Race Relations Day 21 March 2015

A global and local touchstone for positive race relations and human rights

New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and we are also one of the most peaceful: it's up to everyday New Zealanders to ensure this is a legacy we leave for future generations. Race Relations Day reminds us all of the crucial role positive race relations and human rights play in our communities and lives.

Every 21st March, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination marks the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre when 69 black South African citizens - including 10 children - were shot to death by their own Police for protesting against racial apartheid laws. In New Zealand, communities across the country host hundreds of events on and around the 21st of March to mark Race Relations Day.

2015 Theme: Big Change Starts Small

This year's Race Relations Day theme "Big Change Starts Small" was created by a Vietnamese Kiwi who had lived in Auckland for less than a year when he won last year's Race Unity Speech Competition.

"Secondary school student Thai An Vo's winning speech captures the spirit of positive race relations and human rights: Big Change Starts Small," says Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

"Positive race relations don't just live in a document at the United Nations, they must live in our communities, suburbs and lives."

This year's te reo Maori theme is the proverb "Itiiti Rearea, Kahika Teitei, Ka Taea" - "The smallest bellbird is able to climb to the heights of the tallest Kahika tree."

"New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and yet we are also one of the most peaceful nations on the planet. This is something I'm grateful for and proud of but it's also something we can't take for granted," said Dame Susan.

Celebrating Race Relations Day at your school

Race Relations Day is a time is a great opportunity to celebrate cultural diversity at your school. The Race Unity Speech Competition 2015 will kick off in March with competitions held in twelve districts across the country, culminating in national finals in Auckland on 16 May. This year’s theme is “Big Change Starts Small: from Nationhood to Neighbourhood – Hei Pai ake te iti, i te kore”

This year we will be celebrating the incredible young New Zealanders who took part in last year’s Race Unity Speech Competition by promoting their speeches and memorable quotes. These Memes will be promoted across our social media channels and will soon be able to be downloaded from our website.

We've also created a list of resources and suggested activities that will help your students and school celebrate Race Relations Day. View them here.

Celebrating Race Relations Day at your workplace

Race Relations Day is a time to reflect on our journey towards being a culturally diverse and inclusive nation. Here are some ways that you can celebrate Race Relations Day at your workplace.

You can also use Race Relations Day to come together over food! The Commission will be launching 'Food Culture', a page that celebrates the cultural foods of all Kiwis this Race Relations Day. It'll include recipes from some well known foodies – as well as some lesser known but very keen ones.

Race Unity Speech Awards

The Race Unity Speech Awards is a high school speech competition that runs alongside Race Relations Day. Follow the link to find out more.

Race Relations Day Posters 

To view and download our latest Race Relations Day Posters and Social Media resources, as well as those from previous years. Follow the link here

Social Media Campaign

This year we will also be encouraging Kiwis to share their race relations experiences and hopes online via the hashtag #RRD15. Follow us on Twitter @NZHumanRights or via the Commission’s Facebook page to get updates from us. 

Food Culture

To help celebrate Race Relations Day we have set up a Facebook page called Food Culture where you can view, share, swap, and request multicultural meal ideas and recipes. Diversity in our kitchens as well as our communities! View it here.

Race Relations Day events

Every year communities across the country host events – from food fairs to cultural festivals -  to celebrate Race Relations Day. Events are often held throughout the year – not always on 21 March. More information can be found via the Commission’s Facebook page and we will be providing a list of events on this page. If you would like to add your event to our calendar of events please email Julie Watson at the commission on juliew@hrc.co.nz with details.

Event Calendar


  • 21 February: International Mother Language Day and Chinese New Year Event: Palmerston North Central Library invites you to discover and celebrate the rich diversity of languages spoken in our own communities. From 11am-1pm. Learn more here.
  • 21 February: Chinese New Year Banquet Dinner Show: Welcome and celebrate Chinese New Year 2015 with a banquet dinner and cultural show held at Regal Chinese Restaurant in Rotorua. Featuring Face Changing, Chinese Peking Opera, Traditional Chinese Instrument Orchestra and Magic Show performed by the Blossom Art Association. 5pm-8.30pm. More information here.
  • 24-28 February: Under The Same Moon: As part of Lantern Festival and Auckland Fringe the Musgrove Studio will host a play by award winning writer Renee Liang. More information here.
  • 27 February-1 March: Auckland Lantern Festival: Bring all the family to celebrate the new Year of the Goat (also known as the Year of the Sheep) at Auckland's 16th annual Lantern Festival. The 2015 Lantern Festival is set to be the biggest and brightest yet! The festival is being held in Albert Park and is free to attend. More information here.


