#Hands Off Our Tamariki : An Open Letter

An Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations

E ngā Pou Whirinaki o tēnā iwi, o tēnā iwi e whiri i ngā nuku, e whiri i ngā rangi tēnā koutou katoa. He whakaaraara tēnei mō te ture hou o te Kawanatanga e pā ana ki a tātou tamariki mokopuna. E kii ana te Kawana he ture tiaki mokopuna. Ehara! He ture huti rito, he ture pare awhi rito, he ture e kato rau tipu, rau rangatira i te pā harakeke a ka tuku ki ngā hau waho ki reira marara haere ai. Inā tipu pā harakeke kore a tātou tamariki mokopuna, ka tipu pēhea rātou otirā tātou. Ka mato, ka mate rānei?

Over the past months a number of Māori women have worked collaboratively across Aotearoa to raise issues regarding the documents released by the Crown related to the restructuring of the current Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) to the Ministry of Vulnerable Children. We have advocated strongly against the development of a Ministry that is based upon deficit approaches to tamariki in this country, and in particular to tamariki Māori and whānau. We have not been alone in such a position, which has been advocated by a range of organisations including both the previous and current Commissioner for Children.

The recent announcement that the government will remove the requirement to prioritise the placement of tamariki with whānau is alarming to us all. The associated statements of abuse in kin placements is largely reliant on an unpublished report which we believe raises critical issues in regards to how CYFS manages the placement of our tamariki and mokopuna. The statements by Minister Tolley also continues to deny the clear evidence that the current system is highly abusive of Māori children and the documented evidence that tamariki have experienced serious acts of physical and sexual abuse whilst in State ‘care’.

‘Hands Off Our Tamariki’ has been developed to raise awareness of the issues related to the State removal of Māori children and the placement of our tamariki in non-Māori (Primarily Pākēhā families). It is our view that this form of removal and abuse of our tamariki must end, and that only way to bring it to an end is for whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations across the motu to stand together against the further imposition of legislation that enables this government to take control of thousands of tamariki Māori across the country.

We applaud the recent press release by the Co-chairs of the Iwi Leaders Forum expressing concern and calling into question the unilateral processes undertaken by Minister Anne Tolley. We now believe it is essential that the Iwi Leaders Forum move further to take an urgent and immediate stand against the ongoing abuse of our tamariki.

We stand in solidarity with the statements by Dame Tariana Turia that these actions are a further act of Institutional Racism and that Iwi Leaders need to actively speak out against these reforms. Many of our whānau feel there has been too much inaction for too long. Key Māori leadership has been too silent for too long. What we know is that silence is one of the greatest factors in enabling the perpetuation of violence, in this case the perpetuator of the violence is the State. Evidence highlights that such State violence has been perpetuated upon generations of tamariki and mokopuna who have been removed and placed into State institutions. To be silent in the face of such abuse means that we are a part of the problem. As Māori mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, nannies, kuia, cousins, whānau – we will not be silent on this issue. We ask that the Iwi Leaders Forum and Māori in Parliament also commit to not being silent on this issue.

Both Māori experience and research in the field highlight that successive governments have been seriously remiss in fulfilling its obligations to our people. Research undertaken on the ‘Vulnerable Children’s’ papers by Rihi Te Nana indicates that the limited engagement by government, suggests that this has been a deliberate move on the government’s part to maintain power and control over Iwi/Māori. Ms Te Nana highlighted:

“The Government continues to see Iwi/Māori as consultants who provide advice or provide services to whānau, and fail to undertake a meaningful Treaty relationship that would see our people exercise our right to being self-determining in regards to the wellbeing of our children.”

Efforts from Iwi/Māori to address and support vulnerable whānau, are continually stifled by the government legislation, limited resourcing and denying whānau, hapū and iwi authority to care fully for our tamariki. Furthermore it has been well documented that Māori children are placed into contexts by the Government agencies where their needs remain largely unmet because the legislation, policies and interventions lack cultural context or appropriateness.

Research by Paora Moyle has indicated an alarming rate at which Māori babies are being uplifted and placed into non‐Māori environments. She states:

“In New Zealand, the statistics of newborns uplifted by the state are not made public; these had to be requested through the Official Information Act process. In the 2012 ‐ 2013 year, 13 new‐born Māori, from a total of 26 were removed from the birthing table, and 80 Māori babies from a total of 157 were removed from their mother within 30 days of their birth. (Bernadette McKenzie, Deputy Chief Executive, Child Youth & Family, personal communication, June, 6, 2014)
In the first instance, these infants are most often placed with state approved non‐Māori caregivers until the concerns held can be addressed via an FGC. Māori make up 15% of the total New Zealand populations and the uplift of nearly 100 infants a year from their mothers, many of who are not returned, essentially wipes out future generations of Māori.” In 2015, the trafficking of these infants significantly increased, more than 60+% of those uplifted were Māori and these are the ones that were clearly Māori. The actual number is likely to be much higher as the primary ethnicity is recorded by the social worker and often this is discretionary…depending who that social worker decides the child may go to.”
(https://www.academia.edu/10578356/M%C4%81ori-Lived-Experiences_of_the_Family_Group_Conference_A_selection_of_findings )

The previous Children’s Commissioner provided clear evidence that CYFs does not provide for the needs of the children that they remove and that there is little evidence that supports the current, and proposed model is actually working as an intervention process. In providing a summary of the ‘State of Care’ report he writes:

We don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention
There is little reliable or easily accessible data available about the outcomes of children in the care system. In our view, Child, Youth and Family and MSD’s systems are not routinely measuring and recording the information that matters, and the integration of data between MSD and other government agencies is poor. Better collection and analysis of data is essential for Child, Youth and Family to improve its services and for the Government and the public to have confidence that Child, Youth and Family and other state agencies are improving outcomes for vulnerable children. We don’t have enough information to say conclusively whether children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the limited data we do have about health, education, and justice outcomes is concerning.

We draw attention to the Interim Cabinet Paper to the Chair
 of the Cabinet Social Policy Committee titled “Modernising Child, Youth And Family Expert Panel: Interim Report” within which Minister Tolley highlights the following findings:

There is more work to do on supporting the connection of children to their cultures and communities
67 Young people talked of the value of cultural connections, especially in relation to building sense of identity and well-being, and that this was not well recognised or supported. We must acknowledge the connection of children – including Māori children – with their wider systems of support, such as whānau, and begin engaging early and productively.
68 CYF has made commitments and improvements to address cultural connection, including through its strategic vision, Ma Mātou, Ma Tātou, the development of a bi-cultural practice framework and establishing memorandums of understanding with Iwi.
69 However, the Panel is mindful of reviews, as recent as the 2014 Casework review and as far back as Puao-Te-Atata-Tu in 1988, which point to a lack of consistent capability to work successfully with Māori and achieve better results. They highlight the need for better responsiveness to Māori and more consistency of practice. CYF should build staff and manager capability and confidence in this area and partner more effectively and extensively with Iwi and Māori organisations.

These points clearly highlight that although the Rebstock report is limited in its approach to issues of the removal of Māori children there remained a clear view that cultural approaches and meaningful engagement with whānau, hapū and iwi is essential.

Many Māori who have been placed into State institutions and ‘care’ have experienced physical, psychological, spiritual and cultural abuse. Governments have continually prioritised imported white-stream programmes and activities despite the fact that international indigenous research and Kaupapa Māori research clearly provide evidence to show that these interventions do not achieve significant positive life outcomes for Māori. There are clear solutions being advocated both nationally and internationally, that are grounded within Māori and Indigenous approaches. The longer Māori remain in state care, the more likely their life outcomes will continue to diminished.

