3 Ways you can make a difference to fight racism locally in Aotearoa — and 10 organisations to donate to

BLM street in Washington. Source here.

From one crisis to another: which has been here all along.

Our social media feeds are filled with heart-warming and saddening quotes, violent videos we wish we didn’t see, black boxes, and on the educational side, threads teaching us about systematic racism, white privilege, and how to be actively anti-racist.

Yet, activity in social media has been criticised from all angles, and for good reasons. First, it’s a massive privilege to learn about microaggressions and not be experiencing discrimination first hand. Second, it’s a fair question to ask: how are we transforming the lessons, the quotes and the digital solidarity into tangible actions in our own lives?

I have a few thoughts, but if you don’t want to hear yet another white girl’s deliberations, scroll down to ‘Make a difference in Aotearoa’ for some solid steps.

“PRIVILEGE is when you think something is NOT A PROBLEM because it’s not a problem to you PERSONALLY”.

Placemaking at its best: painting BLM street in Washington. Source Chris Turner/CNN.

Life in our public spaces hugely impacts life in our private spaces.

If there’s lots of uncertainty outside, it can be hard to not bring the uncertainty inside. Too often, and for far too many people, these are however inseparable.

At an age where our connection to the outside world is more reliant on technology than ever, and where our connection to the outside world is perhaps more important than ever, the protest in the States and elsewhere can make a huge impact on us. Whether this is because:

  • we feel exhausted by the media (which is again, a huge privilege)
  • or because we have a personal connection to the events (participating in the protests, having someone close in the middle of the protests, having suffered from systematic racism as a BIPOC, or having family or friends who have suffered from systematic racism as BIPOC)

…is irrelevant. It is the most important to acknowledge that the recent events impact all of us — whether it’s true virtual space or through physical space. However, it is even more important to acknowledge that the events of the past weeks are just a culmination point of ongoing reality. And that, systematic racism is something that we are all a part of.

Before I move forward I also want to note that it is okay to feel like these discussions are too big for one individual to comprehend, and to feel a little bit hopeless in front of this messed-up system. However, as white people, we are benefitting from the system, whether we were aware of it or not, whether we liked it or not. If we are not actively seeking for ways for more equitable outcomes, we are also maintaining that system.

Learn your lingo, learn your stats.

Thousands and thousands of people have collated information on what white privilege means, and how to be actively anti-racist. Thousands of people have also noted how this should be lifelong work, not just a one-off campaign.

There is no need for me to reiterate this information. However, I will borrow a quote from Courtney Ahn:

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it means your skin tone is not one of the things making it harder! There are plenty of other privileges (socio-economic, male, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian, able-bodied) but white privilege is perhaps the most enduring throughout history”.

And I will share a few video resources explaining the basic concepts:

  • This fast-paced video explains racism in numbers in the United States in less than 4 minutes.
  • This TED-talk explains what is structural racism, why we should be aware of it and why we should take action.
  • This poem is a personalised walkthrough to understanding historical white privilege.
  • This video brakes down reparations and white privilege in America.

Systematic racism is so much deeper than most people understand. It’s not (just) about individuals ‘othering’ a certain part of the population. It’s about individuals being born into a system that benefits some and ignores some: it’s the bureaucratic and governance legacy and living history of our past generations. Unfortunately, no country is free of this bias.

The sad truth is that racism exists everywhere, in every country. The context will be different of course, but the systematic problems are the same, no matter where you are.

Image source here.

Discrimination in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Anyone who’s been to New Zealand probably doesn’t need much convincing that the structural and systemic problems here are similar to those in the States. But if you still need convincing that systematic racism exists in Aotearoa, here are a couple of quick facts (written by Joel Rindelaub for Stuff):

Why are these stats the way they are? Because the minority groups in Aotearoa choose a certain lifestyle?

Ehrm, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure these stats exist because not all people have access to the same opportunities. And that police representation is higher in poorer (BIPOC) neighbourhoods. Te Kuru o te Marama (Māori TV) shared a memorable illustration series about the receiving end: five facts about Māori and the police.

Make a difference in Aotearoa.

At an individual level, there are many ways how we can actively choose inclusion. We can expand our inner circles and friendships to include people from different backgrounds. We can expand the group of leaders we learn from (social media) and we can rethink our beauty standards. We can consider the toys our children play with to include a presentation of all peoples and we can support minority-owned businesses.

However, as mentioned above, systematic racism goes beyond individuals’ behaviour. In my day job, I am a central government policy-writer. Even in this position, I often feel powerless in front of systematic issues: there are days when I have no idea how to start unpack deeply embedded governance and funding structures. Sometimes I almost feel more powerful in addressing the system as an individual.

