PSA: ‘Kiwi’ Is Officially Not A Racist Term

PSA: ‘Kiwi’ Is Officially Not A Racist Term
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Do you ever find it hard to tell what’s a racist term you should avoid using and what’s an endearing term for someone from a certain country? Generally you should err on the side of not using terms you’re unsure about, but there’s one that’s been proven to be fair game: Kiwi. The South Australian Employment Tribunal made this ruling this week, concluding that calling someone from New Zealand a ‘Kiwi’ doesn’t constitute racial discrimination or harassment.

The case was brought by a New Zealand worker at a bakery in Adelaide, where the managing director nicknamed her “Kiwi” and others in the workplace quickly adopted the name. While the employee claimed that the nickname was disrespectful and thus a cause of racial discrimination, the tribunal didn’t agree.

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They said that, as the employee didn’t suffer any unfavourable treatment such as a lack of career progression or segregation in the workplace, the nickname didn’t amount to racial discrimination. Judge Farrell, who presided over the case, agreed that calling someone from New Zealand a Kiwi was not offensive. As the woman’s employer pointed out, the term Kiwi is often used by the New Zealand Government in campaigns and is generally seen as a term of endearment.

Of course, if someone doesn’t like being called Kiwi, the polite thing to do is to stop using it. As Niki Vincent, the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in SA, said on ABC Radio Adelaide: “If someone takes particular offense at that nickname and doesn’t like it and says they don’t like it and asked not to be called that anymore, in a respectful workplace that’s what you’d do, you wouldn’t call them that anymore.”


  • Considering they themselves call their national Rugby League team “The Kiwis” I can’t see how it could be construed as racist. It’ll be like someone calling an Australian a Kangaroo.

    • Jeez I’m getting tired of the bugs in the website. I’ve lost multiple posts today. This being the latest…

      Well said sebg, I think that’s the right attitude. I will say however, that the article doesn’t point out whether the employee actually asked the boss/coworkers to stop using that nickname. So it’s not possible to know whether they were being asses or whether she went straight to the tribunal with a complaint.

      I’ll also add that trying to change a nickname is largely futile. It’s something that happens organically (like a meme) and you’re better off just embracing it.

  • In my experience ‘Kiwi’ to New Zealanders is about the same as ‘Aussie’ to Australians.
    Not an offensive term in and of itself.

    Having said that, if I was working overseas and my boss kept calling me ‘Aussie’ I might get annoyed too because it’s not my name.
    And if this person was saying “I don’t like you calling me that” then regardless of how ‘endearing’ the nickname might be, their boss/colleagues should have cut it out because calling someone something they don’t like is just generally crappy behaviour.

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