The failure of the government to provide the fundamental rights of children in this country is highlighted in the recent release of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report ‘Concluding Observations on the fifth periodic report of New Zealand’ (CRC/C/NZL/CO/5). Included here are sections directly related to the removal of tamariki into state control and institutions and issues related to rights to identity and rights to culture and whānau support.

The Committee includes the following observations:
7 (b) Consider a different name for the proposed Ministry for Vulnerable Children, and avoid the categorization of children, in law and policy, which may lead to stigmatization (p.2)

D. Civil rights and freedoms (arts. 7, 8, and 13-17) Right to identity
19. While appreciating the State party’s efforts to preserve Māori identity, including through language and television programmes, the Committee is concerned that these efforts remain insufficient and recommends that the State party:
(a) Intensify efforts to promote and foster Māori language, culture and history in education and increase enrolment in Māori language classes;
(b) Ensure that Māori children adopted by non-Māori parents have access to information about their cultural identity;
(c) Ensure that all government agencies developing legislation and policies affecting children take into account the collective dimension of Māori cultural identity and the importance of their extended family (whānau) for Māori children’s identity.

E. Violence against children (arts. 19, 24 (3), 28 (2), 34, 37 (a) and 39) Violence, abuse and neglect
(c) Continuing prevalence of physical and psychological abuse and neglect, especially among Māori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities, and the lack of a comprehensive strategy against abuse and neglect to encompass all children in all settings;

23. (c) Develop a comprehensive strategy to combat abuse and neglect encompassing all children in all settings, with particular attention to Māori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities;
(g) Further strengthen awareness-raising and education programmes, including campaigns, to prevent and combat child abuse, with the involvement of children, with particular attention to Māori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities.

F. Family environment and alternative care (arts. 5, 9-11, 18 (1) and (2), 20-21, 25 and 27 (4))
Family environment
26. The Committee recalls its previous recommendation (CRC/C/NZL/CO/3-4, para. 32) and recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities with timely responses at the local level, including services to parents who need counselling in child-rearing, services for the treatment of alcohol or drug-related problems, and, in the case of Māori and Pasifika populations, culturally appropriate services to enable them to fulfil their parental role.

27. The Committee welcomes the reports of the Children’s Commissioner on the State of Care 2015 and 2016 and of the Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel, and the State Party’s commitment to respond to their recommendations. The Committee is however seriously concerned about:

(a) Deficiencies in the State party’s care system, including lack of consideration for the best interests of the child and for the views of the child regarding decisions directly affecting her or him; and lack of clarity regarding a child-centred approach leading to inconsistent practices towards children, in particular Māori children and children with disabilities;
(b) Enduring inadequate cultural capability of the State care system, despite recent efforts, which disproportionally impacts Māori families and children, who make up over half of the children in State care;
(c) Inadequate resources allocated to care placements, including insufficient case oversight and training for care personnel, and to caregivers, which hinders their recruitment, and hurdles faced by permanent caregivers to obtain special guardianship, which may negatively affect the child’s well-being and be contrary to his or her best interests;
(d) Insufficient data on children’s outcomes, including regarding education, health and well-being, while in care and after they leave;
(e) The State party’s intent to outsource some care services to private providers in the absence of appropriate accountability frameworks.

28. Drawing the State party’s attention to the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (General Assembly resolution 64/142, annex), the Committee urges the State party to:

(a) When reforming the care system, ensure that the best interests of the child are taken into account as a primary consideration in every case and that the child is heard in all matters affecting her or him; ensure a common understanding of a child-centred approach across the care system; and regularly monitor the implementation of the reform and its impact on children’s outcomes, with particular attention to Māori children and children with disabilities;
(b) Strengthen its efforts to improve the cultural capability of care and protection system and its engagement with Māori communities, the whānau (extended family), hapū (sub-tribal groupings) and iwi (tribal groups), including by implementing the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner’s 2015 ‘State of Care’ report, with a view to addressing the overrepresentation of Māori children in State care;
(c) Allocate adequate human, technical and financial resources to care services, in particular care placement, case oversight and care givers and ensure that the child’s best interests are taken into account as a primary consideration in guardianship decisions;
(d) Improve the data collection on children’s outcomes, including regarding education, health and well-being, while they are in care and after they leave care, to adopt evidence-based approaches to improving the care and protection system;
(e) Ensure that any outsourcing to private care service providers is closely monitored for compliance with the provisions of the Convention;

These observations highlight the ongoing failure of the State to ensure the active involvement of whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations in seeking pathways to enhance the wellbeing of our tamariki and mokopuna. The full report from the UN committee raises critical issues with the current developments in the area of CYFs and the lack of meaningful relationships with our people that enable that all elements of wellbeing for our tamariki are achieved.

This report can be read alongside the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that emphasises the rights of Indigenous families and communities to raise our tamariki and mokopuna. The Declarations states:

Recognizing in particular the right of indigenous families and com- munities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well-being of their children, consistent with the rights of the child.

Article 7
1. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person.
2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

Article 14
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.
3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and pro- vided in their own language.

Article 21
1. Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.
2. States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.
Article 22
1. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.
2. States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Final Comments
#handsoffourtamariki includes a network of Māori women around Aotearoa who work with tamariki and their whānau. Some of the wāhine Māori involved were forced into State institutions or foster care as children and have experienced the abusive nature of the State and it’s agencies. Some of the wāhine Māori involved have chosen to whāngai or legally adopt tamariki to ensure they remain within their whānau. All are advocates for our tamariki, mokopuna, whānau, hapū and iwi.

What we can do now:
• Assert the rights of whānau, hapū and iwi to retain the control over the wellbeing of our tamariki and mokopuna as a fundamental right guaranteed under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and that in line with a Treaty relationship that the government enter into true and meaningful strategic partnerships with our people in developing systems of care that will ensure the cultural, spiritual, economic, material, political wellbeing of our tamariki.
• Continue to voice opposition to the change in legislation that removes the ability for whānau, hapū and iwi to ensure our tamariki remain in our care
• Place pressure on Minister Tolley and associated Ministers to ensure whānau and whakapapa links are prioritised in the care of our tamariki
• That Māori members of Parliament push for this legislation change to be brought before the Māori Select committee
• Negotiate pathways for our whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations take control of the wellbeing of our tamariki as advocated through Puao Te Atatū and Mātua Whāngai
• Work collaboratively for the re-establishment of advocacy and support systems of Mātua Whāngai with resourcing that will enable each community, hapū and iwi to work for solutions to issues facing our tamariki and whānau.
• Establish mechanisms to monitor and pressure the government to commit to enduring and meaningful strategic partnerships are put in place with whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations to ensure the wellbeing of our tamariki
• Require the implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to ensure the rights of our tamariki and whānau
• Compel the government to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as noted in the ‘Concluding Observations on the fifth periodic report of New Zealand’ (CRC/C/NZL/CO/5)

We write this letter to all whānau, hapu, iwi and Māori communities and include the Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori members of Parliament and Māori and Iwi Organisations who act as representatives for Iwi to which we all whakapapa and to communities within which we live. This issue is a fundamental breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi at its most essential level. It is the removal of our tamariki and the denial identity, of belonging, of whānau, of the affirmation, acknowledgement and practices of being Māori.