Yet, preaching to the converted through our social media streams can feel somewhat ineffective, useless, and empty. I mean, who even follows people who they don’t share the same values with? The least, the algorithm will take care that you will never see anything of dis-interest.

I sat with these thoughts for more than a week. I felt funny just sharing information with my small social media following, who already agree with what I’m about to say anyway. I also felt funny about donating money to a different country, as I knew these problems also exist closer to home.

I decided that I need to do something for my local community that goes beyond social media shoutouts, engaging conversations, and educating myself. So, I found out what can I do to help in Aotearoa.

Here are my top tips.

1. Understand where the local pressures exist.

While Aotearoa isn’t currently experiencing violence in terms of protests, there are extreme pressures that exist in the system as ‘business-as-usual’. Those feeling the impacts of systematic racism tend to be the most vulnerable populations, in certain regions, and typically out of reach of basic services. For example, access to services like health care or education in high-decile schools is unevenly distributed amongst the population. Also, concepts like period poverty, hunger, and cold and damp homes are very real amidst some communities (although luckily, the Government just announced $2.2 million budget to alleviate period poverty).

Covid-19 has not made the existing pressures ease

These pressures have been exemplified during the Covid-19 period, where the most vulnerable populations have experienced the most harm from the pandemic. In some ways, I think that donating money for organisations helping out the most vulnerable populations is the most powerful action we as individuals can do right now.

Donating is so so important for this very reason: the government (unfortunately) has limited capacity to undo the systematic damage of two centuries fast enough. Instead, it will need help from several different organisations and even more individuals.

Philosophically, it’s probably not right that our government systems don’t reach as far as they should, and that organisations, groups and individuals have to come in to facilitate in the societal organisation. But, that is the reality where we are living in, and as individuals (who may feel a tad powerless), I think it is important to recognise this.

WHY (painting inequities on canvas).

To fight systematic/structural racism, we need to start from trying to understand the big picture and how it plays out in our communities. To understand the big picture, we can ask questions like:

  • Do minority groups have the same access to services as the majority part of the population?
  • Do minority groups gain the same opportunities for learning, engaging, paying and growing as children?
  • Are Māori and/or Pacifica represented in our local councils, amongst the local politicians, business owners, teachers, and other leadership positions?

On the scale of 1–10, ten being the highest, the answer to all of the above is more inclined to be closer to 0. But what the h*** can an individual do in this situation?

HOW (solutions painted on canvas).

Where is the government funding not reaching? To identify the pressures and potential solutions, we can ask questions like:

  • What enables children and teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in school?
  • What support do minority youth groups need? Education, access to services, sanitary products, mental health support, an inspiring mentor?
  • What can I do for whānau who have suffered the most due to COVID-lockdowns?
  • What support would adults who have lost their job due to COVID need? Someone to take care of the children for a couple of hours, two get some me-time?
  • How can I help single-mothers who have it a bit harder than most in my community?

WHAT (choosing your artwork).

Here’s something you might want to hear after these big questions: there are plenty of organisations who have already done the thinking for you. Aotearoa has a huge list of organisations that are fighting for equality and doing good things for their communities. All you need to do is to choose one (or a few) that speaks to you.

2. Act on where the local pressures exist: donating time or dime.

There are also multiple ways of donating. If you have some dollar to spare, you can make a one-off donation or a small continuous contribution. For example, dedicate $20 of your bi-weekly salary into a charity. If time rather than capital is what you have plenty of, you can volunteer your time and help by doing.

To save some time from you — I collated a list of ten organisations actively working for equity in Aotearoa.

Where to Donate in Aotearoa?

#1 KidsCan

KidsCan aims to break the cycle for childhood poverty in Aotearoa. Food, a warm jacket, solid shoes, and feminine hygiene products are unfortunately things that not all New Zealand children can take for granted.

KidsCan host multiple different programmes: donating meals, shoes, fleece-lined raincoats, or basic health-supplies for children who would normally struggle to have access for these supplies.

#2 Variety

Variety helps give disadvantaged Kiwi kids the childhood they deserve. Every day more than 1 in 4 Kiwi kids go without the basics most of us take for granted. This has a profound impact on their health, education and self-esteem.

Variety accepts donations through single gifts, monthly gifts or through the Variety Kiwi Sponsor programme, see here for alternatives. In here you can read stories of children who’s life has changed through the sponsorship programme.

#3 Dignity NZ

Dignity supports schools, youth organisations and women’s support services across New Zealand to have free access to Organic Initiative tampons, pads and menstrual cups through its Buy One Give One and Give Two initiatives.