  • Race Unity Speech Awards: The Race Unity Speech Awards will be held in support of Race Relations Day in March. Follow the link to find out more.

  • Sir Robert Jones Refugee Daughters' Scholarship Fund: In March twelve young women will commence their tertiary education fully funded by the Sir Robert Jones Refugee Daughters’ fund. Follow the link to find out more.

  • 1st March: Race Unity Day 2015 - Nelson: #Bat4RaceUnity: Nelson Multicultural Council & Nelson City Council invite you to a very special cricket edition of Race Unity Day being held at Victory Square Park at 11am-4pm. More information here.
  • 8 March 2015: Dallies In The Valley: A celebration of the Dallie community in West Auckland with great wine, food, dance and music. Venue: Artisan Wines, 99 Parrs Cross Rd, Auckland from 12:00pm – 6:00pm. Buy tickets here.
  • 14 March: U&I Football Cup 2015: A 7-a-side annual Race Relations Day cultural/community football tournament organised by Multicultural Rotorua in cooperation with Rotorua United Football Club. 9am-5pm at Neil Hunt Park. More info here.
  • 16-21 March: University of Canterbury Diversity Week: The University of Canterbury will be celebrating their first Race Relations Day through putting on "Diversity Week: Everyone Belongs". Check out the full programme of events here.
  • 17 March: Green Walk (St. Patrick’s Day Walk): Wear something green and join 'Rotorua Newcomers' for a Cultural Heritage Walk along the Government Gardens in Rotorua. 12pm-1pm. More information here.
  • 18 March: University of Canterbury World Market: Wander through this international food market and taste some delicious delicacies that remind some of our students of home. More info here.
  • 18 March: Potluck Dinner: Rotorua Newcomers is organising a potluck dinner at where you'll share your settling in story over dinner. 6pm-8pm. Learn more here.
  • 18 March: Interactive Workshop on Multiculturalism - University of Catnerbury: Join this interactive, solution-focused workshop with Liz Brown (Kaiārahi Māori) and Lynda Boyd on what it means to be bicultural in Aotearoa. 3.30pm-5pm. All are welcome to attend. Venue info here.
  • 21 March: Christchurch Holi - Indian Festival of Colours: Holi is a day to forget your worries and connect with family and friends. Throw colours, dance and enjoy traditional Indian games, cultural performances, Bollywood dancing and festive Holi delicacies. Tickets here.
  • 21 March: Polyfest: The ASB Polyfest celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2015, with the event taking place at the Manukau Sports Bowl, Te Irirangi Drive, Auckland from the 18th - 21st March. More info here
  • 21 March: Race Relations Day Celebration - Papakura: To celebrate Race Relations Day and the positive changes we can make in our community, MECOSS and Auckland Council are hosting a Race Relations Day celebration. It promises to be a very colourful event with lots of performances from the many cultural groups in our local community. 10-12am, Pakuranga Plaza, Pakuranga Road, Pakuranga. More info here.
  • 22 March: From Nationhood to Neighbourhood - sharing fables and stories of our peoples: WINGS, Whangarei Migrants Centre, Settlement Support at Citizens Advice Bureau and English Langauge Partners invite you celebrate and enjoy the cultural diversity of Whangarei. Listen to or present stories, songs or plays that represent your people. 12pm-3pm at Whagarei Intermediate School. More details here.
  • 28 March: Multicultural Council of Wellington Race Relations Day Workshop: Held in the Wellington City Council building, this workshop is free to attend. Follow the link to find out more.

  • 28 March: Summerz End Youth Fest:Summerz End aims to bridge the gap between youth from all walks of life and our communities.12pm-6pm , Jellie Park, Christchurch. More info here.
  • 29 March: Auckland International Cultural Festival: Showcasing Auckland’s diversity, Auckland International Cultural Festival is back for its 16th year! The festival is being held at War Memorial Park in Mt Roskill and is free to attend. Follow the link to find out more


  • 1 April: Muslims at work in New Zealand Summit: This is a unique experience to understand and appreciate Muslims at work in New Zealand. The summit will offer a space to explore differences and commonalities in how work is experienced in New Zealand. 10.30am–1.30pm, Sir Paul Reeves Building 2, Governor Fitzroy Place, AUT. More info here

  • 11 April: Race Relations Day celebration Manukau: The Immanuel Community Trust is celebrating Race Relations Day along with local communities. The event will include: the colours of different costumes, beauty of different languages, message of unity in diversity, two hours of fun, music, whanau and a Free BBQ. 10.30am-1pm in Manukau Square.