Working to end racial oppression supported by $10m MBIE grant

24 September 2020

WERO project team
Left to Right: Dr Arama Rata, Associate Professor Tom Roa, Associate Professor Alice Te Punga Somerville, Dr Omoniyi Alimi, Dr Maree Roche, Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki.

Researchers at the University of Waikato are leading a project that will investigate racial oppression across society. Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki, Dr Arama Rata and Professor Francis Collins say that racism is a social structure that underpins forms of interpersonal and institutional discrimination, which has detrimental effects on 21st Century Aotearoa New Zealand.

The project, Working to End Racial Oppression (WERO), has received an MBIE Endeavour Fund grant of $10m over five years and involves a multi-institute team of 21 researchers from New Zealand and Canada.

WERO is an interdisciplinary, community-informed and international research programme combining three interlinked research aims. The research goals are to examine the individualised, community and societal costs or impacts of racism, to understand how inequities are created and perpetuated in social and institutional systems, and to identify responses that government, institutions and communities can use to challenge racism.

“Racism is evident in the inequitable outcomes across almost every indicator of wellbeing, including those within health, education, housing, employment and justice. While racism is systemic and structural, racism is also socially constructed and maintained and can therefore be dismantled. The links between racism and inequities are visible or hidden. When demands for attention are made, we must respond appropriately if we want to contribute to an inclusive and thriving society,” the team said.

The research team add that the project will examine systems through which racism is reproduced by analysing:

  • The Crown institutions that regulate, train and employ health professionals and their impact on consumers
  • The settler colonial racialisation of differentially positioned communities of colour, including tangata whenua, tangata Moana, and migrants of colour
  • The maintenance of settler colonial narratives through national commemorations
  • The role of privileged populations in excluding racialised communities
  • The significance of employment and housing systems in maintaining inequalities
  • The role of technologies (e.g. social media) in exacerbating inequalities.

Outcomes of the project will include responses to racism such as the development and dissemination of toolkits to audit and address institutional racism, protocols to promote inclusive online communication, strategies for building relationships between racialised communities and guidelines for the ethical remembering of New Zealand history.

The programme assembles knowledge experts in Māori studies, immigration, economics,
data science, human geography, Pacific studies, justice, sociology and psychology, and will amplify innovation by bringing these knowledge systems into dialogue, towards the transformational long-term agenda of ending racial oppression in Aotearoa.

The project leads in Working to End Racial Oppression (WERO), include:

  • Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki, University of Waikato
  • Dr Arama Rata, University of Waikato
  • Professor Francis Collins, University of Waikato

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