We call on these groups to make a loud and committed stand against these reforms. We call on the Iwi Leaders Forum to instigate a series of regional and national hui alongside National Māori organisations such as the Māori Women’s Welfare League, Whānau Ora collectives, Te Kōhanga Reo Trust, Te rūnanga o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori, Māori & Iwi Providers and others that connect directly to whānau, hapū and communities, to speak out against this legislation and to provide pathways forward.

We also call on this collaborative group of Iwi & Māori organisations to support the embedding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and key principles of Puao Te Ata Tū and Mātua Whāngai in all dealings to ensure our tamariki and mokopuna remain within whānau.

E ngā Pouwhirinaki o tēnā iwi, o tēnā iwi nei mātou ka tono – tohea tēnei ture tūkino tamariki Māori. Ko te pā harakeke te pā whakaoranga mō a tātou moko puna. Tohea tēnei ture kei tipu pā kore, kei tipu pā keha a tātou tamariki mokopuna.

Hands of Our Tamariki Network, Aotearoa
Te Wharepora Hou: Māori Womens’ Network

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Whaia Te Iti Kahurangi calls for immediate halt to the implementation of The Ministry of Vulnerable Children

Te Wharepora Hou supports the following Press Release by ‘Whaia Te Iti Kahurangi’ and their call for a halt to the implementation of the Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

Tangata whenua social work practitioners met at the PSA Social Work Action Network Conference to discuss the recent changes made to CYFS and the resulting increase in the removal of māori tamariki from their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Paora Crawford Moyle states, “Māori are 15% of the total population, yet make up half of the whānau involved in child protection processes and two thirds of children in the care of the state.” With 73% of the youth in youth justice facilities, institutional racism, worker bias and CYFS being complicit in these staggering statistics shows it is not equipped to recognise that severing ties to whānau reinforces the impacts of historical trauma. The introduction for this new form of child-removal seeks to wreak havoc in families across New Zealand, not just within Māori family groups, but to also familial ties between children and their families with particular focus on Māori and families within the lower socio-economic classes. Not only does this discriminate by legal precedence, against the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand, but also reinforces the antiquity of class systems to the lower socio-economic spectrum of New Zealand European citizens as well.

A United Nations review is being conducted with the Minister of Social Development, Anne Tolley is being asked to justify the name of the new Ministry. UN Rapporteur Kirstin Sandberg questioned Tolley over whether the Government planned to broaden its focus to benefit all New Zealand children. “Your whole policy focus…seems to be on vulnerable children and you’ve done a lot of commendable work on vulnerable children. But we would like to see a comprehensive policy for the implementation of these rights for all children,” Sandberg stated.

With international and local attention on the proposed changes it’s clear the concerns about the changes to the act being breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People.

CYFS has been remodelled time and time again with no improvements in how it works with children and their whanau. We seriously question the Ministry defining what makes a child vulnerable and identify state and historical colonial violence, neo-liberal welfare reform and structural inequalities as determinants of vulnerability. We will continue to speak to the ongoing traumatic implications on the tamariki and their parents especially during the uplift of tamariki. These traumatic implications further reinforce colonial and historical truama.

Effective frameworks are readily available to us such as Puao-te-Ata-tu and Matua Whangai. We call for an immediate halt to the implementation of the new ministry of vulnerable children and the new law that would axe a longstanding provision that gave priority to placing a child with “a person who is a member of the child’s or young person’s hapū or iwi (with preference being given to hapū members), or, if that is not possible, who has the same tribal, racial, ethnic, or cultural background as the child”.

In parallel to this, they will also run a recruitment drive to recruit more foster parents to meet the ‘demand’, we renounce the government’s paternalistic intervention aimed at forced assimilation of māori tamariki and call for a return to frameworks that cater to the needs of māori.

Anne Tolley and the new ministry states that a move to a new trauma-informed framework will reduce child abuse. There is no evidence to confirm this. A framework with no understanding or acknowledgment of the cumulative historical trauma experienced by māori due to continuing land confiscations, loss of language and sacred indigenous knowledge and forced removal of māori tamariki from their whakapapa will create more generational loss and separation. Māori Social Workers have to wonder, how could such blatant hypocrisy, to label trauma without recognising root causes of said trauma, lead to anything other than a repetition of the same colonising attributes in this “new” system that we saw and still see within the current one for handling the sensitive task of child-removal from their families. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the current system, yes, but that overhaul needs to consider the cultural importance of the child to the whānau, hapū and iwi groups. If it were a complete overhaul tangata whenua social workers and children and youth involved in CYFS care must be involved in the review. See, the true error in exposing a child to the traumatic experience, of both being uplifted and being entirely involved in the process to partially or permanently remove themselves from within their own family group, is the naivety that comes with claiming this “new” system is to be trauma-informed and focussed.

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Stolen Land and Healing Historic Trauma

This is a Guest Blog by Awhina Cameron Chief Executive of Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki based on her Opening Korero at the Spring Taranaki Community Circle, 7th September 2016,  New Plymouth District Council Chambers, New Plymouth.

“E kore e pōuri tonu,
Waitara e mamae nei i te wā i mua a rā
e tū te hunga rīriki
me tōna raukura hei tohu ki te ao, hei!”

When I sat down to write my korero today, I was struck by the glaringly obvious parallels between what I do, the work we do at Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki on an organisation level, and what is currently going-on on a community and collective level between hapu, iwi and the various governing bodies of this land.

Every day we at Tu Tama are engaged in the therapeutic process of addressing abuse, neglect, dysfunction, chaos and crisis that stems from violence and the intentional harm of others. As an organisation we are absolutely resolute in our stance that family violence is not OK, that violence in any form is not OK.

We are founded and named after the principles established at Parihaka by Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi and their instructions to the women of Taranaki to maintain the tikanga, care and wellbeing of Taranaki whanau.

Violence is not OK, the further marginalisation of victims is not OK, interpersonal intentional harm is not OK, be it on a physical, psychological, emotional, financial or spiritual level, it is not OK. The dehumanising of the victim, the minimising of the harm, the rationalising of the violence is not OK. Nor is it OK for someone to use for their benefit the rewards of the harm of other, intentionally benefiting from that trauma, because this further victimises the victim and reinforces the perpetrators actions.

I think there is a national recognition of these fundamental moralities and a growing intolerance to those that do not subscribe to these basic principles. We certainly have a clearly defined justice system and restorative process which is set-up with these principles in mind.

What I would say to you all here today, is that what is true on an individual level should also be true on a group and collective level. I would like to explore how our approach to intentional group collective harm has up to this day, minimised, dehumanised, marginalised and in no way resembles a meaningful restorative or healing approach to harm and the impacts and effects of that harm.

So … Everyone take a deep breath … yes, I am going to talk about colonisation.

I know it’s a hard word to hear for some and it’s a hard word to say for some, but I think we are all going to have to get used to it. We need to start talking about it, because the silence is not helping anyone. It is a real and present part of our history and everyday life. As has been said by others before me, they didn’t all get on a boat or plane and leave this country, the descendants, the systems, the processes, the policies and relics are still here. Colonisation is real and it exists to this day. I just want to dispel that myth. But don’t worry, the majority of my korero today will be focused on healing, restoration and reconciliation.

I would suggest to you that it is absolutely necessary to talk about reconciliation in terms of a human rights agenda and make explicit the connections between reconciliation, policy and practice. But how do we dare speak the truth of our history when the dominant political discourse focuses on the perceived success of reconciliation and the treaty claims process. Reconciliation and healing is about more than just the relief of the symptoms. A key component to healing is a deep understanding of why the trauma may have occurred, what are the core issues, what types of life lessons are embedded in the suffering and the event itself.

