A survey of primary school leaders has found that a significant sample of Māori and Pasifika participants have experienced discrimination at work on the basis of their ethnicity.

The Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey found that 27% reported that their ethnicity had been a source of relationship tension during the past 12 months, and 25.8% reported discrimination at work on the basis of their ethnicity. This compares with 8.5-8.9% of non-Māori leaders experiencing tension or discrimination due to their ethnicity.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart and other education leaders launched the results of the Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey at Kia Aroha College in Clover Park, Auckland, today. Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy was among the invited guests.

While the number of Māori and Pasifika survey participants was not high (n=89), their responses show that discrimination is a significant stressor for nearly a third (27-28%) of Māori and Pasifika school leaders.

The type of discrimination which participants most often experienced was “comments made referring to Māori that cause offence”. These may have been informal, and away from the public arena, but were still felt to be significant.

Some of those most often responsible for causing offence by discrimination (perpetrators) were: other employees or principals of the same school or kura; employees of other schools in leadership or management positions; business contractors; representatives of community organisations; members of the school community eg parents, whānau; and members of the wider community.

Associate Professor Phil Riley of the Australian Catholic University, who led the research, said in presenting the findings to senior school leaders he was told that some of the experiences of discrimination were from interactions with government agencies, including the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office.

NZEI Te Riu Roa Matua Takawaenga Laures Park said the results were disappointing to hear but not surprising because they confirmed what Māori and Pasifika educators had known for a long time.

After consultation with Māori principals’ association Te Akatea and the New Zealand Principals Federation, NZEI Te Riu Roa has released a number of recommendations:

  • End systemic racism in agencies, actions and resourcing and instead build a system that is culturally sustaining both for Māori educators and tamariki Māori
  • Provide funded professional support for educators to ensure the mauri of educators and tamariki Māori is upheld so that all Māori can achieve their potential without compromising who they are. Providing professional learning and development in terms of cultural responsiveness would also provide the wider education community with a strengthening of cultural awareness
  • Provide a clear information campaign to the sector that highlights what behaviour is not appropriate
  • Provide a mechanism that allows for the immediate reporting of discrimination within the system that allows for the protection of whistle-blowers
  • Require school Boards of Trustees, school leaders, MOE and ERO staff to complete an approved course on racial equality or cultural competency provided by NZSTA, Education Council or an approved professional learning and development provider every three years
  • Require NZSTA to ensure that all Boards of Trustees have systems that identify discrimination as early as possible and have the resources to immediately address the situation.
  • Ensure our own organisations regularly review our practices in order to end discrimination and strengthen cultural awareness
  • Provide culturally appropriate professional supports/mentoring for all Maori leaders to ensure they are nurtured, supported and retained in the workforce.

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