Constitutional Transformation is the New Black

by Dayle Takitimu

A snapshot of this past week in politics has reinforced that we, the Indigenous of this land, must not lose sight of our Indigenous truths. We must guard them fiercely; we must denounce any slow creep of imperialism upon our understanding of ourselves. We must be loyal first to our own truths; and have the courage to reject the colonial legal fictions that have emerged from an inherently racist system designed to annihilate and oppress us. The events of this week emphasize, more than ever, that our vigilance is absolutely necessary if we are to genuinely realize our internationally recognized right to self-determination.

The Status Quo is Unacceptable
Only those with a vested interest in propping up continued colonial oppression of Indigenous rights seek to defend the status quo. They publish articles on how harmonious the commemorative events at Waitangi have been this year, they wax lyrical about the dollar value of meagre Crown investments into impoverished Māori communities, and they liken colonial benevolence to satisfying an ongoing obligation to peacefully assimilate Indigenous people into the acceptable ‘mainstream’. We’re being told, repeatedly, to be happy with our lot. The problem is, if your inherent right is to self-determination, these measures fall woefully short of our rights and entitlements – no matter how sweetly giftwrapped and embellished.

Pania Newton at Waitangi

The further we move from our truths, and the more we align ourselves with damaging colonial fictions, the more violence we allow colonialism to inflict upon the psyche of our people. Thus we see this week manifestations of this colonial drift creeping into our sacred spaces; we see armed police forces permitted onto the marae atea, we see unprovoked attacks on the mana and tapu of Māori women by Māori alpha males aligned with the Crown, we see speaking platforms provided to the promoters of hate, we see people with calculators under the table horse trading the integrity of our natural environment. The insidious reach of colonial legislation has become so incrementally intrusive that it permits the law to shoot our people in the streets. It purports to unilaterally determine which parts of our history are taught, and it empowers itself to snatch Indigenous children from the wombs of our mothers. That some of the Crown officials sought this year to discuss that in our Indigenous language is a merely a distraction from the fact none are committed to the actual substantive issues that would force a genuine recognition of our rights and entitlements – none are committed to acknowledging and deconstructing the colonial fictions upon which their tenuous positions are founded.

“The insidious reach of colonial legislation has become so incrementally intrusive that it permits the law to shoot our people in the streets.”


We Are Not ‘Fighting For Our Rights’; We Already Have Them
Notwithstanding the ongoing incursion of colonisation, Indigenous people have an existing and operable right to self-determination. That self-determination extends to include our right to self-government, and a suite of territorial rights in relation to our natural environment. The ongoing subordination of Indigenous law by the State, and the legal barriers compromising the ability of Indigenous populations to proactively protect our territories and our populations, is inconsistent with Te Tiriti and international law. Despite the clear language and brevity of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown purports it is confusing and requires further interpretation. That interpretation is found within Crown-defined ‘principles’ that unilaterally, but significantly, erode the otherwise clear agreement between Māori as a sovereign people, and the British Crown.

Treaty Principles Are Legal Fictions that Dispossess Us of Our Tiriti Protected Rights
Through a Crown lens Article I rights about sovereign authority move from being about self-determination and ‘absolute chieftainship and authority’ to being about ‘partnership’ subject to Parliamentary supremacy. Not an equal partnership, but one that cedes all interests from one nation to another.

Territorial rights contained in Article II move from being about ‘full, exclusive and undisturbed possession’ to being about ‘the right to be consulted’.

Social and cultural rights in Article III are reduced to ‘the right to participate’ and ‘be a New Zealand citizen’ and be subject to ‘one law for all’ and, at the Crowns discretion, to be acknowledged as a particular class of ‘stakeholder’.

The New Zealand government claims, but has no constitutional basis for, ‘parliamentary supremacy’ and asserts the only right to govern and make laws in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is in direct breach of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the distinct obligations owed under the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Inconvenient for the Crown? Yes. Factual? Also yes.

To be clear, this is nothing but pure racism and colonial patch protection, dressed up as law and policy. Legal fiction, created to serve, and maintain, an empire building agenda. This is racism in its most institutionalised form and remains totally unacceptable. The Crown cannot simply ignore the set of rights and entitlements protected by Te Tiriti, and reaffirmed by international law; and we must not allow them to do so. We don’t negotiate rights, they are inherent and already exist – we are challenged with implementing them, honourably, and bringing the treaty promise to fruition. Of course this is challenging, but it is equally necessary if we are remotely interested in justice.


Constitutional Change Is The New Black
Piecemeal accommodation of selected aspects of our culture within a colonial frame is not the genuine realization of our rights needed to shift the status quo. We ought to reject these accommodations for the distraction they are. The reclamation of our legitimate right to self-determination is anchored in our continued adherence to our Indigenous truths. The pathway must therefore be one of Indigenous reclamation and emancipation, for it is an Indigenous lens that will provide the pathway ahead, not a colonial one.

