Oliver Sutherland is a retired scientist who studied at the University of Canterbury, then at Cambridge University and the University of California (Berkeley). He joined the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research in Nelson in 1969, remaining with the department and then Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research until 2003. On returning from study overseas he joined the Nelson Māori Committee, established the Nelson Race Relations Action Group and, in 1973, the Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination. In the mid-1980s Oliver led a challenge to the mono-culturalism of the science sector and helped conceive and frame the Native Flora and Fauna Claim to the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 262).
Challenging institutional racism: the work of ACCORD
In this presentation Oliver will share his story of anti-racism and equal justice activism. In 1971 the Nelson Māori Committee and the Nelson Race Relations Action Group uncovered appalling discrimination against Māori children by the police and the courts. In a paper presented to the New Zealand Race Relations Council in February 1973 the Nelson Group together with the Polynesian Panther Party and Ngā Tamatoa accused the judicial system of ‘institutional racism’. The term was rejected by white conservatives and liberals at the time but slowly gained traction as the Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination applied the analysis to all institutions in New Zealand, supporting the charge by Māori and Pasifika activist groups that New Zealand was a racist society.