As a nation we have had a timeline of awakening, of change, of development and social reform. Be it in relation to women’s rights, the environment, nuclear power, gay rights and most recently discussions emerging in relation to poverty and vulnerable children. As a nation we have had a crisis of conscience about all these things – except indigenous rights – the original sin of this nation, the theft of land and the intentional harm of tangata whenua.

As a nation, we have been leaders at the forefront of all these issues, except one. As a nation, we have been a catalyst for worldwide movements and change and we have that same opportunity now. Tangata Whenua, indigenous rights might be the last rung on the ladder but you will have to deal with us at some stage. The pillow cannot be smoothed … we are awake and not going away.

So what can be done? Firstly, don’t dismiss us.

You know it’s often said that advocates for Maori perspectives and justice are simply idealistic and need to get real, be realistic. That we live in a dream world where real solutions and the complexity of the situation is not fully understood.

I wonder whose reality and ideals are we subscribing to here?

Imagine if we practiced this on an individual level, a therapeutic or clinical level, telling victims that they just need to get real, be realistic and that their ideal life is just a dream, because they can’t provide in detail what their healing journey might entail or because perhaps what they propose in relation to restorative justice might impact on the person or group that did them harm.

There is a term for this type of behaviour within the power and control model of clinical practice – these are called permission giving apparatuses, and are used as justification for violence and the ongoing abuse.

What usually goes hand and hand with this type of dismissive and permission giving behaviour are statements like she’s just too emotional, she provoked me, she asked for it, she deserved it, she would leave if it was really that bad. And as I have said previously what is true on an individual level is also true on a collective level. Maori and Maori women in particular are just too emotional, they can’t seem to separate themselves from the issue, take the emotion out of it and deal with the facts.

Now I ask what is wrong with having an emotional response, perhaps instead of trying to remove and discuss these issues in a way that is devoid of emotion is actually doing more harm than good. We tell the women, men and children we work with, that it is OK to get emotional, in fact its natural and normal. Don’t dismiss the tears, don’t try and dismiss your pain, it’s real and its actually healthy to release it. We validate, their pain is real and their tears are OK, its OK to be emotional. We are emotional beings and healing will come through acknowledging, embracing and understanding our emotional response.

So being realistic, not shying away from, but rather striving for the ideal, embracing emotions, I began to explore the different thinking and practice as it relates to trauma, historical trauma, healing and reconciliation and what emerged was a series of questions.

1. What are some of our healing practices in relation to individual trauma?
2. What are some of our current healing processes in relation to historical trauma?
3. How have different iwi approached the issue of healing leading up to and after the Crown settlement process?
4. Why do we think that money will heal?
5. What can be a catalyst for healing?
6. Can you have collective healing without individual healing?
7. Can you have individual healing without collective healing?
8. What motivates healing?
9. What motivates change?
10. What stimulates forgiveness?

Now it is not my intention to answer all these questions, not all of them are for me to answer.

But it is merely to point out that there is power in the question, energy and healing behind someone willing to hear the question, exploring and asking these questions of ourselves, acknowledging that we don’t know everything, but we wish to explore and are open and willing to confront these issues.

What we know from Family Violence and Sexual Violence research is that continuous, coercive, sustained, multi-dimensional abuse (physically, psychologically, financially, emotionally) has a list of trauma responses or predictable behaviours:
• Heightened senses – ‘walking on egg shells’
• Anxiety
• Self-harm, suicide
• Mental health issues
• Fear
• Violence
• Substance use – alcohol, drugs
• etc, etc, etc

But actually, we have many examples of continuous, coercive, sustained, multi-dimensional abuse against a group of peoples across Aotearoa (physical, psychological, financial, emotional). So, I ask what are the group responses to collective trauma?
The reason I raise this is not to detail the impacts of historical trauma, there has been local, national and international research from scholarly experts that provide unequivocal, scientific evidence that there are real and present effects of historical trauma on both an individual and collective level. It is real, it is fact, we cannot escape it. So I’m not interested in trying to sell or rationalise this fact but what I am interested in exploring is:

What is the healing responsibility of the perpetrator?
What is the healing responsibility of the victim?
If there is intergenerational trauma – soul wounding – present … is there also negative harm to the perpetrator across their generations?
What were some of our traditional practices to restore a sense of balance after a trauma had occurred? Restoration of tapu, restoration of noa? and,
What are some of our current practices and processors in relation to healing and reconciliation?So what do our current justice or restoration processes look like? What happens when someone illegally takes from another person or group, when someone steals and harms another human being?

1. We give it back – to the rightful owner – at no cost to them.
2. We say sorry, and we take steps to ensure that it does not happen again.
3. We make restoration and compensation for any harm and suffering that may have resulted from that theft or act of harm.

Our justice system is based on these principles, both on an individual and a group level – it seems, except where it comes to tangata whenua.

Number 2 and number 3, above, have been implemented to varying degrees within the current treaty settlement processes, although there are vast gaps between the idea of cultural redress and compensation. In the case of one of my iwi the compensation amounts to the equivalent of half the costs of the Mokau Bridge. And in terms of wider Treaty settlements, economists estimate that only close to 1% of actual value has been allocated as compensation to iwi.

This aside, the number one action – returning the stolen lands – seems to be far too complex and unrealistic to achieve. We are constantly told, it’s not as simple as simply giving it back. The devil is in the detail and the details must be worked out to everyone’s benefit so as not to cause further harm to others. But I ask what good is the detail if these details stem from a fundamentally flawed process which is not centred in anyway in reconnecting people or focussed on a rebalancing.

Yes I agree it is complex, but perhaps not as complex as we are all led to believe.

Recently there has been national coverage of what is going on with the Victoria University Karori campus in Wellington. For those of you who are not aware, Victoria University is set to sell the Karori campus for $20 million. What is causing attention to this, is not just the sale, but the fact that the government sold the land to the University in 2014 for just $10.

This sale of land by the Government to Victoria University for $10 – in a context where iwi are still fighting to have their stolen lands returned – brings to question the actions of successive governments and their assertions that iwi must buy back lands at market prices.

There are calls from sections of the student body now for the university to not just do what is required but to do what is right.

I watch in awe and jealousy at their collective outcry, which is growing in relation to this land and wonder where is our community collective outcry in relation to what is being proposed in Waitara, over the very lands that instigated the Taranaki Land Wars of the 19th century.

When will our community call for our governing body to not just do what is required but to simply do what is right.

So now the question is do we want to be world leaders once again or are we going to hide behind the devilish detail and say this issue is just too complex, its historical, it’s too emotional or are we at a stage in the maturity of our region and our country to say: We have benefited from the oppression of the tangata whenua, and now is the time to not only acknowledge that in a meaningful way but to also do something to rectify it.

I believe we have two pathways set out before us and we need to make a choice between these paths both as a region and as a country; one is well worn and flooded with the tears of our ancestors, the other is not so well-worn, this path may not be so clearly marked out or trodden and the journey may be difficult to navigate but we owe it to the next generations to at least try.

Don’t worry … Maori are skilled navigators, and we will help you along the way … if you ask and are willing to journey together.