The constitutional arrangements of this country, contained in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, require of us a balanced power sharing; one that accommodates not only a peaceful co-existence, but also the concurrent presence of genuine and undisturbed Indigenous self-government. Our Indigenous right to self-determination was not displaced by Te Tiriti o Waitangi; it was affirmed and protected by it. That sovereignty was never ceded on the 6 February 1840 is an established fact; reconfirmed repeatedly by Indigenous tradition, the international legal community and by the New Zealand government’s own Waitangi Tribunal. That is the crux of it. Each party to Te Tiriti o Waitangi is challenged with honourably implementing it.

“That sovereignty was never ceded on the 6 February 1840 is an established fact; reconfirmed repeatedly by Indigenous tradition, the international legal community and by the New Zealand government’s own Waitangi Tribunal.”

The Crown, and the non-Māori population of this country have their own burden to wrestle with; morally and politically – they must bear the weight of change also. They must have the courage to confront the uncomfortable, and do the yards to critically, but urgently, dismantle systems of oppression from which they continue to benefit. They must not mistake window dressing as substantive change, but must instead accept the challenge to unpack the colonial fictions upon which their privilege is based.


Māoridom has its own healing to do; we must rebuild from colonial interruption so that we are positioned to manifest our right to self-determination. We must retake our legitimate sovereign place within the global family of nation, where our unique worldview and ancestral knowledge is required to face the global issues that will shape the future – the climate crisis and the collapse of the current economic order. We have to propel the constitutional change within Aotearoa/New Zealand that is necessary in order for our rangatiratanga to be restored. To do so we must, at a very minimum, have the continued courage to reclaim and champion our Indigenous truths as the foundation for the pathway ahead.


Indigenous land rights movements at Mauna Kea, Hawai’i and Ihumātao, Aotearoa, have hosted each other today in an exchange of solidarity and support for Indigenous rights.
Dr. Emalani Case, neice of Mauna Kea leader Pua Case, arrived at Ihumātao this morning bearing support from the Hawaiian campaign for the ongoing occupation movement in South Auckland.

“Mauna Kea and Ihumātao are not isolated moments” says Dr. Case. “They are movements that speak to each other across oceans. Although we may be in different places, we are linked in our shared commitment to protecting our lands, our peoples, and our futures. From Mauna Kea, we recognize the struggle at Ihumātao because we know it, we’ve felt it. We’ve lived it and we are still living it. From Mauna Kea, we’ve also felt the Māori recognition of our struggle. We’ve felt the prayers, we’ve been inspired by the actions, and we’ve been empowered by the solidarity.
As peoples linked by history, genealogy, and a shared commitment to our lands and waters, we stand with you, and we stand by you, to help you shoulder the weight of this movement. We know that our stand for one mountain is really a stand for all of our mountains, for all of our rivers and landscapes, for all of our sacred places, and for our rights as indigenous peoples.”
At the same time, a delegation of Māori scholars and rights advocates led by Dr. Leonie Pihama were welcomed onto Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu at Mauna Kea bearing messages of support from multiple Māori rights campaigns including the S.O.U.L. Ihumātao movement, “Hands Off Our Tamariki” who are opposing state removal of Māori children from Māori whānau, Protect Aotea who are campaigning against government sanctioned marine dumping of toxic sludge, and the Kia Mau movement which opposed the government sponsored anniversary celebrations of the arrival of James Cook to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Dr Pihama says: “We are here to stand in solidarity with our Hawaiian relations who are taking a position of self determination in protection of this sacred Mauna Kea. As Māori we have deep ancestral connections to Hawaii and to the Mauna. We carry the movements of Ihumatao and Hands Off Our Tamariki to support the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Indigenous nations have been protectors of our sacred lands and life ways for generations and continue to do so as our ancestors have done before us.”
Earlier this week the various movements issued a joint declaration of a “state of crisis” within the Māori nation under the current government who has failed to meet the high expectations set by the Ardern government and it’s Māori caucus, in spite of holding the highest number of Māori seats of any government to date.
Kia Mau movement spokesperson Tina Ngata says that while investment patterns may have shifted in this government, problems for Maori will persist until the government undergoes a fundamental systemic shift in decisionmaking.

“What we are seeing here is a range of flashpoints around the nation and around the world that indicate a consistent failure of settler colonial governments to meet the basic needs of Indigenous peoples, and we are then forced to take action in order to protect what remains, whether that be in relation to our lands, our waters, or our families. The government needs to face up to its role in colonization and the very first demonstration of that would be the Prime Minister coming to Ihumātao, standing the police forces down, meeting with Hands Off Our Tamariki, or even watching the twelve minute clip that has deeply impacted our country. Her refusal to do any of these things indicates a continuation of settler colonial patterns of ignoring Indigenous voices and whilst still determining our futures. We will continue to voice our opposition and solidarity with other nations who experience the same challenges under settler colonial occupation of their sacred spaces.”


By Tina Ngata

New Zealand’s Indigenous rights record is being called to account from numerous campaigns following weeks of flashpoints around the nation. Campaign leaders are citing a lack of government leadership and protection around Māori land alienation, state removal of children, and water pollution as indications that the Māori nation are “under threat from the deeply entrenched colonial racism of the New Zealand government”.

Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky, outdoor and nature
Image from Twisted Treaty Portraits

At Auckland’s Ihumātao, local Māori descendants and their supporters continue their occupation of lands in opposition to government eviction for a proposed housing development. Tensions have increased as police escalated their activity on the site in spite of a consistently peaceful approach by the movement. Local leader Pania Newton says these new developments have eroded the trust and good faith in the process. A national day of action for Ihumātao has seen protests and community expressions of solidarity across the country.

Image may contain: 36 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor
Large numbers showed up in acts of solidarity with Ihumātao around the country

Kelly Klink from Aotea (Great Barrier Island) has highlighted that the government’s lack of leadership is not only impacting upon human and land rights, but also water rights. Earlier this year, despite widespread opposition from local Māori, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), granted a large corporation consent to dump 250,000 cubic meters of toxic marine sludge off the coast of Aotea, a move that has resulted in largescale protests in the Auckland CBD.

“This is an abuse of our fundamental rights including the right of free prior and informed consent when big corporations dump toxic waste in our moana – it will cause irreparable harm to our beautiful marine environment which our people have relied upon for countless generations” says Klink.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor
Marine dumping led to marches in the Auckland CBD for Māori rights over marine territories

The Ihumātao and Aotea uprisings accompany further nationwide protests last week regarding the excessive state removal of Māori children from homes and abuse while in state care. ‘Hands Off Our Tamariki’ Campaign organisers Leonie Pihama, Paora Crawford-Moyle & Rihi Te Nana have highlighted the United Nations definition of genocide, which includes the forceable transfer of children from one group to another, and described this ongoing issue as New Zealand’s “Stolen Generation”.

Dr Pihama notes:
“We were told in 2016 that a change in legislation would make Child Youth and Family (CYFs) more accountable to Māori for their absolute incompetency in supporting our people, yet there continues to be a denial by the government of the need for significant change to be made.”

Image may contain: 13 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor
Hundreds gathered in the rain on the steps of Parliament to hand over a petition of 17,000 signatures calling for a halt to “child theft” by the NZ government.

Last week’s nationwide protests were spearheaded by a rally in Wellington which included a large march to Parliament steps to deliver an Open Letter with over 17,000 signatures to the Government calling for an end to the forced removal of Māori children. It also highlights that Māori are continually stifled by government legislation, limited resourcing and structural racism. The connections across these campaigns is recognised by Dr Pihama.
“What we see is a government that has said it is committed to the Treaty but fails to make any meaningful engagement with critical issues such as Ihumātao, Aotea, or the destruction of our children’s lives by its own Ministry. There is too much denial and defensiveness over the past months by this government, as was the case with the previous National government. There continues to be a denial of fundamental Treaty rights to do with our whanau, our lands, our seas, everything. Hands Off Our Tamariki voices our solidarity with all Māori and Indigenous Nations that are standing in protection of sacred places, sacred spaces, sacred future generations.”
Tina Ngata, spokesperson for the Kia Mau campaign opposing the 2019 anniversary celebrations of Captain Cook’s arrival notes that these are clear examples of why the events are an inappropriate and insensitive investment by this government: “We were promised a kind and progressive government under Jacinda Ardern, but these multiple flashpoints amount to a nation in crisis. The deeply entrenched colonial racism of the New Zealand government presents an ongoing threat to our lands, waters, and to us as a people. It’s appalling and insulting that the government would pump tens of millions of dollars into celebrating our “dual heritage” whilst continuing the Imperial project of Indigenous dispossession and genocide. This all demonstrates clearly how far away this government is from truly appreciating the depth of the issues we need to address before we can even claim basic respect for our human, environmental and Indigenous rights, let alone any semblance of bicultural harmony or political kindness.”

The “Taken Generation” is not a Māori Problem – it is a Colonial Racism Problem.


By Tina Ngata

If you venture into the websites for Ministry for Women, Ministry for Children and Ministry of Health, the images and language around your maternal healthcare journey, parental and child support paint a very particular, and positive picture.

Smiling brown faces, generally uptilted, the sun on their face – full of hope and aspirations, looking up towards a bright future. Declarations of support for loving, nurturing environments and belief in young people living up to their full potential. The use of our potent moko kauwae as the logo for the Ministry for Women infers the acknowledgement of the sacred role of wāhine in the family and community.

What has been made very clear in Newsroom article that has, this past week, rocked our nation, is that the reality for young Māori mothers is very, very different. Like rats circling a birdnest, Ministry for Children agents come back, again and again, trying to wear down the mother and her family, trying to isolate and cajole, then threaten, intimidate and decieve. It’s a relentless assault upon the young māmā, her family, and her child, a jarring testament to what young Māori mothers are put through within the health system.