  • You can gift two boxes of period products in here.
  • Or get a buy one gift one package in here.

#4 WELLfed

WELLfed delivers free cooking classes, teaching basic cooking skills. Participants learn how to plan, shop, safely prepare and cook low-cost healthy meals, with a strong focus on seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables.

You can support WELLfed by volunteering your time for one-off events, donate or fundraise money, or donate good quality equipment and cooking devices for classes.

#5 LoKai

LoKai is based in Wellington and offers support to whānau who have been struggling since the pandemic by donating fresh local fruit and vegetables through its Ka Pai Kai Box -initiative.

#6 Women’s refuge

Women’s refuge support and helps women and children experiencing family violence. Its vision is for every woman and child in Aotearoa to live free from domestic and family violence.

Women’s refuge Gift a Safe Night package helps the victims of family violence by booking a room for someone you’ll never meet, in a place you’ll hopefully never visit (for $20). Read more here. You can also do regular donations one-off, fortnightly, monthly or annually. You can donate here.

#7 JustSpeak

JustSpeak is a movement of young people who are speaking up and speaking out on criminal justice for a thriving Aotearoa. It develops youth-led tools, resources, spaces and support to facilitate a public conversation on criminal justice informed by evidence and lived experience.

You can get involved by participating in a hui, volunteering, or by donating to support the organisation’s work. You can read more about JustSpeak’s work and mahi here.

#8 Spend My Super

Spend My Super is an organisation encouraging superannuants to donate part or all of their superannuation to give all kids a fair chance. It has found 12 outstanding charities making a difference in New Zealand, and is putting all its effort into supporting them by getting them what they need most — money. As most charities, Spend My Super supports either one-off or reoccurring donations.

#9 People against prisons Aotearoa (PAPA)

PAPA is a prison abolitionist organisation working for a fairer, safer, and more just Aotearoa, focussing on the treatment of transgender people in prisons. It offers lots of information on abolition and lists publications on the topic here.

You can support PAPA by turning up to one of their events, following it on social media, joining a mailing list, donating, or becoming a prisoner penpal.

#10 Purapura Whetu

Purapura Whetu Trust is a Māori Health and social service provider based in Christchurch. It offers multiple services locally. You can read more here, and donate here.

3. Speak about donating.

This might sound small, but speaking up about donating has been studied to increase the likelihood of your peers to donate, too. This is the main reason why I am speaking up about it — hopefully, this has encouraged you to take some action within your means, too.

This is my pledge to keep donating wherever I can and to continue doing my best in incorporating equity perspective to my policy work. If you want to know where I decided to donate, drop me a line @KiaCarolina_.

Hongi. Source here.

In the meantime, here are some resources that speak up about racism and work for better equity in Aotearoa.

That’s Us — a campaign by the Human Rights Commission.

That’s Us is New Zealand’s first anti-racism campaign that asks Kiwis to start sharing our personal stories about racism, intolerance and hatred as well as our hopes for the future.

Racial intolerance is on the rise overseas and closer to home. The NZ Attitudes and Values Survey, as well as our complaints data, shows we need to start talking openly about intolerance.

  • You can share your own story here.
  • Learn more about the campaign and racism in New Zealand here.
  • You can read other people’s stories here.

A small content warning, I cried when I read the stats, not to mention some of the stories. Imagine living this truth.

Here are also some tips for being anti-racist from New Zealand’s Human Right Commission.

Give Nothing to Racism

Giving Nothing to Racism is another campaign by the Human Rights Commission, this one from 2017. The campaign’s website includes a series of videos with many famous kiwis speaking their truth on not giving anything to racist comments — not even a slight hint of a smile.

Wellington Against Racism and Fascism (WARF)

A group established post the Christchurch attacks of March 2019. While this website has not been updated in a while it has gathered some great resources for further reading.

Promote indigenous rights

In the context of Aotearoa, racism typically refers to discrimination against Māori or Pacific people (although it does occur in other forms, like Islamophobia).

There are many great resources on how to include indigenous thinking into your project or policy-making. A few of these include:

If you made it this far, thank you for reading. Hopefully next is time for acting. x

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite” — Nelson Mandela.




Wellington-based urbanist. Life-long yogi. Feminist. Holistic wellbeing & healthy cities advocate. A person on a bike. Policy writer by day.

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Cityspiration — by Kia Carolina

Cityspiration — by Kia Carolina

Wellington-based urbanist. Life-long yogi. Feminist. Holistic wellbeing & healthy cities advocate. A person on a bike. Policy writer by day.

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