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Crown Processes Continue To Abuse Māori

Yesterday I was honoured to be a part of a group discussion about the ways in which Treaty settlement processes continue to deny our people the fundamental right to tino rangatiratanga. The group included people who are regarded by their whānau, hapū and iwi as leaders of deep knowledge and integrity. We each spoke of the imposed Crown process as abusive. This is something that has been raised by our people for many years.

Over the past 15 years I have worked alongside a wide range of Māori, Iwi and Community Providers undertaking research related to wellbeing for our people. Some of that work has focused upon Family Violence and Sexual Violence prevention and intervention. This work requires a deep analysis of power relationships and how they play out within relationships in ways where abuse and violence are perpetuated. Oppressive power relationships and acts of abuse are not limited to domestic and family contexts. Abuse is a societal issue. Unequal and oppressive relations are societal issues. Sexism and misogyny enable contexts of abuse. Classism and neoliberal capitalism enable poverty. Racism enables the oppression of Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. Invasion and colonial supremacy systems enables the oppression of Indigenous Peoples. All of these systems of power enable abuse. All of these abuses are reflections of Family and Sexual Violence on a societal, and global scale.  All of these processes of abuse are evident in the way that the Crown imposes it’s processes and policies on Māori.

With this in mind I want to move to a discussion that Moana Jackson shared at the recent ‘Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change III The academic and activist interface’ conference. Moana raised a range of critical issues related to the ways in which the Crown has defined and constructed the processes related to claims taken by our people in relation to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In problematizing the idea of ‘Treaty Settlements’ Moana stated “Treaties are not meant to be settled. Treaties are meant to be honoured”. This view was reiterated today by Māori academic Veronica Tawhai who stated “The notion of post settlement is inherently connected to our colonisation”. The move in discourse from ‘honouring’ Te Tiriti o Waitangi to ‘settling’ highlights the significant issues in regards to the relationship between the Crown and Māori.

The current ‘Treaty Settlement’ process has its origins in the ‘Fiscal Envelope’ of the mid 1990’s and has framed the ways in which the Crown relates to our people in the current ‘settlement’ process. There is no discussion of ‘honouring’ Te Tiriti. The entire discourse is one of ‘Treaty settlements’ with the central aim of the Crown to move all Iwi into a ‘Post-Settlement’ phase. For the Crown this process has nothing to do with being honourable, which is highlighted by the abusive processes undertaken by the Crown, successive Ministers of Treaty Negotiations and agents within the Office of Treaty Settlements. In 2011 Professor Margaret Mutu highlighted the differing agenda of the Crown to that of Māori in the process.
The chief negotiator for Ngati Kahu, Margaret Mutu, said two quite different agendas were at work. “The Crown and this minister just want to get rid of these troublesome claims. The purpose for settling these claims for Maori is to right wrongs that were done.”( http://www.nzherald.co.nz/waitangi-day/news/article.cfm?c_id=1500878&objectid=10704284 )

What is important about remembering the time of the ‘Fiscal Envelope’ is that our people actively rejected the imposition by the Crown of both the $1billion cap and the processes of negotiation that were proposed. Theoretically the ‘Fiscal Envelope’ policy was rescinded. However, in reality, it defined the fundamental premise from which successive governments have continued to advance Crown intentions in regards to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. For example the Crown has maintained its assertion that it will only work with what they refer to as ‘Large Natural Groupings’ as highlighted by The Office of Treaty Settlements as follows:

Who’s involved in a settlement
The Crown settles with Large Natural Groups (LNGs) — communities with a common ancestry. LNGs are known as claimant groups, and can be made up of:
• a single iwi
• a group of iwi
• a collection of hapū from the same geographical area.
The Crown is the government, and government agencies. The Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) negotiates with representatives of claimant groups on behalf of the Crown. (https://www.govt.nz/browse/history-culture-and-heritage/treaty-of-waitangi-claims/settling-historical-treaty-of-waitangi-claims/ )

What we have in this assertion is a continuation of the Crown defining who they will engage with in regards to breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Crown focus has been predominantly that of Iwi, which has led to the inevitable marginalisation of many hapū who assert their own rangatiratanga. It was hapū that are referred to in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, yet many hapū seeking redress are, more often than not, rejected by the Crown. As is the case in an abuse relationship the dominant partner maintains control over how roles are defined and ‘allowed’ within the relationship.

Throughout the ‘Treaty Settlement’ process the Crown maintains oppressive power relationships. This is clearly evident when we hear Iwi representatives express that only around 1% of lands stolen by the Crown have been returned, or as in the case of Te Atiawa in Taranaki that the processes related to the Crown and Council determination that the Iwi must purchase back the leases for Pekapeka block is not justice. Many of our people have shared experiences of a ‘take it or leave it’ position by the Crown, and some Iwi have been faced with accepting settlements offered or being at risk of being ‘put to the end of the queue’.

The Waitangi Tribunal highlighted this behaviour in the Tamaki Makaurau Report (https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/Documents/WT/wt_DOC_67988073/Tamaki%20Makaurau%20W.pdf )
Winners tend to be groups who, relative to other Maori groups, have already had successes. They are led by outstanding people like Sir Hugh Kawharu, they have good infrastructure (communication capability, sound accounting practices and good legal structures), and stable, committed membership. Arguably, though, those most in need of settlements – who may often be the very groups whose Treaty rights were least respected in the process of colonisation – are those who do not fulfil a ‘success’ profile. On the ‘picking winners’ basis, those groups will be last in the settlement queue. When the Crown targets for settlement the most high profile, effective group in a district, and leaves out the other tangata whenua groups, it reinforces the view that they matter less. (p.12)
The current Minister of Treaty Negotiations has consistently shown his paternalistic view of Māori through denying hapū voices, threatening iwi to be left out or to be last on the list. These acts are inherently abusive to Māori. The farcical nature of the current settlement process is highilighted by Ani Mikaere who writes:

Let us return now to the relationship between Pākehā and Māori today. It is generally assumed that the Treaty settlement process that has been in progress over the past twenty years represents an attempt to resolve the injustices of the past, and that steps such as the incorporation of Māori terms into legislation (for example, the Resource Management Act or Te Ture Whenua Māori) represent a genuine effort on the Crown’s part to bridge the divide between Māori and Pākehā. But how do these developments measure up against the tikanga Māori principles governing the relationship between tangata whenua and manuhiri, or between the wrong-doer and the wronged party?
Put simply, they don’t. The Waitangi Tribunal, for instance, while having achieved a great deal through its meticulous report writing and its ability to operate on the proverbial smell of an oily rag, is a creature of statute, its powers subject to legislative interference – as happened, for instance, following the Te Roroa report. Appointments to the Tribunal are made upon the recommendation of Ministers of the Crown, it is ritually starved of resources, and its recommendations routinely ignored by the Crown. When negotiating settlements with the Crown, claimants are typically presented with a “take-it-or-leave-it” bottom line, with the Crown prepared to negotiate on minor matters only. Any legislative provisions that have unforeseen consequences (unforeseen to the Crown, that is) are either amended to ensure that the impact of Māori concepts on the operation of Pākehā law remains minimal, or they are interpreted restrictively by the courts, or both. The problem with this approach, in terms of a tikanga Māori analysis, is that it is the manuhiri who are dictating the way that things should be done in the tangata whenua’s domain. It is the wronged party who is being expected to submit to terms imposed by the wrong-doer. Such a method of dealing with the injustices of the past cannot possibly hope to achieve resolution. (http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/iwi-am04.pdf)

What this tells us is that the current process is founded within a construct of the coloniser continuing to determine and control how they will deal with the colonised. In Ani’s terms it is the manuhiri determining the tikanga and kawa for tangata whenua. Paolo Freire would refer to this as the oppressor maintaining their power dominance over the oppressed through a process of false generosity – that being a generosity that is not generous – and which maintains the unequal power and control over our people.

