Marama Davidson joins a Native Affairs panel with John Tamihere and Martyn Bradbury to debate the appointment of Susan Devoy to the role of Race Relations Commissioner.
Personal Opinion – 04 March 2012
Children are our treasures regardless of what home, family or circumstance they are born into. On this Children’s Day I express my thanks for my own children and every single child that the earth has blessed us with.
The planet village, the one that is supposed to collectively raise our children, is no longer a given. We have instead a staunch and ever rising concrete sterile building in its place. This structure has been successful in advocating for a notion of individual self-centred survival of the fittest. It is a notion which harbours contempt and hostility for anyone less than fit and it ignores structural issues. This construction has been erected over the top of our gardens of collective compassion, as if those plantings are only weeds to be frowned upon.
As a mother of children ranging from eighteen to three years old – I can understand and fully empathise with the angry cries from outraged New Zealanders. They want death and castration for the Turangi teenager who raped and harmed a five year old child. If it was my own daughter, I may also have murderous hell-bent vengeance from my heart and soul. But at some point I would have to reckon with a future free from the ugliness of hate, for the sanity of myself and the rest of my family.
A huge wrong has been done. It is a profound and deep wrong-doing that has created enormous imbalance with all that is good in the universe. The young man and his family must be held accountable for what has happened – balance must be restored to that little girl, her family, the Turangi community and our entire planet.
To the little girl and her family; I wish for nothing but peace and healing to you all. I struggle to comprehend what you have all suffered. Aotearoa is grieving for you because we know this is not who we are. Today on Children’s Day I remember what happened to an innocent child and I am horrified.
The teenager who committed this wrong has been sentenced to ten years in prison. But I am not convinced that any prison sentence ALONE will properly restore this overwhelming disjunction. I am not sure that true accountability and reflection from this teenage boy and his whānau will happen purely as a result of jail time. In ten years time, he will still be a young man. Whether we agree or not he will be back in our communities again. I am asking us all, what sort of young man do we want him to be when he arrives back to us? Is it too much for me to hope that at the least, he will not be a monster? Is it too far fetched to expect that with appropriate support, he might even become a contributing adult again instead of remaining a burden to society?
I do not know the teenager or his whānau, but something somewhere went very wrong. By all accounts, it appears that this kid did not receive an upbringing. We all know that many exceptional people have come through all sorts of adverse circumstances to become quite functional and even outstanding. If you are still reading this article, I will have enough people ready to bite me by now without me also trying to make excuses for the actions of this teenager or his whānau. There are no excuses. BUT how do we stop this from happening again?! If in the angry call for ‘justice’ we have quartered and hung this teenager in the town square, with his ‘irresponsible’ whānau looking on – then what? Will that ultimate act of revenge ensure that other families and children are all strong and confident and resourced in our communities? Will that act of ‘justice’ provide the incentive for all parents to suddenly become role-models for society by tomorrow?
As I hear people now saying “simple, stop the ‘weak’ from breeding”………..oh wait. No.
My meter for feeling disgusted has just gone berserk and is preventing me from even speaking to such lunacy. Sorry if I got your hopes up for a second there.
Here in South Auckland where I live, people like the Manurewa Marae kuia (women elders) inspire me. They ignore the unforgiving concrete edifice that is devoid of kindness and they stretch their uplifting hands to those who are struggling. The kuia form authentic relationships with those who have already lost Darwin’s race. Their work is challenging, full of complex problems and dynamics and is mostly akin to pushing crap uphill. They are of course underpaid, under-resourced and under-valued by most.
I place huge value in those kuia and their small but important gains. Recently they spoke to me about a young mum ‘coming out of the darkness’. The kuia spoke about the many months they had spent just supporting her to feel like she was worth more than the life she is currently living. These are immeasurable gains. Can we measure how many babies we do not kill?
However, the kuia are up against ‘that building’ as well. Yes many communities, marae, and whānau have planted great gardens of collective compassion and nurturing. This has allowed some incredible work to happen in spite of the foreboding cold concrete creation that is concerned only with the care of the self. I am also aware that many families have done quite nicely for themselves just by tending to their own backyards only. If you do nothing but be good parents for the rest of your lives, yes you are my heroes. But for us all to be heroes so all our children thrive, there is work to be done.
