show of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission engaging in conversations around race, newcomers and diversity in our country. You can listen to the show here.