In returning to the discussion of abuse, of Family Violence and of Sexual Violence as forms of abuse, it is easy to see how the Crown throughout the ‘Settlement’ process takes the position of the dominant controlling and violent abuser. This was also highlighted recently in regards to the New Plymouth City Council and the issue of the Pekapeka Block, in this situation the council acts in collusion with the Crown. At a meeting with Council members one Māori woman summed it up as follows:
When I sat down to write my kōrero today, I was struck by the glaringly obvious parallels between what I do, and what is currently going-on on a community and collective level between hapū, iwi and the various governing bodies of this land. Every day we at are engaged in the therapeutic process of addressing abuse, neglect, dysfunction, chaos and crisis that stems from violence and the intentional harm of others. As an organisation we are absolutely resolute in our stance that family violence is not OK, that violence in any form is not OK. We are founded and named after the principles established at Parihaka by Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi and their instructions to the women of Taranaki to maintain the tikanga, care and wellbeing of Taranaki whānau.
Violence is not OK, the further marginalisation of victims is not OK, interpersonal intentional harm is not OK, be it on a physical, psychological, emotional, financial or spiritual level, it is not OK. The dehumanising of the victim, the minimising of the harm, the rationalising of the violence is not OK. Nor is it OK for someone to use for their benefit the rewards of the harm of other, intentionally benefiting from that trauma, because this further victimises the victim and reinforces the perpetrators actions.
I think there is a national recognition of these fundamental moralities and a growing intolerance to those that do not subscribe to these basic principles. We certainly have a clearly defined justice system and restorative process which is set-up with these principles in mind.
What I would say to you all here today, is that what is true on an individual level should also be true on a group and collective level. I would like to explore how our approach to intentional group collective harm has up to this day, minimised, dehumanised, marginalised and in no way resembles a meaningful restorative or healing approach to harm and the impacts and effects of that harm.

The comparison between Crown actions in relation to Māori and Family Violence is not new. The Māori Taskforce on Whānau Violence (2004) stated:
The legacy of colonisation and contemporary institutional racism – in themselves forms of violence and disempowerment has contributed to whānau violence.” ( Kruger et.al. 2004, p.4) 

It can be said that in relation to Māori, the greatest single perpetrator of Family Violence is the Crown.  The Crown has failed to ensure that negotiations related to Te Tiriti o Waitangi are truly honourable and just. Successive governments have maintained their position of dominance and consistently applied ‘power over’ approaches to negotiating redress for breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This does not constitute a meaningful partnership, nor is it a healthy relationship. The relationship is one of unequal and oppressive power that reflects the colonial ideologies that have pervaded since the invasion of this country.

Where some iwi have ‘settled’ and have managed to develop some economic gains that does not take away from the fact that the overall constitutional arrangements in this country remain premised upon colonial structures and white privilege. Systemic racism is embedded in Crown agencies that perpetuate unequal power in their daily dealings with Māori whānau and communities. There are many examples that highlight that the Crown in its dealings with Māori continue to act as the dominating bullying partner and as such reproduce trauma upon our communities in the same way that their colonial predecessor did upon our tupuna. For healing to happen within such a context there must be a resolution process that brings the Crown into a place of true, meaningful, enduring and healthy partnership with our people. Until that occurs the treaty settlement process will remain both fraught and traumatizing for many of our communities.

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University Continues to Benefit From Colonial Land Confiscations

I was shocked today to read that Victoria University is set to sell the Karori Campus for $20million. What is shocking is not only the sale, but the fact that the government sold the land to the University in 2014 for $10.

Numerous media outlets have covered this story, with Radio NZ stating “The Karori campus was acquired from the government for $10 in 2014. It covers 3.7ha and includes 20 buildings.” (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/312117/victoria-university-to-sell-$10-karori-campus). Some are advocating that the council should buy the land (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1608/S00856/city-should-buy-victoria-universitys-karori-campus.htm). Concern has been expressed about the loss of an educational facility to the community (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/83697513/victoria-university-decides-former-teachers-college-in-karori-is-surplus-to-requirements). Not one of those reports has raised the history of the land, the issue that if the land is ‘surplus to requirements’ that it be returned to the Iwi or the broader issues related to Treaty processes which demand that in similar situations Iwi are forced to pay $millions for the return of stolen lands.

The sale by the Government to Victoria university for $10 in a context where Iwi are fighting to have stolen lands returned is atrocious. It highlights that successive governments assertions that Iwi must buy back lands at inflated prices reeks of systemic racism. It also reinforces a system that maintains and reproduces its own privilege. What this act points to is a contemporary repeat of the confiscation of Iwi lands in the 1800s to benefit the establishment of Pākehā driven and defined Universities on Māori land. In 1996 Linda Tuhiwai Smith highlighted this in her Phd Thesis ‘Ngā Aho o Te Kākahu Mātauranga: The Multiple Layers of Struggle by Māori in Education’ and yet we see that there remains little consciousness about this issue in the current land dealings being done between the government and Universities.

Universities within Aotearoa are, as with other Pākehā dominated institutions, founded upon a history of colonial oppression. We are often denied real knowledge about such a history. Maori are made invisible in the historical discussion of the development of colonial university systems on our land.

Andrea Morrison (1999) informs us that the ‘official’ history of The University of Auckland written by Keith Sinclair for the 1983 centenary only gives scant discussion of Māori involvement with the university. She finds that from the outset the university was a place for Pākehā settlers not for Māori. The University of Auckland Calendar tells us nothing about the involvement of colonial imperialism in the establishment of the university, rather the history given in the Calendar bemoans its financial difficulties stating:
“The College was poor: its statutory grant was for many years only £4,000 a year, while land reserves, set aside by government to provide an income, brought in very little.” (https://www.calendar.auckland.ac.nz/en/info/about/history.html)

We are not only made invisible as the Indigenous People of the land, but the process of land confiscations upon which the University system in our country is founded is also well hidden in historical discussions.

The University of Auckland Calendar does not inform us of the Auckland University College Reserves Act of 1885 where confiscated land from the Waikato area and in Whakatane was utilised to fund the development of The University of Auckland (Mead 1996). Linda Tuhiwai Smith notes that in concrete ways The University of Auckland has benefited directly from the losses suffered by one of her iwi, Ngāti Awa. The apparent insignificance of these events to Pākehā historians is evident in the documentation. As Linda Smith notes;
“The first paragraph of the history of Auckland University written by a prominent New Zealand historian Sir Keith Sinclair, for example, immediately connects the history of Auckland’s university to the establishment of other universities in the ‘English-speaking countries’. The official history acknowledges that land was indeed vested in the university but focuses more on the inability of the rent to provide a decent income for the new university because the land was ‘poor and heavily forested’. There was scant official knowledge, even in hindsight that these lands belonged to Maori people”. (Mead 1996, p.98)

The Auckland University College Act 1882 established the University of Auckland, and the Auckland University College Reserves Act 1885 saw lands stolen from three tribal groups in the upper North Island, Ngāti Awa, Tainui and Ngā Puhi, vested in the Council of the Auckland University College (New Zealand Statutes 1885).

