Pink Shirt Day aims to reduce bullying in Aotearoa by celebrating diversity in all its forms and supporting workplaces, communities and schools to be safe, supportive, welcoming and inclusive of all people. While all people can be the target of bullying, some groups or individuals experience more bullying than others. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other sexuality and gender diverse identities (LGBTQIA+) people experience higher levels of bullying. Pink Shirt Day started because people wanted to stop homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and this remains a strong focus of Pink Shirt Day in Aotearoa.
Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when two students took a stand against homophobic bullying after a new Year 10 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink. These students bought dozens of pink shirts and distributed them to their classmates to wear the next day. The word got out online and hundreds of students showed up in pink, some from head-to-toe, to stand together against bullying. It has been celebrated in New Zealand since 2009.
LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or other sexuality and gender diverse identities. It’s important to note the ‘+’ in this acronym acknowledges anyone that does not identify with these terms (Te Kete Ipurangi, 2018). We understand the language and definitions are constantly evolving. There are many different cultural understandings and terms for sexuality and gender diversity such as takatāpui, whakawāhine, and tangata ira tāne (Māori), hijra (Bengali), fa’afafine (Samoan), and fakaleiti (Tongan).
Bullying can have serious and ongoing impacts on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Many studies that show that people who are bullied are more likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. As with any health condition, mental health problems can affect a person’s work and cause substantial costs to organisations (BusinessNZ, 2013). For workplaces, it’s their legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to manage risks to mental health and wellbeing just like they do any other health and safety risk (Wellplace.nz).
The Mental Health Foundation has led Pink Shirt Day since 2012. In 2021, our partners include InsideOUT, the Peace Foundation, New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA), Youthline, Te Kaha O Te Rangatahi Trust, the Human Rights Commission, Bullying-Free NZ Week, Cook Islands Development Agency, and Pacific Business Trust.