Race Relations Day

Celebrating Race Relations Day in your school

Race Relations Day is a time to reflect on our journey towards being a culturally diverse and inclusive nation. You can do something to support this journey − plan an activity to mark Race Relations Day at your school.

This page provides some starting points for a discussion about cultural diversity and how we can support it at schools. If you’re planning an activity, we would like to know more so we can share ideas – email us as at [email protected]. Here are some simple ideas to promote inclusiveness at school.

Drawing our diversity

Create a class poster as a visual representation of its diversity. Give each student a piece of paper, partner them up and ask them to draw their partner. Montage the drawings together. Once your done you can send images of your schools posters to us at [email protected] or through our Facebook page.

Message in a bottle

Objective: To explore what makes us who we are.

Ask students to imagine that signals have been received from outer space. The United Nations is going to send information about human beings in a special ship. It is the students’ job to choose what to send (e.g. music/waiata, models of people, clothing, taonga, stories/literature, religious objects, photos). Brainstorm possibilities as a class, or set the activities as an individual or small group project.

The questions to explore:

  • What am I?
  • Who are “we”?

You could also get students to bring in items and/or make a time capsule.


Objective: To explore what makes people who they are.

Ask students to imagine they are writing their profile to join Facebook or some other social networking site. Explain the rules of the site have changed and they have to write their profile using only three words to describe who they are. They should not just think of physical descriptions or personality but also words relating to other factors such as their beliefs, the different communities they belong to and their origins.

Ask if anyone is willing to share their profile with others. Ask them why they chose the words they did.  Where does their identity come from? Discuss – is anyone in the class exactly the same?

Is it OK to be different? What factors a person’s identity (their beliefs, interests, gender, race, where they live, family values, etc)?


Objective: To explore the importance of belonging

Turangawaewae is “A standing place from where you gain the authority to belong.” (Hiwi and Pat Tauroa)

Ask students to explore there their “standing place” is. In groups, or individually, have people talk about their turangawaewae:

  • Where is your turangawaewae?
  • What are your rights and responsibilities to your turangawaewae?
  • Draw the icons identify this place?
  • Why have you identified this place as your turangawaewae?

Global Cafe Discussion:

In groups discuss/write/draw on a large piece of paper:

  • The importance of a place to belong
  • Does NZ create that feeling for everyone? Why, why not?
  • How can we do better?

Change tables – add any comments/pictures to what the other group discussed. Continue around all the tables.

Taking Action

Objective: to have students think about concrete things they can do to promote justice

Take the pledge against discrimination on the website for the World Conference Against Racism. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a young citizen of the world community, I stand with the United Nations against racism, discrimination, and intolerance of any kind. Throughout my life I will try to promote equality, justice and dignity among all people in my home, in my community, and everywhere in the world.”

In addition to taking the pledge, develop concrete actions you can take to carry out the pledge.


  • I can start examining my beliefs about other races. I can ask myself, “Is that really true, or could it be just a stereotype?”
  • I can learn more about different racial groups by reading a book, seeing a movie, attending an event, or making friends with people from different backgrounds.
  • I can invite someone from a different background to eat lunch with me.
  • I can join groups at school that welcome people of all backgrounds, and avoid groups that exclude people.
  • I can stop telling jokes or making fun of people based on their race.
  • I can speak up when I hear people making fun of others based on their race. I can say “I feel hurt when you say ________ .” or “Do you know another joke that doesn’t put people down?”

Practice responding to racist remarks

Objective: to practice in a safe place what you can do out in the world

Speaking out against acts of discrimination can be difficult. Using enactments is one way you can practice responding to racist remarks and other inappropriate comments.

Working in small groups of talk about an act of discrimination you have witnessed or experienced (don’t use one that will be too traumatic to work with). The enactment could show someone making a stereotypical remark, putting someone down, telling an inappropriate joke or racially harassing someone.

Show this to the other groups and brainstorm how the actors could have responded positively to the racism.  Re-enact the scene but this time incorporate some ideas from the audience to have a positive outcome (you may do the scene several times to incorporate all the ideas and to demonstrate which ones seem the most successful).

Now watch the other groups and contribute your own positive suggestions.

Who decides who gets to belong?

Objective: To walk in the shoes of someone seeking asylum

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Article 14, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Spontaneous refugees (or Asylum Seekers) are people who claim refugee status on arriving at the border or after entering New Zealand.

1. Setting the Scene

The participants are put in role as a committee who have been brought together by the Government to discuss the crisis of an imminent arrival of a boat load of asylum seekers from Aquabar.  It is believed 30 families are on board.  Some have infectious diseases. Each group is to have 5 minutes to prepare a statement to deliver to the rest of the committee.