The University of Auckland was not the only university founded from colonial imperialism. Other universities were developed as part of attempts to increase settlements in those areas (Morrison 1999). Legislation was also passed, by the colonial settler government, for the confiscation of lands from ‘rebel Natives’ (Beaglehole 1949) for the benefit of other universities and therefore for the benefit of generations of Pākehā academics. Both Otago and Canterbury universities were developed as part of attempts to increase settlements in those areas. The first university was established in 1870 in Otago and it was deemed in Section 30 on the New Zealand University Act 1874 that lands in the Province of Otago reserved under the University Endowment Act 1868 would be granted to the University of Otago.

The Victoria College Act 1897 brought the establishment of Victoria University in Wellington, which Ostler (cited in Beaglehole 1949) notes was to provide higher education for Wellington, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Marlborough. In regards to the establishment of Victoria University, Beaglehole (1949) includes in the appendices to the publication ‘Victoria University College: An Essay Towards a History’, a memorandum on the Opaku Reserve from Herbert Ostler the chair of the College in 1914. The memorandum outlines issues regarding the Opaku Reserve and Waitotara lands in South Taranaki. The Opaku Reserve was essentially 10,000 acres of confiscated lands that is located near the town of Pātea. Ostler (cited in Beaglehole 1949) notes that the land was confiscated from ‘rebel Natives’ and was through section 6 of the University Endowment Act 1868 set aside as a reserve for the endowment of a colonial university. Section 38 of The Victoria College Act 1897 set the Waitotara Reserve of 4,000 acres aside as an endowment with those lands being included in the schedule of lands via the New Zealand University Reserves Act 1875. The Opaku Reserve was not included, instead the Opaku Reserve was in 1905 diverted to the Taranaki Scholarships Trust to provide scholarships for Taranaki scholars to any of the universities in the country.

The denial of history and the invisibility of the ways in which universities have benefited from colonisation through the confiscations of our lands continues to be reproduced in 2016. These acts of colonial oppression are seen as marginal to the wider discussion of the history of the academy and as such are reduced to the appendices of University histories. This is often the way in which Indigenous issues, and Indigenous Peoples traditions and epistemologies are treated within the academy.

The government sale of the Karori campus to Victoria University highlights that while our Iwi continue to struggle to have our lands returned, these dominant Pākehā institutions continue to benefit nearly 120 years later from the confiscation of our Iwi lands. There should only be one true discussion on the table in regards to the Karori campus, and it should be to return the lands to Iwi.
Me riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai.

Auckland University College Reserves [1885:1], New Zealand Statutes 1885,Government Printer, Wellington: 411
Beaglehole, J.C. 1949 Victoria University College: An Essay Towards a History, New Zealand University Press, Wellington
Mead, LTR, ‘Nga Aho o Te Kakahu Matauranga: The Multiple Layers of Struggle by Maori in Education’ Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Thesis, Education Department University of Auckland, 1996
Morrison, A. 1999 Space for Māori in Tertiary Institutions: Exploring Two Sites at The University of Auckland, Unpublished Master of Education book, University of Auckland, Auckland:22

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Just Another Excuse to Bash Maori: A Reply to Alan Duff

At the bare minimum the NZ Herald seems committed to ensuring that uninformed opinion continues to be presented as some form of factual reporting, at the very worst they actually believe the conservative unfounded diatribe that is presented weekly by Alan Duff in his column. Either way, the Herald has been consistent in showing a lack of commitment to providing informed discussion that would contribute to making Aotearoa a better place.

Each column written by Alan Duff is yet another repetitive Once Were Warriors theme. We continually get themes of: Once Were Losers, Once Were Whingers, Once Were Drop Outs… the list goes on and within it the themes continue to reflect what is in fact Alan Duff’s inability to grasp the fundamental underpinning issues of the impact of colonisation, and how that has specific and particular consequences for Indigenous Nations. This is somewhat ironic, given that the position Duff takes in virtually every column is a reflection of those impacts, and are reflected constantly as the justification for Māori people being bashed by him on regular basis.  Perhaps it is because Mr Duff has never taken to the time to seek out pathways for understanding his own self hatred and the hegemony of that. Hegemony, being the internalisation of self hatred, and the internalisation of the belief that to be successful in this society is to act, write, speak and live as the reflection of your coloniser (The definition is provided here as the column indicates that Mr Duff has difficulty with such terms as hegemony, colonisation and imperialist arrogance – all of which are states of being that are reflected in Mr Duffs column).

Alan Duff tells us that we are ‘whingers’ and that colonisation is ‘just an excuse’.  He contends that many countries have undergone significant violence and have recovered. So lets look at the list he provides to substantiate his claim that colonisation does not have an historical trauma impact.
The British took over India and ruled them with an iron fist. China’s last invasion by Japan was in 1938 and one example of hideous Japanese acts was sons forced to rape mothers, fathers to rape daughters. According to some, the hands of the 23,000 people who worked building the Taj Mahal had their hands cut off so the palace could never be recreated. Virtually every country in Europe has known invasion and suffered violent oppression for decades, even centuries. Hungary has suffered countless invasions from foreign hordes. More recently, under communism, a brutal secret police ruled the country and in the 1950s one in 15 male adults was imprisoned for supposed crimes against the state. (Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 ).

The key fact that Mr Duff fails to highlight is that all of these countries have had their lands and sovereignty returned to them. All have been able to reconnect to their lands and to reconstitute their approaches to dealing with critical issues that arise from the trauma experienced. All have their language intact, all can live their cultural ways. These examples and the assertion that virtually every country in Europe has been invaded highlights the point that Alan Duff has no understanding  as to how invasion by colonising forces upon Indigenous Peoples impacts both in those historical moments and inter-generationally when our lands are stolen, when our rights to live as Indigenous Peoples is forcibly removed through physical, cultural, social and spiritual violence, where Indigenous Nations are murdered for defending their lands, waters and people, where forced closures and forced removals disconnect generations from their land, language and culture. The impacts is not only well known within Indigenous communities but they are well evidenced through generations.

The deficit and limited views of Alan Duff provide more fodder for an already overfeed racist machinery. His column is full of opinionated ignorant statements that do nothing to provide constructive ways of moving beyond the impact of historical trauma events, rather he chooses to demean those that do seek to find innovative and culturally grounded ways to deal with the issues that our people are facing, both for the benefit of Māori and for the benefit of Aotearoa more generally. Rather than taking an opportunity to discuss with our people how we can explore the issues Alan Duff supports the establishment to close down the debate around colonisation and its impacts. He wrote in this weeks column

“Our Maori political leaders tell us it’s all right to whinge about our poverty. But never do they urge us to go into business. A Maori university lecturer recently excused our appalling rate of murdering children as a result of cultural devastation. Excuse me?…” (Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 )

“What “cultural devastation” is this excuse-mongering Maori academic talking about?”
(Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 )

Yes I confess, the “excuse mongering Maori academic” he is referring to is me.  I have been called worse things.  And while I am not at all concerned about the insults, as Alan Duffs opinion means nothing to the majority of Maori who are involved in seeking ways to heal with our people, what I do find deeply disturbing is the attack by Alan Duff on Professor Ranginui Walker after his recent passing.

I find the attack on Professor Walker to be abysmal and disgusting behaviour, which emphasizes Alan Duff’s lack of fortitude. It seems paradoxical that in the column Duff appears to be completely ignorant to the exceptional and transformative work undertaken by Professor Walkers in his lifetime. Duff in his typical ignorant arrogance writes:
“The late Ranginui Walker was a master of the gripe. The language he used was Pakeha academic-speak, words like hegemony, colonisation, imperialist arrogance. He didn’t actually say or do anything to advance Maori people.”

