Pink Shirt Day NZ

Today on Friday 18 May 2012, Aotearoa New Zealand celebrated Pink Shirt Day. Although it’s not yet easily remembered or fully recognized in mainstream public awareness and perception, the NZ Media has given it some focus and attention in today’s regional newspapers.

Students around New Zealand have celebrated diversity through their public support of Pink Shirt Day today. Pink Shirt Day is a national campaign that aims to combat bullying and promote positive relationships. Unitec’s Equity and Diversity Manager, Matthew Farry, says that combating bullying is something that students need to work together on. “One person is not going to get rid of bullying. The only way that we can defeat bullying, is if all of us take a stand,” he says. On a national level, the event seeks to prevent bullying throughout campuses and workplaces. It particularly targets bullying toward LGBT people.


The anti-bullying message is getting through in Christchurch today, where representatives of queer youth group Q-topia have set up a stall at a local mall, resplendent in pink, to ensure locals are aware of Pink Shirt Day.

Comedian Mike King says emotional bullying is skyrocketing, and he should know – he has done it himself. King, says bullying is “a constantly big topic” on his Sunday-night RadioLive talkback show The Nutters Club, and social media such as Facebook have increased the pressure on young people to be “popular”. “Bullying might be decreasing in the violent aspect, but in the emotional aspect it is skyrocketing,” he said. “I work a lot with at-risk youth, and I mean the sharp end – suicidal youth. Attacks on people’s self-esteem through bullying is the number one cause of suicide among youth.”

The colour pink is becoming a symbol of hope for thousands of Kiwis who are bullied. Reporter Hannah Spyksma met with change-maker Philip Patston to chat about the messages behind this Friday’s Pink Shirt Day. Bullying is not just a kids’ issue – it’s rampant throughout our society, a leading Auckland social entrepreneur says. “I think it’s an adult issue and we need to show leadership as adults about breaking down power dynamics and not just accusing kids,” Diversity Works Trust executive director Philip Patston says.

The first Pink Shirt Day took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when two 17 year old high school students decided to stand up for a friend who had been harassed for wearing a pink shirt to school. The boys, David Shepherd and Travis Price, decided that the bullying had to stop. They went to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops, sent out the message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning handed them to students to wear. When the bullied boy walked in, according to Travis Price, “It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. The bullies were never heard from again.”


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