Our Executive Director
Chris Harris has a personal history and career strongly anchored in education and community service.
Growing up in a multicultural environment, he was especially sensitive to the causal discrimination and racism he witnessed directed at minority students. His own struggles with a speech impediment made him feel connected to people with disabilities, and after graduating from university he accepted a role working in the disability community. Subsequently, Chris spent 13 years as a High School History and Social Studies teacher. He combined his passion for history with education, motivated by the belief that if we can learn from the past, we may avoid the same mistakes in the future.
Chris had the opportunity to travel to the US, including the Deep South. Visiting the actual locations and meeting people who lived through the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s, Chris contrasted what he’d been taught in school with the realities of the American experience. It reinforced for him how the distortion of history and inability to reckon with the past was a universal human problem.
In 2016, he was apointed as National Education Director of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand (HCNZ), and in 2019 the organisation’s inaugural CEO. Chris worked on a range of projects, including the Children’s Holocaust Memorial, Anne Frank Exhibition and Finding Hope (which tells the story of Jewish refugees finding a safe haven in New Zealand). Under Chris’ leadership, HCNZ developed into a powerhouse in Holocaust Education and advocacy, with international acclaim from several key institutions such as Yad Vashem in Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
In 2019, Chris was honoured with an Excellence Award for his commitment to Holocaust education from Yad Vashem. He is a member of organisations that promote an understanding of human rights such as the International Association of Genocide Scholars and Genocide Watch.
“I learnt so much from HCNZ, it taught me about the power of the individual story, it allowed me to see that we must understand that we all have a part to play in humanity. We must learn to be upstanders and not bystanders.”
After five years with HCNZ, in December 2021 Chris founded Humanity Matters NZ.