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The History of Protest in Aotearoa New Zealand

Trace the history of protest and activism in Aotearoa New Zealand to understand New Zealand history and culture.

A black and white photograph of Māori men and women. one man and women are in traditional Māori dress, the man is holding a flag. They are in a crowd and are looking down, in prayer.

The History of Protest in Aotearoa New Zealand

  • 5 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
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    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Delve into Aotearoa New Zealand’s history and heritage with Te Papa

For 25 years, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has been working to understand and celebrate Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich culture and heritage. On this four-week course, Te Papa will introduce you to a crucial element of that heritage: activism and protest.

From historic protests to protect Māori land rights to modern-day queer and environmental activism, you’ll explore a variety of social movements in Aotearoa New Zealand. As you do, you’ll get to discover some of the many fascinating objects in the Te Papa collection.

Explore Māori history and activism

In Week 1 of the course, you’ll look back over a century and a half of Māori protest over customary land rights in Aotearoa New Zealand.

You’ll examine the motivations behind the Māori land rights protests, their effect on Treaty of Waitangi relations, and their impact on current approaches to acknowledging Aotearoa New Zealand’s colonial past.

Discover movements to promote women’s rights, labour rights, and civil rights in Aotearoa New Zealand

You’ll also explore a wide range of other social movements in Aotearoa New Zealand.

From women’s liberation to apartheid resistance, you’ll learn how protest has helped shape social change in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Look to the future of activism in modern-day Aotearoa New Zealand

In the final two weeks of the course, you’ll consider more recent protest movements, from environmental activism and queer rights to the campaign for a Nuclear-free New Zealand. You’ll discover how art, song, and modern media have been used as a powerful form of social protest, while discussing the role of museums in modern activism.

You’ll finish the course with an understanding of Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich and complex past, and a sensitivity to current social and cultural issues.


  • Week 1

    Tino Rangatiratanga

    • Welcome to the Course!

      Tēnā koe and welcome! We're about to start a journey that traverses more than 150 years of protest in Aotearoa., A journey that will cover most of the social history that makes Aotearoa New Zealand the country it is today.

    • The Treaty of Waitangi

      The story of Te Tiriti o Te Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi), and the decades of protest stemming from it.

    • Māori land rights

      Māori land has, over more than 100 years, been systematically taken from them by coercion, force, & theft. In this section we look at some ways that Māori have organized to fight back for their territorial rights.

    • Te reo Māori

      Te reo Māori (the Māori language) is more than just words, it's a taonga (treasure), and its active suppression until the mid 70s left the culture itself in dire straights. Meet the people who fought for its survival.

    • Māori activism in the 21st century

      The fight for justice continues in modern Aotearoa. Learn about some of the varied ways and spaces in which Māori are making their voices heard today.

    • Week One Reflection

      Let's reflect on Week One.

  • Week 2

    Social Change

    • Welcome to Week Two

      Welcome to Week Two, where we focus on social change, rights, and equality.

    • Women's Rights

      New Zealand suffragists fought to make Aotearoa the first self-governing country in the world to give women the vote. In this activity we look at how they managed it, and how their battle continues in women's movements today.

    • Labour Rights

      In this activity we look at how the push for labour rights in the early 20th century brought New Zealand to a grinding halt, and divided the nation.

    • Civil Rights

      The 60s & 70s brought a surge in protest around civil rights. Let's look at oppression & resistance in NZ's Pasifika community, how rugby tore the nation in two in 1981, and the legacy of Asian New Zealand protest in Aotearoa NZ.

    • Week Two Reflection

      Let's reflect on week Two.

  • Week 3

    War & The World

    • Welcome to Week Three

      Welcome to Week Three! This week we look more widely; at protest concerning our environment, war, and the times New Zealanders have stood in solidarity with the wider world.

    • Nuclear-free New Zealand

      In this activity we look at the lead up to Aotearoa making the extraordinary step of declaring itself the first Nuclear-free nation in the world. It is a tale of activism, espionage, terrorism, politics, and humanity.

    • Environmental Activism

      Aotearoa New Zealand has a globally unique form of biodiversity; so strange that it has been compared to life on another planet, or in a parallel dimension. As such, Kiwis have a rich history of protesting to protect this taonga.

    • War

      New Zealand was involved in several international wars, as well as some on our own soil. In this step we look at the ways we have protested, resisted, and remembered. We also consider the way these stories are told today.

    • Solidarity

      Even when not directly involved, New Zealanders frequently stand in solidarity with global protest movements, some that relate to us directly, and others that resonate across an ocean with the values we hold dear.

    • Week Three Reflection

      Let's reflect on what we covered in week three.

  • Week 4

    Love, Museums, & the Art of Protest

    • Welcome to Week Four

      Welcome to week four of the course!

    • Queer Rights

      We often think of queer protest as something that blew up in the 80's - and it did - but it's roots go much further back; to the first drag queens in the 50s. In this step we look at rainbow protest, a battle still fought today.

    • The Art of Protest

      Art is one of humanities most persistent forms of protest. Activism through art takes many different forms, and excels in its power to provoke emotion and convey a powerful message. in this step we explore some kiwi examples.

    • Activist Museums

      In this step, Te Papa curators and leaders reflect: What role do museums play in activism – is it just collecting, or should museums, as institutions of accessible education, stand in their values as active agents for change?

    • Course Reflection

      Ngā mihi, thank you for coming with us on this (hopefully!) inspiring journey. It's clear that Aotearoa's protest history has vividly shaped it's national identity and values. Let's wrap up and connect as we reflect on the course.

  • Week 5

    Additional time for self-study

    When would you like to start?

    Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

    • Available now

    • Available now

    Learning on this course

    On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

    What will you achieve?

    By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

    • Compare different forms of protest
    • Describe examples of New Zealand protest art
    • Explain the historical motivations behind protests surronding Māori land loss
    • Reflect on how protest history has shaped New Zealand's national identity
    • Summarise the most significant protest movements in New Zealand's history
    • Reflect on the role of activist museums in society

    Who is the course for?

    This course is designed for anyone interested in gaining insight into a crucial part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history and culture.

    Anyone with an interest in museums, cultural heritage, the arts, social movements, and the wider Pacific region will benefit from this course.

    What do people say about this course?

    By far one of the best courses on Future Learn.

    "I can honestly say that this is by far one of the best courses on FutureLearn. Other course developers should really take note! I have learnt so much and have passed on my learning to others too. "

    A gem amongst Future Learn course providers.

    "Te Papa is a gem amongst FutureLearn course providers."

    Who will you learn with?

    Mel is part of the Learning Team within Te Papa Tongarewa. She has a background in science, education & communication and has worked with researchers and curators to create these courses for you.

    Who developed the course?

    Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

    Te Papa’s vision for the future is to change hearts, minds, and lives.

    Our role is to be a forum for the nation to present, explore, and preserve the heritage of its cultures and knowledge of the natural environment. Te Papa was established with this role by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act 1992.

    • Established

    • Location

      Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

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    Ways to learn

    Choose the best way to learn for you!

    Subscribe & save

    $244.99 for one whole year

    Automatically renews

    Develop skills to further your career

    • Access to this course
    • Access to 1,000+ courses
    • Learn at your own pace
    • Discuss your learning in comments
    • Digital certificate when you're eligible

    Cancel for free anytime

    Buy this course

    $134/one-off payment

    Fulfill your current learning need

    • Access to this course
    • Learn at your own pace
    • Discuss your learning in comments
    • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

    Limited access


    Sample the course materials

    • Access expires 3 Jul 2024

    Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

    Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

    Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

    Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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