This is not a new problem, but what Melanie Reid’s documentary did was put a face to the problem that Māori and Pacific whānau know, already, is out there. We live the reality of these intimidating tactics every day. Our health system has been identified as racist towards Māori from within its own ranks, and by the international Commission for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination in Geneva. We have known for a long time that Māori children are many times more likely to be taken from their families than Non-Māori. We have known for a long time (and unequivocally so since Mihingārangi Forbes’ Ngā Mōrehu report) of the statecare-to-prison-pipeline. What Melanie Reid did was burst through the systemic walls that protected this practice – put up by the police, hospital staff and the DHB, to expose the human face of this particular dimension of New Zealand’s colonial legacy upon Māori and Pacific whānau.

What is also clear, in the documentary and in the languaging used by the state is that overarchingly these babies are being considered and assessed as individuals, not the child of a mother, a whānau, or a community that is irrevocably damaged by their removal. Certainly not the victims of a racist system that was incepted to disadvantage Non-Pākeha. They are all of these things. They are a mokopuna, and I would go into all of the beautiful, profound meanings of that word except I’m jaded from reading that hollow rhetoric on these state agency websites which have no idea of how to implement that understanding, let alone intention to implement it.

All we need to know right now is that this is not an isolated case in any sense of the word.

Not only do the figures support that excessive uplifts for Māori and Pacific Island whānau are happening nationwide, but we also have evidence to support that the very flawed, deceitful, intimidating process captured by Newshub is also employed as a matter of routine, around the country.

The E Hine – reducing barriers to care for pregnant Māori women under 20 years and their infants study has walked with young Māori mothers aged under 20 thorugh their journey into motherhood in both Hawkes Bay and Wellington, centering them in a story that seeks to understand their lived experience of a health system that is clearly failing both them, their whānau, and certainly their babies. This study included a maternal care system stocktake, interviews with state agencies and service providers, whānau, fathers, and of course the mothers themselves.

Having walked alongside and advocated for a number of young Māori mothers over the years, I can say that the Newsroom video did not in the slightest part shock or surprise me. This is very much what is happening across the country, every day, in hospitals right across Aotearoa. Many who are unfamiliar with the system may assume that you must have demonstrated harm to a child in order to come to the attention of these services. The only thing you need to do is be considered “high risk” and let’s clarify that criteria: the statistical storytelling of our colonial government means that when a Māori mother is xx% more likely to suffer violence, to not engage in healthcare, or to have a difficult birth, this is not treated as an indication of a flawed system, it is treated as an indication of a flawed mother. In that sense, Minister Morgan and her staff who consistently point the finger of blame elsewhere are very much the voice of the system.

Consequently, belonging to the statistical “at risk” category (by virtue of being young and Māori) and walking into a hospital triggers a systemically racist treadmill of hyper-vigilant surveillance, unrealistic expectations, and increased risk of state assault. If you have the additional criteria of belonging to a Māori mother who was caught up in this treadmill when you were born, this increases the likelihood of state assault significantly. For many other parents it may never occur that going to hospital to give birth or taking their child to hospital for an illness will result in having them removed permanently taken, but this is a real consideration for young Māori and Pacific Island parents. The young wāhine on E Hine were also therefore not unique in facing this threat.

Here are some of their experiences:

“Cause CYF got involved with my first son so we’ve had all that stuff and we’ve had to be like monitored… You never know what’s going on because they never tell you anything… I don’t like it. (Ngaio, interview 3)”

“They turned up on my doorstep… apparently we were beating up the kids… ‘Do you see anything on my kids? Do they look hurt? No, they look happy.’ And I wouldn’t let them in my house, because my house was a big mess, and ‘cause they would have claimed that as neglect… So I just talked to them at the door. And they just wanted me to strip my kids down so they could see them and see if there’s any bruises. (Mere, interview 6)”

“[CYF were] trying to trick me with questions like, ‘So you would leave your daughter with your mum if you go out drinking and that and do drugs and that?… And then they tried to ask me that again and I told them again, ‘I don’t do it!’ They just wouldn’t listen to me. Trying to be real assholes… It was just ticking me off. (Marama, interview 1)”

 “Mum had spoken to them not to speak to me by myself, a few times… but they kept coming in and asking me questions, and I had already said to them, ‘I’m not in the state of mind to answer questions,’ and they’d just come back in, keep on coming in 78 and out… I was not in the state of mind to be answering questions from them, I was worrying about my son, not them. (Tia, interview 2)”[1]

This last quote is from a young mother who came under Ministry for Children surveillance while in hospital with her baby son who had nearly died of SIDS. While he was recovering, the Ministry agents and hospital social workers closed in on her in a manner she found intrusive, intimidating and judgmental, and the pressure remained that way over her for months afterwards.

Over the years I have seen this betrayal of trust – young mothers who go into hospital and are then subjected to questionnaires asking a raft of hypothetical, convoluted questions, or intrusive questioning about their homelife that lack clarity and context. In some cases the young mothers innocently believe the social worker is there to help them, and answer the questions openly, not knowing that the information is being interpreted and used to justify putting them under scrutiny.

