Revealing the realities of racism for rangatahi in Aotearoa

Rationale for Research

Racism is a basic cause of poor health and health inequities. The transition from childhood to adulthood may be a critical time for exposure to racism with emerging evidence that experiences of racial discrimination in adolescence precede the onset of serious health problems in later life. Improving rangatahi Māori health is a key objective for research and policy in Aotearoa. However, very little is known about whether and how racism influences rangatahi health. Furthermore, the innovative potential of anti-racism interventions to improve rangatahi health is yet to be explored.


The overall aim is to collaborate with rangatahi to build evidence of racism as a determinant of health for rangatahi (young people aged 10-24 years) and to scope the parameters of effective anti-racism solutions. The objectives are: (1) to identify and define the problem of racism for rangatahi, including consequences for health and wellbeing, and; (2) to develop, test and refine rangatahi solutions to racism.

Design and Methods

The research is grounded in a Kaupapa Māori research paradigm which informs our positioning in relation to the research questions and the use of a structural analysis to interpret the research findings. As Kaupapa Māori researchers we are interested in understanding how power dynamics and privilege are enacted, including via research. Therefore, we will use tikanga Māori co-design which is an emerging discipline that has potential to address power imbalances between rangatahi and researchers through investment in relationships that enable rangatahi engagement and participation in the research process. A Rangatahi Partnership Group will be convened to collaborate throughout the project in addition to rangatahi facilitators and participants. The research will be mixed-methods and conducted in two phases: Phase 1 (Whakamārama) will develop the evidence-base on racism as a health determinant for rangatahi via three complementary research strands: (1) an evidence review of national and international literature and anti-racism interventions; (2) a qualitative research strand involving focus-groups/interviews with 30-40 rangatahi to explore their everyday experiences of racism, followed by wider engagement with rangatahi via an online platform to further develop the key themes; and (3) a quantitative research strand which will investigate the prevalence of racial discrimination and associations with health, via the secondary analysis of data from four existing national survey collections (the NZ Health Survey, the NZ General Social Survey, Te Kupenga Māori Social Survey, and the NZ Youth Survey Series). Phase 2 (Kia Auahatia) will identify and test rangatahi ideas on the concepts, positioning, and implementation strategies that are required for effective anti-racism solutions. This will occur via three workshops involving 50 rangatahi participants. The workshops will be developed and supported by experienced rangatahi facilitators and will include a range of design tools and creative techniques to enable participants to engage and collaborate at the workshops. Workshop 1 will support the participants understanding of racism as a health determinant using the knowledge generated in Phase 1 before participants ideate, explore and select anti-racism solutions they believe should progress to the next stage. Workshop 2 will focus on prototype development and testing. Prototypes can take any form, including short films, dance, posters, or spoken-word poetry. Participants will then be supported to test and gather feedback on their prototypes amongst their networks. Workshop 3 will focus on sharing feedback from the testing process and refinement of the prototypes they identify as having the most potential. Participants will also collaborate on a dissemination strategy, including online resources and at the stakeholder symposium.

Research Impact

The research will provide new knowledge about racism as a determinant of health for rangatahi Māori and identify the essential elements underpinning effective anti-racism interventions in Aotearoa. The Rangatahi Partnership Group will facilitate translation and uptake of anti-racism solutions within rangatahi communities, and by youth advocates and service providers. An Advisory Group will provide pathways to inform evidence-based policies and antiracism action that will improve rangatahi health. The research is Māori-led, involves senior Māori researchers and focuses on building the capabilities of the Rangatahi Partnership Group, research assistants and emerging Māori researchers. The tikanga Māori co-design approach will provide a framework for collaborative and ethical research with rangatahi.

Primary Investigator:

Dr Sarah-Jane Paine



Collaborators and Named Investigators:

Dr Ricci Harris (Otago University)

Dr Donna Cormack (Otago University)

Paula King (Otago University)

James Stanley (Otago University)

Assoc. Prof. Elana Curtis (Auckland University) 

Naomi Priest (Australian National University)

Shanthi Ameratunga

Funding details:

Health Research Council project grant 2018

Start date:

01 Sept 2018

End date:

31 Aug 2021