Centre for Equity Through Education 2019 Symposium

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Every year, for the last three years, the Massey University Centre for Equity Through Education -  which was established to promote equity, social justice and diversity in and through education - has hosted a one-day symposium. The symposium focuses on the creation of equitable education for all students in Aotearoa New Zealand. This year, on 13 February,  over 350 people attended the symposium to hear presentations from a range of speakers, make links with people from around the country and hear about the latest work of the Equity Through Education Centre.


The Centre was particularly honoured to have three very well-known and highly respected keynote speakers, each of whom is making significant contributions to the creation of more equitable education systems in Aotearoa NZ. The first of these was the Children’s Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft. In his presentation, Judge Becroft reminded participants that while we are doing a good job for approximately 70% of our children and young people in Aotearoa NZ, 30% are not doing so well. Judge Becroft drew particular attention to the issues associated with children living in poverty and the importance of including student voice in education.

In the second keynote presentation, Professor Mere Berryman (a 2017 nominee for New Zealander of the year) and Professor John O’Neill outlined their role as members of the independent taskforce set up to review Tomorrow’s Schools. In their presentation they described the factors that led to the review,  the process of the review, and the importance of the public responding to the recommendations in the period of public consultation.

Alayne McKee from Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ presented on the topic of speech, language, and communication skills as human rights enablers and reminded participants that communication rights need to be respected regardless of a person’s communication profile (which may include speech, language and communication needs).  As Alayne pointed out, this is particularly so for children and young people in care and protection and youth justice settings to enable them to understand what is going on and to participate and make informed-decisions.

A senior research officer at Massey University, Dr Philippa Butler shared with symposium attendees, her recently-completed doctoral thesis focused on the impact of a culturally responsive school on student identity.  She discussed the impact of one South Auckland secondary school on the ethnic and cultural identities of it’s students and how the school provides opportunities for students to learn in a setting that acknowledges their cultural values,  participate in cultural activities, and to speak their languages.

Supporting children from refugee backgrounds in education settings is an important international focus in relation to educational equity.  In their presentation focused on this important topic, Mathew Kalloor and Sarah Williams from RANZ, described how the refugee journey is an experience that starts in the country of origin and lasts for a life time and how taking a symptom/behavioural focused, deficit model often highlights the experiences of past trauma at the expense of enduring experiences. Through their presentation Mathew and Sarah facilitated a process of inquiry and self-reflection designed to help teachers and other educational professionals explore what might constitute safe, accessible and meaningful engagement with former refugee children in an educational context.

We live in a digital world and a digital age and notions of equitable education needs to be explored through this lens. Another of the presenters at the symposium, Associate Professor and pyschologist from Auckland University Kerry Gibson discussed the notion of transforming mental health support for youth in the digital age. She drew on interviews with over 180 young people in New Zealand to provide insights into contemporary youth priorities for engagement with support. She highlighted the way that digital communication has opened up new avenues of support for young people and also profoundly changed their expectations of more traditional off-line forms of mental health support. 

In a break from more traditional presentations, the symposium this year presented an iteration of a developing solo show in which Madeline McNamara explored in her body and voice, different modes of white resistance to challenges about power and privilege. The Show which is described as being inspired by 18th century writings and interpretations of that century›s original voguer Emma Lyon and her «Attitudes» was directed by Jade Eriksen.

The symposium ended with the launch of three books edited or authored by members of the Equity Through Education Centre.

The Equity Through Education centre are already looking towards the 2020 Equity Through Education Symposium which will be held on the 12th February 2020 at Massey University, Albany, Auckland.  For information about this symposium, please email the centre at equitythrougheducation@massey.ac.nz