Christchurch mosque attack: Three years on, March 15 families still facing racism in daily lives

Three years on from the tragic terror attack in Christchurch, victims' families and children are still facing racism in their daily lives.

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the despicable act that saw a terrorist livestream himself attacking worshippers in two Christchurch mosques, killing 51 people and wounding 40 others in 2019. 

March 15 Whanau Trust chairperson Maha Galal told AM her community is grateful to everyone for helping them feel safe but they're still being discriminated against.

"We can see the hard work from the Government who are helping us to feel safe but to be honest with you, there is still a lot that needs to be looked at," she told AM.

"Many of our children are still facing racism at the school, we are facing that on the street, so still a long way to go."

New laws have been discussed to curb discrimination but Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says the Government's hate speech laws are still not ready despite plans to introduce them to Parliament early this year.

In line with recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack, the Government wants to make major changes to the laws governing hate speech, including the creation of a new criminal offence with harsher penalties and the protection of more minority groups.

Galal said new laws would be helpful but more would need to be done around educating New Zealanders about Muslim culture. 

"Absolutely that will help and we are grateful for that but still need a lot of work to be done. It's not just about law, it's about community work, about awareness of Islamophobia, teaching all of New Zealand about Muslim people, why we are wearing hijab, it's a lot of work that needs to be done." 

Galal also told AM work needs to be done on casual workers receiving compensation for injuries from ACC after tragic events like March 15. 

Currently, if you are not employed at the time of your injury, you can only get ACC if you had a new job lined up, are a seasonal worker, are on paid leave or have an unusual work situation.

"We have received a lot of support and we appreciate all the support we've got from all of New Zealand and from the Prime Minister but still there is a lot to be looked at especially with ACC," she said. 

"I can see all the March 15 families are working hard to upskill themselves but still we have a challenge.

"From my point of view, I'm trying to work on that very hard, not just for March 15 families but the whole of New Zealand because we hope it will never happen again in New Zealand but it can, so we have to learn from this hard lesson. 

"How can someone injured in an attack like that but because he is a casual worker not have ACC payment? There is still a lot needed to be done."

March 15 Whanau Trust chairperson Maha Galal
March 15 Whanau Trust chairperson Maha Galal Photo credit: AM

Galal said the past week leading up to the anniversary has been Islamic Awareness Week.

The week involved an Islamic art exhibition, speakers, children’s events, peace walks, and feeding the hungry.

"We are all painful, we miss our loves, we miss all of them but through that, we try to find the light, we try to move on, we try to find the love," Galal told AM. 

"We made last week Islamic Awareness Week and we are going to conclude today with a peace walk and I would extend an invitation for all of New Zealand to join us at 11am."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the third anniversary of the mosque shootings.

"We will always remember and acknowledge the 51 shaheed who died as a result of the terrorist attack on March 15. One way their memories are honoured is through the work that is taking place to make our country a better home for all who live here," Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Tuesday morning.