So no, what Melanie Reids reported on was not an isolated case. Nor will it be fixed by the replacement of any one person. Should accountability be held by Grainne Moss and Tracy Martin? Absolutely. But just at this treatment is not isolated to Newshub’s report, accountability is not isolated to those specific workers who facilitated that invasion, or even the leaders of that agency. This is a systemic issue that is fed into through the realms of education, of health, of justice and corrections, of economy, of culture and heritage. This is a colonial, racist system doing what it was set up to do from its very inception: dispossess Indigenous peoples in every way. Make no mistake: the system is NOT broken. It is operating exactly as it is intended.

As Dr. Rawiri Karena points out – the taking of Indigenous children is a purposeful technique of the colonial commonwealth machine that was developed in England for application around the world:

For a clear understanding of how effective this has been we need only look to other settler colonial nations and their records of Indigenous children, youth and adults in state custody:

Country Indigenous % of population % of children in state custody who are Indigenous % of incarcerated youth population who are Indigenous % of incarcerated adult population who are Indigenous
Aotearoa 14.9% 59% 70% 50.7%
Australia 3.3% 36.9% 51% 27%
Canada 4.9% 52.2% 46% 26%
USA – Alaska 14.8% 50.9% 38% 33.2%
USA – Sth Dakota 9.43% 52.5% 53% 29%
USA – Hawai’i 10% 48% 50.5% 39%

Now if you look at these locations, all of the Indigenous groups associated to them are radically different from each other, and there are even radical internal Indigenous differences for countries like Australia and Canada. We do not have some cultural similarity in common that predisposes us to crime, but what we do have in common is an experience of colonisation.

As Moana Jackson states:

“Māori and other Indigenous peoples aren’t born genetically poor nor collectively dysfunctional. Instead, it has been the dispossession through colonisation that has created the deprivation and that has destroyed the cohesion of once strong family units. No Māori prisoner can be isolated from the collective costs of that traumatic dispossession”.

Indeed, in reflection of the above statistics, it is quite clear that no Indigenous prisoner can be isolated from the cost of their traumatic dispossession from their whānau. As Khylee Quince so poignantly recalls in her recent article for Newsroom:

Over 70 percent of our prison population has a care and protection background – many removed from families into state care. Children in care are 107 times more likely to be imprisoned by age 20 than other children.

Equally disturbing and connected – the “State Care” to mental health pipeline:


So no, this is not an isolated event – it is not isolated in terms of the nature of the uplift, it is not isolated in terms of its causing factor, it is not isolated in terms of its implications across a child’s life, or that of the mother, it is not even unique to Aotearoa – and we cannot treat it as such. It is not an Aotearoa problem, it is not a Māori problem. It is a racism problem.

We cannot continue to look at these issues besetting us – abuse of Māori and Pacific Islanders in state care, homeless Māori and Pacific Islanders, hyper-incarceration of Māori and Pacific Islanders, higher mortality rates for Māori and Pacific Islanders, and the taking of Māori and Pacific Island children from their homes – and assess them independently as if the core issue of colonial racism is not the driving factor. How many times must our government continue to address these issues at an agency level before it will accept that the entire government system needs an overhaul?

In the same article, Khylee recalled:

A couple of months ago I met with a Māori inmate in Mt Eden Prison. He was 50 years old, and told me that his cellmate had first been his room-mate when they were eight years old In Hokio Beach Training School 42 years earlier. He talked of their life-long relationship, and their “graduation” from state care, to youth justice residence, to adult prison as if it was inevitable. This is one of the “pipelines” those of us who work in criminal justice refer to – the “welfare-to-justice pipeline” – a metaphor referring to the connection between being removed or uplifted from family into state care, and offending as young people and as adults.”

It is chilling to think that this is the same trajectory that could have been set were the midwives and whānau of the young woman in the Newsroom story not as vigilant as they were – and equally chilling to consider the other instances, every week, who are not as fortunate. Each of them will have a story as heartbreaking and harrowing as what has rocked the nation in this past week. Ironically, this evening while I was writing this, a tweet from United Nations Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights Vicky Tauli-Corpuz popped up:

Our Māmās are sacred. They are strong, resilient, and capable. Given a chance they are amazing mothers. We must view this as the default for our young Māori mothers – wraparound, whānau inclusive, support and protection for a young Māori Māmā does not just serve her – it serves her baby, her whānau, and as that trajectory continues, it serves our entire community. We must shift the perception from one of a young parent as an individual problem, to that of a community who, in failing them, is failing ourselves.

We must also strip these harmful organizations of the Māori façades they utilize to cloak their ongoing colonial project. The first step on the pathway to justice is truth, and every day that we allow these groups to maintain their lies about caring for and supporting Māori whānau we are denying them an important opportunity to confront their own racism. For 250 years now, colonial forces have assumed rights over Māori lands and Māori bodies that simply are not theirs to take. This will only halt when we call it for what it is – a continuation of the racist colonial project of Indigenous dispossession.

Then, and only then, will we start our journey to true justice for our children, their Māmās, and whānau.