Such a statement is an absurdity. It highlights even further that Alan Duff and his column have no substance and that such a view is absolutely incongruous to our experience of the incredible contribution made by Professor Walker.

Professor Ranginui Walker always dispensed of Alan Duff in debates. Duff was never able to hold his ground with him. Ranginui was a grounded, culturally knowledgeable, historian, connected to his whanau, hapu and iwi, who did exceptional research and worked endlessly for our people in multiple ways.  He could run intellectual circles around people like Alan Duff without effort. Such an attack by Duff now on Ranginui Walker is an act of cowardice.

Given such an appalling attack on Professor Ranginui Walker by Duff,  it is fitting that it is Professor Walkers words that positions these types of attacks in context.  Professor Walker wrote over 20 years ago that,
“[t]o the Māori, Duff is irrelevant. He does not rate in the Māori world because he is not part of the people’s struggle for emancipation and social advancement (Eat Your Heart Out Alan Duff, Metro 145, July 1993, p.137)”

It appears that in regards to Mr Duffs lack of contribution to the “emancipation and social advancement of Maori” nothing much has changed. There is no contribution.  The only people who validate the uneducated and unqualified views put by Mr Duff is the NZHerald and their more conservative audience.

I am, like Professor Walker regularly highlighted, concerned that our work, which is informed by many years of research and cultural based research and practice, can be represented as ‘whinging’. The impact of colonisation and historical trauma for Indigenous Peoples is well researched, deeply evidenced and daily experienced by our people. It is not ‘whinging’, it is not about hating white people, it is not about ‘having a gripe’, nor is it about excusing behaviours that are as equally unacceptable to our people as they are to others. It is about understanding that until we resolve historical injustices in ways that are about affirming our place as tangata whenua; until monocultural institutional racist practices and policies are removed; until our people gain a sense of reconnection with land, language, culture and a true sense of connectedness to who we are, these issues will remain. That, Mr Duff is a much more informed and active approach than your opinion that we should just ‘stop whinging’. As for the article, it would have been more appropriately titled, ‘Another excuse to Bash Maori’ by Alan Duff as it certainly did not foster aspiration.

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#handsoffaboriginalkids: In Solidarity

Over the past two weeks we have been honoured to be hosted by the Jumbunna Research Institute at UTS.  This collaboration is a part of the strengthening of the relationships between Māori and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders communities and researchers committing to working in ways that affirm an intention of tino rangatiratanga and self-determination for Indigenous Nations.   We have worked together exploring and sharing Indigenous research aspirations and approaches to our work.

During the past few days we have been reminded of, seen and heard of the horrific experiences and the abuses against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on their own lands. We take a position as Māori who are guests here on the lands of the Gadigal People in Sydney to bear witness and to inform our own people of the atrocities that continue against the Indigenous Peoples of this land.

Today we stood in Solidarity at the Emergency Rally at the Town Hall. Organisers of the rally released the following statement:

Emergency rally – justice for the children tortured in Don Dale and all prisons
Sack the NT Government, sack the guards – lay charges now
Stop stealing children – build communities not prisons
Self-determination now!
The video footage on Four Corners of Aboriginal children being tortured in Don Dale correction centre have shocked the country. But this is the tip of the iceberg of the racist ‘child protection’ and prison systems that subject Aboriginal children to institutionalised child abuse across the continent on a daily basis.
Malcolm Turnbull and Adam Giles have announced a Royal Commission into the centre – but their own racist Intervention and “tough on crime” policies systematically breach the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).
Countless inquiries have already been done. We already know the facts of this case. We demand justice immediately. The prison guards responsible must be sacked and charged. So too should the NT Government who have consistently demonised and criminalised Aboriginal children and bear ultimate responsibility for this abuse. Minister Scullion also must be sacked.
Across Australia, Black children make up 50 per cent of the prison system. More children are being forcibly removed today than at any point in Australian history – taken from their families and put into foster care or prison cells.
This emergency rally will demand an end to the incarceration of children and self-determination for Aboriginal people. We need to build on the outrage and take forward the ongoing struggles against the racist police, prison and ‘child protection’ systems. #BlackLivesMatter #BuildCommunitiesNotPrisons


The detention and torture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth was highlighted this week on the ABC Four Corners Programme (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/07/25/4504895.htm ).

Where politicians here quickly moved to voice their ‘shock’ at this treatment, it is clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, families and advocates have been raising these issues, and there has been  little if any meaningful response or action taken to protect the young Indigenous people held in these detention centres. ABC themselves have documented for over 2 years issues at the centre. For example the following stories have run on ABC since August 2014




So for politicians and bureaucrats to voice ‘shock’ seems, at the very least, to be a deeply dishonest response to what is clearly State funded acts of abuse on the Indigenous children of this land.

It was highlighted today that the 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Deaths in Custody remain largely unimplemented, (http://www.alrm.org.au/information/General%20Information/Royal%20Commission%20into%20Aboriginal%20Deaths%20in%20Custody.pdf )

and that the number of murders in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has increased in huge numbers since the Royal Commission.  In September 2015,the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA)  (http://www.deathsincustody.org.au/ ) issued a press release with the following statement :


ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY in Western Australia have increased in the last year, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee notes in the lead-up to John Pat Memorial Day on 28 September.

“We know of at least seven deaths in custody that have occurred since last year’s John Pat Memorial Day,” said Marc Newhouse, chair of DICWC, adding that the number would be higher once all deaths during police operations were included. “Four of these deaths were of Aboriginal people.”

Newhouse also noted that five of the seven deaths in custody had occurred in the last four months.

Speakers on the memorial day include the Reverend Sealin Garlett, members of the Watch Committee and Shaun Harris, uncle of Ms Dhu, who died in a lock-up in Port Hedland last August.

The memorial will remember not only John Pat, but all those who have died in custody. The Watch Committee is also calling for an immediate reduction in the number of women imprisoned at overcrowded Bandyup Women’s Prison, and for a movement of decarceration in response to increasing rates of imprisonment in WA. and plans to build yet more prisons in WA.”

“Last October the premier pledged to reduce Aboriginal incarceration in our state, yet no action has been taken,” Newhouse said. “Instead we have seen the passing of further the mandatory sentencing laws and plans to build yet more prisons in WA.”

John Pat was just 16 years old when he died in custody on 28 September 1983 at Roebourne police station. He was beaten to death by five drunk off-duty police officers. The outcry over his death led to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The majority of its 339 recommendations remain unimplemented or abandoned. Since the Royal Commission there have been more deaths in custody than recommendations.


As Māori women, as Indigenous mothers, as Indigenous grandmothers, as Indigenous Peoples, it is essential that we raise awareness of these acts of abuse and terror against our Indigenous relatives on this land. The stories shared at the rally were deeply saddening, and equally enraging. The pain of this ongoing act of ethnocide and genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is experienced every day across this country. Families, communities, nations experience the forced removal of children from their families, the denial of fundamental human rights, the imprisonisation of children and adults across the country in extremely disproportionate numbers, the abuse and torture in prisons and detention centres and the murder of their people in custody.

Te Wharepora Hou call on our people, both in Aotearoa and those that live on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands, to voice our outrage at these acts of genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders children,  families,  communities, elders and ancestors, and to stand in solidarity with our relations to bring a change to these racist, oppressive acts.

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