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Explore the 'New Zealand' identity

Mural of girl with fern for hair

RISE Street Art Festival by Jocelyn Kinghorn. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

The 'New Zealand' identity is dependent on many factors and is evolving according to people's perceptions. Students inquire into people's perspectives about what it means to be a New Zealander.


  • Identity, stereotyping, perspective, perceptions, national identity, cultural identity, evolving, people, place, our future, definition.
  • He Tohu themes: living together, our future.

What to do

What is identity?

Students do the following to explore what identity is:

  • Consider what gives us our identity.
  • Examine their own identity and what gives them this sense of identity.
  • Look around what's in their home. Identify how objects and decorations show the identity of their family.
  • Examine what objects and decorations in their school portray its identity.

What is the New Zealand identity?

Working in pairs, get students to discuss the concept of 'New Zealand' identity. For example:

  • What does it mean to be a New Zealander?
  • What are some stereotypes about New Zealanders? Where do these stereotypes come from?

Ask students to share ideas and findings with another student pair before discussing the concept as a class.

Ask someone who has emigrated to New Zealand what their perspective of the New Zealand identity was before moving here. What is their current perspective?

As a class, identify any themes that emerge.

Using examples provided on Te Ara, explore the New Zealand identity further. In particular, identify ways that people's:

  • perceptions of 'national identity' have changed over time
  • concepts of New Zealand identity reflect aspects of cultural interaction in Aotearoa.

Analyse 'Goodbye Old New Zealand' cartoon

Discuss Pencilsword’s 'Goodbye Old New Zealand' cartoon.

Toby Morris (the cartoonist) suggests that a New Zealand stereotype he would feel proud of is one in which New Zealanders are viewed as being smart, compassionate, curious, and different.

Ask students to discuss their vision for a stereotype of a New Zealander that would make them feel proud. Create an image or poster of that New Zealander.

Ask some adults what their image or attributes of the typical New Zealander would be. Compare/contrast how it is different from their own ideal New Zealander.

Extension activities

Get students to read and discuss this letter written by a 17-year-old in Auckland about her experiences as an 'Asian Kiwi':

Housing crisis: NZ-born Chinese teen's letter to Kiwis — 'I no longer feel welcome' — download the letter, the video is not relevant and is a distraction.

Listen to the stories of new migrants to Aotearoa — 'Voices' is a series of Radio New Zealand podcasts and articles promoting a greater understanding of our ethnic communities by highlighting Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and other voices in Aotearoa.

Some useful resources

Topic Explorer:

New Zealand Curriculum — social sciences

Conceptual strands:

  • Identity, Culture, and Organisation
  • Place and Environment
  • Continuity and Change

Achievement objectives:

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