For media enquiries about E Hine – reducing barriers to care for pregnant Maori women under 20 years and their infants please contact Dr Beverly Lawton, Faculty of Health, Victoria University

[1] Adcock, A. (2016). E hine, ngā whāea: Teen mothering in the gaze. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis). Victoria University of Wellington

Hands Of Our Tamariki : He Waka Eke Noa

handsLeonie Pihama & Rihi Te Nana on behalf of Hands Off Our Tamariki Network.

As the issues surrounding the uplift and forced removal of tamariki Māori continue to gain momentum around the country we have been asked by some of our whānau ‘who’ and ‘what’ is Hands off Our Tamariki. Given the upcoming rally we have written this blog to provide some background to the network.

Hands Off Our Tamariki is a Network of Māori who came together to respond and raise issues surrounding the change of Child Youth and Family legislation in 2016. All of those involved in the Network have been active in challenging the uplift of tamariki Māori for some time. Some are survivors of State removal, some have whāngai in their whānau, some are Māori social workers, some work in the health sector, some are active in Te Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori, some work in the wider area of education, some are caregivers, some are lawyers, some are in the process now of fighting for their tamariki and mokopuna. We are whānau, we are hapū, we are iwi, we are Māori.

In 2016 we wrote an Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations calling for action on the change of legislation related to Child, Youth & Family Services. That was our first action as a collective. Over the past 3 years we have been working to provide information and raise awareness of the issue of the removal of tamariki by the State.

Our people have called for generations for the halting of Māori child removal. Our tūpuna  shared with us their visionary aspirations for future generations, their dreams for us to hold to our self-determination, to live on our lands as whānau, hapū and iwi,  to know who we are and to live our lives as Māori.

The institutionalised removal of Māori children goes against all of those dreams and aspirations. It is an act of colonial oppression. To remove our future generations is to destroy whakapapa & impose intergenerational disconnection. This is not an isolated issue. It is a part of the history of the dispossession of generations of our ancestors and is the contemporary practice of the fragmentation of our fundamental ways of being as Māori people. It is the systematic embedded hatred of Indigenous Peoples. It is a part of wider colonising systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and class oppression that enforce acts of colonial domestication of Māori and Indigenous Peoples. This is not new. We have been fighting these issues for generations. The first lines of attack on our people were the dispossession of our lands, the source of our identity and the fragmentation of whānau, the source of our collective relationships. This continues in the systemic practices of colonisation today. The denial of our reo, our tikanga, our mātauranga has always been an instrument of colonial fragmentation and disconnection.

It is also important to say who we are not. We are not a formalised or registered organisation nor are we affiliated to any organisations, groups or institutions. We do not connect or advocate for any political party, religious organisations, national organisations or corporates. We are supported by some organisations that are a part of this struggle, and that align to the approach we are taking to this kaupapa, but we are independent Māori voices from across Aotearoa.

The rally to be held in Te Whanganui a Tara, on Te Ātiawa land, on July 30th has been called to raise these issues and to deliver the Open Letter and Petition. The kaupapa of the rally is clear “Hands Off Our Tamariki”. In doing this we acknowledge and recognise the work of many of our people who are pushing for change both outside and inside of the system, those whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations that tiaki our tamariki and mokopuna, and those that are daily challenging the institutional racism that is embedded within the structures of the Crown. We ask that you continue the good fight, as we are aware of the many painful and often detrimental impacts of taking on such a struggle. But this, we know, is a fight that is tika and pono as it is grounded on an intent for the wellbeing of current and future generations.

Hands Off Our Tamariki affirms whānau as the foundation of Te Ao Māori and the place of tamariki and mokopuna at the centre, as the rito of Te Pā Harakeke.

Hutia te rito o te harakeke
Kei hea te kōmako e kō?
Kī mai ki au
He aha te mea nui o te ao
Māku e kī atu
He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata

Pluck the centre shoot from the flax bush
Where will the Bellbird sing?
Ask me
What is the most important thing in the world I will say
It is people, It is people, It is people
(Te Aupouri)

Hutia te rito is one whakataukī that reminds us that to remove the centre shoot is to kill the harakeke. The centre shoot is our tamariki. They are the future wellbeing of whānau. They are the future of our people. We are also reminded that we are all mokopuna and we will all be tupuna. We stand as mokopuna and tupuna. We stand as whānau. Whānau is the foundation for Te Ao Māori. Whānau is the birthing and the collective way we live. Hapū is the carrying of future generations and the grouping that surrounds and nurtures whānau. As Iwi we are the bones of the people, we are the collective grouping that provides a wider collective responsibility for hapū and whānau. As Māori we are the original, the pure, the Indigenous collective of these lands. This is us. As a Network we believe deeply that our tūpuna have given us all the guidance that we need to understand what is happening when our tamariki are removed.

