Race Relations Day

Page 2 – Race Relations Day activities

Some suggested learning activities for Race Relations Day

A. Social studies unit on aspects of New Zealand's identity

Race Relations Day could be used as a springboard for a broader study of an aspect of New Zealand's identity.


  • ways in which cultural and national identity develop and are maintained
  • the effects of cultural interaction on cultures and societies

It is important that all New Zealand students understand their society and environment and develop a sense of belonging to their community and their nation.

Some focusing questions could include:

  • What is our understanding of national identity?
  • How do we express our identity as people and as a place?
  • What factors have helped shape our identity over time?
  • How has our identity changed over time?
  • What have been some of the consequences for New Zealand identity of the migration of new people and ideas?

The following activities can be incorporated into this broader social studies unit or explored separately:

Where in the world...

  1. Brainstorm on the board or on large sheets of paper the countries of origin for the members of your class.
  2. You could display these countries on a world map in your room by:
    • using coloured pins and/or labels
    • using a photo of your students to then locating their country of origin by attaching a pin with string
  3. What do your students understand by the meaning of the word turangawaewae?
  4. Ask your students to explain why New Zealand is their turangawaewae (or not). They could write their response to this.
  5. What do you believe are the good things about New Zealand as your home?
  6. Students could pick or have allocated a unique group of New Zealanders to study in more detail. It might be an iwi or another group that has made New Zealand their home. Using Te Ara and/or NZhistory.net.nz each student can prepare a short presentation, either visual or verbal, that highlights the key features of the story of these New Zealanders. Discuss with your students suitable categories to explore for consistency such as history in New Zealand, why and when they came here, population in New Zealand, contribution to New Zealand society etc.

My Dream for Aotearoa New Zealand…

The theme for Race Relations Day 2013 is My Dream for Aotearoa New Zealand….

While Race Relations Day is an ideal opportunity to explore the wider theme of ethnic and cultural diversity, this year's theme is also a competition run by the Human Rights Commission.  Complete the sentence ‘My Dream for Aotearoa New Zealand is…’ and send it to the Commission - more information here.

New Zealand: A nation of migrants

At various points in New Zealand's history there have been attempts to attract more migrants because of a shortage of particular skills and workers. Some people believe New Zealand needs more people and that our population is too small to support the sort of infrastructure we desire in order to grow.

At times this debate has centered on where such new citizens should come from. For much of our history the bulk of new settlers to New Zealand came from Europe, the British Isles in particular. There have been times when settlers from non-English speaking parts of the world have created some debate. The arrival of Chinese gold miners in the 19th century attracted a fair amount of opposition from other people living in New Zealand. In recent times the arrival of refugees and migrants from non-European countries or from non-English speaking backgrounds has also attracted some negative publicity.

It is inevitable that in a country as diverse as ours there will be debate and discussion about who or what we are as people. What does a New Zealander look like or sound like? Statistics New Zealand has carried out the 2006 census and projections are that New Zealand is becoming less pale in its ethnic composition. Take some of these statistics from the 2001 census:

  • between 1991 and 2001 counts of people of Asian ethnicity more than doubled in New Zealand;
  • the count of people of European ethnicity declined from 83% of the total in the 1991 Census to 80% in 2001;
  • in 2001 almost one in five New Zealand residents were born overseas compared with one in six in 1991 and one in three in 1901;
  • in the Auckland region in 2001, one in three people were born overseas with one in nine people born in Asia.

The number of ethnic groups measured and their growth presents a very different view of the face of New Zealand than would have been the case 25 years ago. There are many consequences of this change for New Zealand society.

  1. Discuss with your class the ways in which we might measure or define who or what a 'New Zealander' is.
  2. Brainstorm some of the ways New Zealand's diverse population expresses itself in New Zealand in 2008. Consider languages spoken, festivals, food etc.
  3. What are three advantages of this diversity for New Zealand as a place to live?
  4. What are three disadvantages of this diversity for New Zealand as a place to live?
  5. New Zealand's population is a little over 4.2 million. Do you think we should encourage more people to come and live here? Justify your opinion.
  6. What criteria should be used in selecting who can come and live here permanently?
  7. What is a refugee?
  8. Why does New Zealand allow refugees to live here?
  9. What are some of the problems new migrants might face in settling into life in New Zealand?
  10. Should New Zealand restrict how many refugees come into this country? Justify your answer.

Who am I?

Just pretend...

You have been selected for a student exchange to Canada. You want to explain to a Canadian class of your own age what it is like to be a New Zealander. Your aim is to get across to people who know nothing about New Zealand a clear sense of who we are as a nation.

  • You can only speak for three minutes so you have to carefully identify and express only the key elements of New Zealand identity.
  • You are allowed three 'props' to help illustrate to the audience the key elements of New Zealand identity.

(Whether or not you have to actually present your speech to the class will depend on time constraints)


In a two minute speech to your class explain why you believe a sense of 'fair play' with regards to how people of all races are treated is an important part of the 'Kiwi way of life'.

How to cite this page

'Race Relations Day activities', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/race-relations-day/activities, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Mar-2015