Day to day actions and words matter

We have been struggling since Friday to find the right words, the right response to give to the killings at the two Christchurch mosques.

Many have said they are surprised by the racist attacks that have left 50dead. Surprised at the depth of racism that exists here in Aotearoa.

The fact that white supremacy exists is something our members have experienced first-hand and that we as a union have been trying to tackle for some time.

One way we can do this is by striving to improve our Te Tiriti relationships, not just between Māori and Pākēhā but between all the members of our union, all those whose lives are transformed by tertiary education, and all those in the wider community with which we are involved.

We know that standing together on this ground is the only way we can endure through bad times. This doesn’t mean making us all the same. It means respecting difference, celebrating diversity, and building strong relationships based on connections to others.

We must strive to ensure that everyone in Aotearoa has a place to stand and belong. We know that all our members will be trying to provide aroha and support to those affected by the racist attacks in Christchurch.

Let us make sure we spend time with our Muslim members and their families, kanohi ki te kanohi, when they are ready to share their time with us.

And let us all recommit to ending racism, homophobia and transphobia, sexism, and any ideological positions which cause harm to others. We can do this through our everyday actions, not just in New Zealand’s ‘darkest moment’.

We do know what to say and do.

Our Te Koeke Tirit sets out our values as a union and provides a path for us to walk every day.

As Martin Luther King said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Our light is Te Koeke Tiriti, whose four whainga are set out below.

Tū kotahi, tū kaha

We are strong and unified; we are committed to actions which will leave no-one behind; we create spaces where all people can fully participate, are fairly represented, and that foster good relationships between people.

Ngā piki, ngā heke

We endure through good times and bad; we work to minimise our impact on the environment; we foster ahikā – the interrelationship of people and the land, including supporting tūrangawaewae – a place where each has the right to stand and belong.

Awhi atu, awhi mai

We take actions that seek to improve the lives of the most vulnerable; we give and receive, acknowledging that reciprocity is fundamental to strong and equitable relationships; and we work to advance approaches that ensure quality public tertiary education for all.

Tātou, tātou e

We reach our goals through our collective strength and shared sense of purpose, which are supported through participatory democratic decision-making processes and structures.

Ma te Atua rātou o te whanau Muslim e manaki e tiaki

Sharn Riggs, National Secretary

Michael Gilchrist, Te Tumu Whakarae, National President