The whakataukī ‘Matua Rautia’ reminds us that our tūpuna saw all tamariki as raised by hundreds of parents. It is our collective responsibility to care for our tamariki, mokopuna and whānau. As such, we will challenge the systems, we will challenge governments, we will challenge our own, to seek pathways of wellbeing for tamariki Maori. That is the foundation upon which Hands Off Our Tamariki stands. We also advocate for positive, systemic and transformative change to create support systems that affirm our tamariki, mokopuna, whānau, hapū and iwi in ways that enable us to thrive as Māori in contexts that are supported through tikanga, reo and mātauranga and enhance the potential that our tūpuna have always affirmed within us.  Hands Off Our Tamariki will exist as a Network for as long as we as Maori must fight the removal of our tamariki. We have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for our tamariki, mokopuna and whānau. The whakataukī ‘He Waka Eke Noa’ brings to the fore the power of the collective to move the waka forward. To make change that ensures the wellbeing of all tamariki and mokopuna we must move this waka forward together. Tēnā koutou.

If Liel Leibovitz is Serious About His Māori Politics He Shouldn’t Be Undermining Indigenous Sovereignty in Palestine, Turtle Island and Hawai’i

Nā Tina Ngata

I would like to start this post off by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples of the lands involved here:

Nā tēnei mokopuna a ngā whānau whānui o Ngāti Porou, i te Tai Rāwhiti o Te Ika a Maui, tēnei te mihi atu kia koutou te iwi mōrehu, te iwi māia i Parihitini – e Kōkā ma, e Koro ma, e Tama ma – tēnā koutou.

Kia koutou hoki aku tuakana i Motu Honu Nui/Abya Yala me Hawai’i – tēnā koutou.

And to you, Lieb Leibovitz, I will say: E Noho (take a seat).

Just like broader society – there are Māori who support Israel.

I mean not many, but they’re there.

There are many more who support, and empathise, with Palestine. Māori support of Palestine is well documented, and voiced, through communities such as Kia Ora Gaza – and proudly represented by Māori MP Marama Davidson who recently travelled to Gaza on board the Women’s Peace Flotilla as an Indigenous woman to stand in solidarity with Palestinian women and in opposition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Like them, I support Palestine, and as an Indigenous Woman and a Wāhine Māori I’m saying to Leil Leibovitz:

You do NOT get to use our suffering at the hands of our colonizers to erase the crimes of Israel against Palestine.

The thought that this guy – as a past employee of the Spokesperson Unit of the Israeli Defence Forces; as a member of a settler-colonial state; who is LIVING on Turtle Island; who actually wrote a book that uses religious entitlement to legitimise not only the occupation of Palestine and Turtle Island, but also going to war on their Indigenous inhabitants – THIS GUY would all of a sudden become the bastion for Māori Rights?

Yeah, nah.

Let’s get a few things straight:

YES – In 1831, fewer than 1,000 Europeans were living in New Zealand, foreigners vastly outnumbered by the “local Māori tribes”. And yes, fifty years later, that number skyrocketed to half a million, courtesy of British policy that encouraged settlers to sail to distant shores and remain there.

THIS IS PRECISELY why we are able to empathise with the Palestinian experience of Israeli settler population influx in their lands.

YES in 1863, the NZ government ordered all Māori to lay down their arms and passed the New Zealand Settlements Act, which enabled them to thieve 4 million acres of Māori land without even the pretense of due process.

THIS IS PRECISELY why we stand in solidarity with Palestine who have experienced rapid land theft at the hands of the Israeli government. (That paragraph of the article was particularly vomitous by the way).

YES, according to a recent UN report, over 300,000 Māori children, one-third of the country’s child population, now live under the poverty line. And yes, we are indeed almost three times as likely as non-Māori to experience unfair treatment on the basis of our ethnicity.

Understanding the impact of systemic bias upon our children is PRECISELY what underpins our opposition to Israel as the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts which lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. It is precisely why we decry the arrests of nearly 8,000 Palestinian children since 2000, who have been prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.

And YES – Lorde should very much be mindful of the way settler colonialism has played out in her own nation (even I pointed that out early on). Just as Liel should be mindful of how settler colonialism allows him to sit where he is writing what he does.

And let’s be clear on what he writes:

Liel Leibovitz believes that, as chosen people, Israel and the USA have a divine right to colonize Palestine, Turtle Island and Hawai’i. This includes the divine (in fact necessary) right to go to war on its Indigenous inhabitants.

Good old “God said I could” – and hasn’t just about every Indigenous People heard that old chestnut.

If it’s difficult for you to reconcile that with Liel’s cry for Māori rights that’s your astute gland at work. He’s not at all interested in Māori rights, or Indigenous rights, at all, just in using our mamae in the latest version of #Whataboutism in order to distract from his own nation’s ongoing violations of Indigenous and Human rights.

So NO, Liel – you don’t get to use our pain at the hands of the settler colonial state in support of your own settler colonial state.

You DON’T get to wave us about as a distraction from the crimes of your own government.

You DON’T get to write books that undermine the sovereignty of our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Turtle Island, in Hawai’i, and in Palestine – and then try to uphold a platform for Māori rights.

You want to rummage around on the net for distraction tools to fix your rapidly deteriorating propoganda machine – look elsewhere. Te Ao Māori ain’t it.


