Wellington Zoo achieves world first diversity certification

Four smiling Wellington Zoo  employees holding LGBTQAI+ flags and their Rainbow Tick accreditation certificate.

Wellington Zoo staff proudly displaying their Rainbow Tick certification and waving LGBTQIA+ flags.

Wellington Zoo is leading the way when it comes to Rainbow Tick accreditation, signifying its position as a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment to visit and work.

“At Wellington Zoo we are a welcoming and supportive space for everyone in our community, but we wanted to make sure that this was truly the case by gaining the Rainbow Tick accreditation,” says chief operating officer Daniel Warsaw.

The Rainbow Tick programme helps New Zealand businesses and organisations become safe and inclusive for staff and customers of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

“We celebrate the diversity of the living world every day… the diversity of all living things that make our planet unique,” says Daniel.

“Our extends to people just as much as animals. Without the wonderful people who make up our whānau — staff, visitors and supporters — we wouldn’t be who we are today.”

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Workplace safe and inclusive

Describing himself as a “gay pākehā cis-man in a senior management role”, Daniel says the zoo was already the most accepting workplace he’s experienced.

“We wanted to take on the challenge of Rainbow Tick certification not for the tick, but for the honest and supported process it takes us through as an organisation to ensure we are absolutely inclusive of everyone who works or visits here.”

“As with everything we do at Wellington Zoo, we do it deliberately and with understanding, we are never tokenistic.”

Zoo staff are equally proud of the achievement.

“I feel incredibly proud to be working for an organisation that has gone above and beyond to ensure they are a safe and inclusive place for all,” says communications adviser Julia Hoffman Wall.

“To me, it shows the integrity of Wellington Zoo, and solidifies our place in the world as one of the smallest zoos with the biggest heart.”

Julia Hoffman Wall, Communications Advisor Wellington Zoo

Rainbow Tick requires mahi

The Rainbow Tick sees Wellington Zoo shine as a beacon for the diversity of our communities, says Daniel.

“There is much to do to ensure hard-won rights and freedoms are protected and advanced for everyone in our community. With some deliberate focus, all organisations can be a safe place for our rainbow communities.”

Daniel and the zoo’s rainbow working group encourage other Wellington organisations to go through the Rainbow Tick process.

That process tests whether workplaces understand and welcome sexual and gender diversity. It evaluates them on their LGBTQIA+ inclusion in five areas — policies, staff training, staff engagement and support, external engagement, and monitoring.

“It certainly requires and organisational will to want to change things for the better, but it is also a guided and enjoyable process that Rainbow Tick supports you through,” says Daniel.

Sign-ups on the rise

Already businesses are increasingly inquiring and signing up for the programme, says Rainbow Tick Wellington’s Val Little.

“We have a waitlist which is a great sign that rainbow diversity and inclusion is becoming more important to workplaces.

“A workplace that embraces rainbow diversity and inclusion cares about its rainbow-identifying staff and their whānau.

“When staff can bring their whole selves to work without fear of discrimination, judgement, or exclusion it means they will be happier and more productive.”

For Wellington Zoo, Daniel says the work doesn’t stop now it has the Rainbow Tick.

Its board has recently approved two weeks of paid leave for anyone transitioning, and the zoo hosted the first zoo Pride community event in 2023.

“We have further work underway to continue to strengthen our practices, particularly for the lesser heard voices within the rainbow communities, and this work sits alongside our other diversity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives.”