Korero from councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown
Kia ora koutou, nga mihi nui Kia koutou katoa.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” is a statement I try to live out and, for most, they probably see it outworked in the colour changes of my hair. In recent days some have seen me in the role of race relations communicator. Change is inevitable but for some it can be very uncomfortable and especially when there is a cultural component involved.
For me change is about facilitating “courageous conversations” where we can discuss some of the more confronting or uncomfortable topics such as institutionalised racism or parking tickets! Since opening up the “uncomfortable” topics I have met some very interesting people who are keen to have a conversation and share their own personal stories.
Sharing stories is perhaps the best way forward when we are talking about issues we find confronting, or need to understand better. This past few months I have had some fantastic conversations with individuals who have seen the opportunity to ask me how the racism issue has affected me and what changes I hope to see since the issue was first raised.
We as Council are going to have some cultural tikanga training so we can begin to unpack the whole issue of bias, racism and cultural responsibility. I am looking forward to this training, as I believe it will not just add value but also enable an opportunity to reflect on our own personal beliefs when it comes to race. As councillors, we sign a declaration that states we will faithfully, impartially and according to the best of our skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of the Gisborne district. Admittedly while our region has become more culturally diverse, we still have the highest population of Maori compared to the national average and we have always been seen as a district with a nearly 50/50 Maori Pakeha population.
We have been working on navigations and have Te Ha working hard on the Sestercentennial for next year. Therefore, I believe it is timely that we all take the opportunity to have some courageous conversations about our own personal views on race relations in the region. I believe we do need to discuss the impacts of colonisation and no longer say “move on” or “get over it” as this is unhelpful and frankly hurtful to many that have felt the impacts inter-generationally.
Cr Meredith Akuhata-Brown