May 19th, Pink Shirt Day, sees New Zealand awash in a tide of pink as we stand united against bullying, championing diversity and inclusion. While this is a critical cause, let's talk about why we even need such a day.
Through my masters in political science from Vic Uni, over two years of in-depth research, I revealed an uncomfortable truth about our public service sector - a truth hidden within 3,000 pages of government documents. Our public service leadership is nearly 90% NZ European, a homogeneity that will no longer reflect our nation's rapidly diversifying population. Yes, there are policies aplenty aimed at increasing inclusion, but they're falling short. Why? Because they're being undercut by unspoken, unaddressed barriers - pervasive bullying and insidious discrimination that is impossible for victims to raise.
Our government's Speak Up Framework, designed to address these issues, is alarmingly ineffective. When almost all agencies report zero complaints over three years, it doesn't indicate an absence of discrimination, but rather a lack of faith in the system. People aren't speaking up because they don't trust the policy will protect them.
I want the Public Service to review the Speak Up Framework and a have a focused effort to break down these invisible barriers. This isn't about pouring more money into the system; it's about astute political leadership and fostering a culture of self-awareness within our institutions so we can ensure our government truly reflects the vibrant diversity of Aotearoa.