  • 3x Representatives from Australia who have said they won’t accept them as asylum seekers.
  • 3x Representatives from Refugee Services (a support service for Refugees).
  • 3x Representatives from Housing NZ (there is currently a housing shortage).
  • 3x Representatives from the Aquabar Consulate (a made up name and place).
  • 2x local school principals. One has a school with at least 20 different ethnicities attending; the other has a small rural school with really only one ethnic group attending.
  • 3x Representatives from the local Health Funding Authority.
  • 2x Couples who want to adopt or foster a child/ren and have heard there will some parentless children on board.
  • 2x Representatives from the One NZ Foundation (a group that believes in keeping NZ for NZers).
  • 2x people from the community that they are likely to be settled into (there are two proposed) – it is a diverse community, there are already at least 20 different ethnicities living there.
  • 2x people from the community they are likely to be settled into (there are two proposed) – it is a small rural area with really only one ethnic group living there.
  • 2x Representatives from the Police

The facilitator may need to move around the groups and help guide them into their role and the position they are likely to adopt “What might you think if you had this position/job?”

NB. Numbers for each role are just a suggestion

2. Conduct the Meeting

Each group or pair delivers their statement to the meeting as a whole. Depending on the group dynamics this could be simply a set delivery or there could be a controlled debate with the facilitator taking the role of meeting Chair.

3. Out of Role Discussion/Debrief

  • Some possible focussing questions:
  • So how did you feel in your role?
  • Do you know people with these sorts of attitudes?
  • What did you think when you heard from other groups?
  • If you had the opportunity what might you have said to them?

4. Taking on a new Role

Ask the participants to gather as a group and announce that they will be taking on a new role, that of asylum seekers. Tell the participants that you will be coming in as an immigration official to make this announcement:

I am here to say that it is unlikely that NZ will be able to accept your request for asylum.  Is there anything anyone would like to say?

Give the participants time to prepare a “life story” – age, gender, occupation, family status, reason for seeking asylum etc.  Let them know that we may never get to hear the full details but that it will help them take on the role and argue convincingly.

Talk about where they are likely to be when the announcement is made – are they in a detention centre? A refugee camp? Gather them and set the scene then come in and make the announcement

Facilitator in Role: I am an immigration official – I am here to say it is unlikely that NZ will be able to accept your request for asylum. Is there anything anyone would like to say?

The Facilitator will take some of the arguments used in the previous session to counter their pleas for asylum.

5. Out of Role Discussion/Debrief

Some possible focussing questions:

  • How did you feel about having your first character’s arguments turned on your second character?
  • There are no easy answers in this situation – how do people decide?

6. Final Reflection

Quickly return the participants to the original committee (from 1) and ask them to vote on whether to accept the asylum seekers from Aquabar.

The Tampa example would make for good post workshop discussion. More information can be found here.

Human rights/Cultural calendar

Objective: To raise awareness of cultural significant days

Prepare one calendar day for each month with days of the week written in columns.

Explain to students that together they are going to make a calendar that will help them know when special dates are coming up – especially those that relate to diversity, culture and human rights.  Include birthdays of the students.

For homework ask people to explore special dates or holidays (they could be religious holidays, language weeks, independence days, national holidays etc). Remind them to ask their family/whānau members.

When they are all received, order them in months. Divide students into four groups and assign three months to work on. Give each group three calendar sheets, colouring material, coloured paper and other supplies to complete their calendars. They will need to put the dates of the each month and then write the names of the important holidays that come in that month and decorate the square(s) to make the holiday stand out.

Suggestions for follow up – plan how to celebrate special days.

Some days in 2014 you might like to include:

  • January 31: Chinese New Year (2014 Year of the Horse)
  • February 6: Waitangi Day
  • February 21: International Mother Languages Day
  • March 8: International Women’s Day
  • March 21: Race Relations Day
  • April 22: World Mother Earth Day
  • May 12-18: New Zealand Sign Language Week
  • May 15: International Day of Families
  • 26 – 30 May 2015: Samoan Language Week
  • June 1: Samoan Independence Day
  • June 4: Tongan Independence Day
  • June 5: World Environment Day
  • June 20: World Refugee Day
  • June 21: World Peace and Prayer Day
  • June 28: Matariki
  • July 18: Nelson Mandela International Day
  • 21 – 27 July 2015: Māori Language Week
  • August 4: Cook Island Constitution Day
  • August 9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
  • October 1: Tuvalu Independence Day
  • October 5: World Teacher’s Day
  • October 10: Fiji Independence Day
  • October 16: World Food Day
  • October 19: Niue Independence Day
  • October 23: Diwali
  • November 20: Universal Children’s Day
  • December 3: International Day of Disabled Persons
  • December 10: Human Rights Day