Human Right Commission receives complaints over Christchurch poet

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Mar 01, 2023 |

The Human Rights Commission has confirmed it has received multiple complaints over published excerpts of the ‘The Savage Coloniser’ book, but wouldn’t condemn the racist material.

The book, which has being adapted for the stage at the Auckland Arts Festival, describes “brown girls” driving around in SUVs looking for (James) Cook’s “descendants”… “white men like you”… to kill.

“We’re gonna







In a statement released by the Human Right Commission it said “we are precluded from making any specific public comments on the issues raised while we assess and respond to these complaints and queries. 

New Zealand’s hate speech/racial disharmony laws have a high threshold, given the fundamental importance of freedom of expression. 

Our courts have held that only “egregious expression that inspires extreme ill-will or likely to lead to the group being despised” will cross that threshold.”

It said “also generally speaking, the Commission’s view is that art, satire or discourse in whatever form,  should be taken in context.  

James Cook is a well-known figure across the Pacific as an 18th-century British explorer who voyaged across the region, contributing significantly to science and the modern mapping of the region.

However, his legacy is a source of hurt and intergenerational trauma for some, especially around the treatment of indigenous peoples which is often seen as exploitative and harmful.  

Our views of history can also change over time, as people learn new perspectives and unpack their biases.

The stories of our marginalised communities, ones not widely shared, can help build greater understanding and context.  

Some accounts and perspectives may be confronting, including some that have not always been included among popular and well-known narratives.”

However, it said “the Commission would encourage all members of society to be mindful of the impact of their language on the communities of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

The Auckland Arts Festival is promoting the production as “Fierce, furious and fabulously unforgiving, we’re proud to premiere the hugely anticipated stage adaptation of Tusiata Avia’s blistering poetry collection.”

At the end of its promotional blurb it lists a number of support services including the Suicide Crisis Helpline.

Act Party Leader David Seymour said “the Government should withdraw the $107,280 in taxpayer money given to a racist stage show about murdering James Cook, his descendants and ‘white men like [him] with pig hunting knives,’ then apologise to the public for giving so much to racism in the first place.”

In recent interview with Stuff, Avia said “. “I think it’s good for white people to sit and squirm a bit. I mean, we’re [brown people] squirming all the time.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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