In loving tribute to our dear beloved sister Koreti Mavaega Tiumalu

We are honoured to have our sister Tuiloma Lina Samu pay tribute to the recent passing of Pacific Climate activist Koreti Mavaega Tiumalu. Lina and Koreti both personify the strength and love and service Indigenous women give to their families, communities and our wider region and the world.




In loving tribute to our dear beloved sister Koreti Mavaega Tiumalu who passed away on Sunday 2 July in Wellington.

Koreti was the Pacific Co-ordinator for and she  both  strong connections, networks. and lived experience of of the hard fought efforts already in existence around the Pacific . She inspired and  mentored a lot  of the work that is being done around the Pasifiki/ Moana/ Moana-nui-o-Kiva/ Pasefika/ Pasifika, humbly leading and guiding the Pacific climate justice movement amongst our Pacific nations and peoples.

I recall our friendship and professional support we gave each other over the years.

In 2012 I travelled  to the Rio +20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro sponsored by the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP) to represent Pasifika.

Before leaving I got a call from a woman named Koreti, was going and was trying to get a Pasifika community meeting up and running at St Anne’s Catholic community hall in Manurewa.

I was so thrilled that she’d made contact to ask me to come and speak at this fonotaga for Pasifika communities about and her new role as Pacific Co-ordinator – I said YES without hesitation!

When I realized that she was connected to me through marriage, I was even happier to support! Her niece Amataga Iuli and Amataga’s brothers who are connected to me through their father’s Sapunaoa, Falealili aiga (the nu’u where I get my suafa matai “Tuiloma” from) were there well before the start of that meeting in the Winter of 2012, to help their beloved Aunty set up the hall and the food before guests started arriving.

I  fondly recall Koreti at  PowerShift Youth Hui in Tamaki Makaurau in December 2012

At that fono I also remember the powerful speech that Koreti gave to the main session and the beautiful puletasi that she wore. She was so nervous, but I knew she’d be glorious as she was! I told her to have a little lotu before her speech and to have something with her, something from her aiga or her husband that would help to settle her so that she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed and/ or alone. She was magnificent! I hope that someone posts up her speech from that PowerShift December 2012 in Auckland!

In 2013 Koreti ran another Pasifika fonotaga this time at the Ellen Melville Hall in the CBD Auckland. She asked me to present at that fonotaga as well. In 2013 she was going real hard to build upon the exceptional networks of trust and love and loyalty that she built around the Pasifika region for

I  had my reservations about t organisations and the resourcing of such important work in the Pasifika, often critical of Koreti doing so much on so very little – but holy shit did she do it !

With such grace, dignity, honesty, love and loyalty – everything that has in the Pacific – its reputation, its good name, its everything is owed to this beautiful strong sister Koreti Mavaega Tiumalu!  EVERYTHING!

She recently travelled to support our indigenous sisters and brothers in the Alberta who are continuing their ongoing struggles of protection against the wreckage and utter devastation that tar sands mining is having on their environment.


She was an innovator of the “Raise a Paddle” movement to bring about our standing in solidarity with everyone around the world especially first nations and indigenous people.

Fighting hard to bring to authorities in power to justice for allowing companies to destroy everything- to make them answerable and accountable for taking us without consequence to destruction and ruin of our natural resources:

drinking water, trees, land, air, oceans, food sovereignty, Mother Earth Papatuanuku herself for our present and future generations.

My last communication with Koreti was about getting out on the waka at Te Whare Waka in Wellington, to show our tautoko/ tapua’iga/ solidarity with our mana whenua aiga/ whanau during the warmer months in Whanganui -a-Tara Harbour.

I’m going to keep to that pact we made and organise a tribute maarunga i te waka. And every time I raise a paddle wherever I am in Aotearoa, Samoa, in the Moana nui a Kiwa/ Pacific and across the world – I will always remember Koreti and EVERYTHING she did to advance and enhance our Pasifika peoples’ profiles and viewpoints/ stance in the local, regional, nationwide and global work of climate change.

Fa’afetai tele atu mo au tautua malosi uso! Malolo mai i le filemu Ia manuia lava lau malaga uso Koreti Tofa! Tofa! Tofa!

Amuia lava le masina – e alu ma toe sau”. Blessed is the moon as it goes and returns – but not us, no not us.



Tuiloma Lina Samu : Salelesi; Faleula; Sapunaoa, Falealili ma Pu’apu’a, Savai’i. Born, raised and schooled in Mangere. Mother to Jessica (26).

Sister and Aunty.

Educated at Nga Tapuwae, University of Auckland and about to complete a PhD (Health) through the Whariki Research Centre, School of Public Health, Massey University. Founder of the Whariki Whaiora & Family Whanau services for mental wellbeing.

Chairperson Kaiwhakahaere of He Waka Matauranga ki Tamaki Makaurau that specialises Literacy and numeracy for Pasifika and Maori families. Love Life Fono and sexuality diversity champion.

Tulafale-Ali’i orator matai from Sapunaoa, Falealili, Samoa. Proficiency in six languages including Samoan and Te Reo Maori dialects.