A "soothing" wave of public support has inundated an Auckland University Pasifika academic today after she released a seven-minute racist rant left on her work voicemail.
Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, who co-heads the School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies Te Wānanga o Waipapa, says she is pleased her decision to publicise the abusive voicemail has encouraged a conversation about racism in New Zealand society.
"It's allowed people I guess to share their own experiences and frustrations in a safe space," Tiatia-Seath said.
"The feedback I've been getting has been thank you and thank you for your courage and that sort of stuff. But I don't feel courageous and brave, because I guess the issue has been around for a very, very long time. Something like this is a prime example of what really does exist.
"It's [messages of support] been soothing. I guess what it's done is open the flood gates - or at least reopened it because it was always there for the conversations to be had in safe ways for us."
The diatribe left on Tiatia-Seath's voicemail followed a Sunday event aired on Radio New Zealand in which the academic discussed the pay gap affecting Māori and Pasifika academics.
Tiatia-Seath said the woman on the line made comments that were "blatantly racist and filled with hate", including telling her to go back to the islands.
"Over here in New Zealand, the colonists and the settlers - they brought all of their knowledge here and they built here," the caller said.
"The way you talked last night - you behaved as if you owned New Zealand. You don't. You're all a late arrival," the caller said, her tone becoming more high-pitched as she continues.
Tiatia-Seath said the University of Auckland has been very supportive today, with the Vice Chancellor's office and the Dean of Arts getting in touch with her.
"The VC's office have been amazing and supportive, and the dean," she said.
"They've put support in place, reassured me, so has RNZ. Anything that I need. Whether I want to formalise any kind of complaint. Checking in on my wellbeing. Preparing me for possibly, you know this could be another … things come in threes right, in waves … this could be the calm before the storm [for further abuse]."
An Auckland University spokesperson said the university "is aware of this situation and has been in touch with Dr Tiatia-Seath. We have processes in place for reporting and investigating harassment including providing support to any affected staff members".
Tiatia-Seath said messages from students, friends and family have also validated why she decided to make the recording public in the first place.
"This isn't anything new to me and nothing new to people that experience this. When I first heard it I did sit and think through very, very carefully the potential negative ramifications. But I was moved to do it, and I listened to that, I listened to my gut and I did it. I was completely prepared.
"If anything it's served its purpose in exposing the ugliness that is racism. And it's also given the confidence for students, family members and friends to have zero tolerance for it basically - and to call it out.
"For those that are in denial that it even exists in our country the evidence is there. This is the type of things we experience and no one should be subjected to it"
The academic, who is an expert in public health, said she doesn't feel the need to report the abusive message to police but will do so if the same woman calls again.
Tiatia-Seath said ultimately the response today has been "people coming out and showing their love and support" and she hasn't "looked at anything that's negative because quite frankly I don't have the energy for it".
The Herald has chosen to remove some parts of the audio, because some of the content is too graphic and culturally insensitive.
People from different backgrounds contacted the newspaper to share their views.
"I forced myself to listen to the whole recording in the Herald article and my heart wept that anyone could have to endure the ranting of that older woman stuck in the past," one woman wrote.
"I nearly stopped listening as it was so uncomfortable, but forced myself to go to the end.
"It is totally unacceptable and tragic that someone thinks they have a right to behave that way. My heart goes out to Jemaima."
Another described how saddened and ashamed he felt after reading about the ordeal.
"Pasifika people are and will continue to be a major part of New Zealand life and culture. Their contribution to this country is unsurpassed.
"I am a white male of age and since I came to New Zealand 45 years ago I have made many friendships with Pasifika people - and they remain very dear to my heart."
The man went on to say: "Pasifika people everywhere, you are above these racist scum. They are beneath contempt. Together, we can overcome this."
Other readers disagreed, saying the woman who left the message was not being racist and just "spoke her truth".
"I listened to the tape. There was no racism in the tape. It was a bit of a rant but she spoke her truth, which is overwhelmingly accurate," one man said.
"This is just another playing of the card by you. You should be ashamed of yourself for descending so low."
Comments 'immature' - Race Relations Commissioner
"There was a pain - and not for me. It was for the future and for all that Pacific [people] do. The pain was for those who came before me - for [people] who were killed for speaking out like this."
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said while such incidents were sadly common, no one should be reduced to receiving racist taunts.
Foon said the woman's comments were "silly behaviour" and "immature".
Pasifika, Māori and Asian academics were often subjected to these experiences, he said.
"It's micro-aggressions. It happens in little bits and pieces, but they do end up, cumulatively, very hurtful and demoralising.
"Sometimes people feel they are strong ... but it does wear people down," he said.
"We should all be safe in our environments, regardless of our heritage, ethnicity, religion, gender."
Tiatia-Seath said the recording had been passed on to Auckland University security.