At the beginning of this article I called for accountability from the teenager and his whānau. I stand resolute in that. Only true accountability will give even that young person and his whānau any hope of a future.
In the meantime, how do we make certain that no young person will ever again adopt such tragic actions? I am choosing to fight for sustainable wellbeing for all of our children and whānau. It is well past time to explode this current arrangement of indifference, hostility and outright hate towards our families who are anything less than heroic right now. Rather than exploiting any opportunity to ramble unintelligent bigotry, role-model what genuine concern looks like. I realise that the latter approach takes more intelligence, work and balls but it has proven to have better outcomes than stirring polarisation.
Currently our State is; breaking our country into bits and selling it to more ‘cold colossal’ corporations, whipping the poor without whipping poverty, harassing our natural resources instead of harassing outdated fossil fuel energy, instilling economic, social and political policies that further destroy healthy and basic human values in favour of corporate ones. In Manurewa we have more prison buildings for our children to look up to than we do tertiary education institutions. We owe it to our children to reject such fee market neo-liberal thinking because it is destroying our planet village.
At the time I was born my parents were young, poor, unmarried, clueless and Māori. By some lunatic analysis, they should not have been allowed to breed at all. Thankfully I entered this world and can now take my glorious place to write articles of profound importance, to espouse words of stunning grandeur, to conjure notions of revolutionary thinking and indeed to inspire mass world change.
Failing that (darn it), I will just try and be a good Mama who role-models care towards others. Thanks to Mum, Dad and my planet village for ensuring that we remain fiercely proud of being Māori. Thank you also for teaching us to stand up for, rather than stand on, others.
(Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou)
A mihi to our allies.
I am taking this opportunity to acknowledge those who are honest allies of the Tangata Whenua of this land. There have always been tauiwi/non-Māori who are doing essential work in striving for a better nation. They are people who themselves recognise the unique status of iwi and hapū in Aotearoa. Some of these people are from our Chinese communities.
In acknowledging the courageous stand that comes from others, I recognise their whole histories and their whole communities. This is regardless of where some individuals might be on the continuum of supporting self-determination for Māori. Even some of my own people are held hostage by misguided fear and misunderstanding of people from a different place – yet the collaborative work of honouring each others’ peoples and drawing strength from common ground must continue.
The lunar New Year started on 23 January which is when the Chinese calendar commences. As with Matariki and the stars for the traditional Māori New Year in June, starting the new lunar year is more important to the Chinese than the Gregorian calendar date of 01 January.
2012 is particularly auspicious as it heralds the Year of the Dragon – the water dragon to be exact – so symbolises good fortune, happiness, power and strength. My Chinese friend and her Indian husband are having their child next month in February. She insists she is giving birth to a Chindian dictator. As her voice is one of those very ones calling for all New Zealanders to honour the Treaty, one can only hope.
Chinese New Year celebrations are happening around the country as we speak and I hope to take my children to the Auckland Lantern festival that grows bigger every year.
With all that must be celebrated, a New Year is also a good time to reinforce vigilance. The Chinese and different Asian communities have remained strong in the face of outright racism they have sometimes had to confront. There have been disgusting attacks and taunts towards these groups of people that all New Zealanders should revolt at.
Agreeing to a baseline set of principles and guidelines to improve the way we live together – is where I highlight again the value of working collaboratively. The country this year will embark on discussions around a New Zealand constitution. There is an iwi led group who are determining a framework and a timeframe that rejects the narrow one set by the government. I am told that Māori should not aim for the stars in taking forward a vision – we must aim for the heavens and beyond. We spend the time going back to our core collective wisdoms so we can relearn and reshape them for our future.
And to do this – we need our allies.
Māori do not have majority status in Aotearoa. We would do well to strengthen our ties to those people and groups who are sharing the workload that aligns with our visions. There are many tauiwi who have been doing deconstructing work and decolonising work to uphold our Mana Motuhake as Tangata Whenua.
As hosts of this land, are we also upholding the mana and dignity of those who deserve our respect? Do we remain ignorant of the histories and traditions of our tauiwi communities and therefore neglect the common ground that exists? Are we lending our voice to their causes as we harp on about injustice?
I would encourage people to get along to this workshop “Decolonise Your Mind” pulled together by Meng Zhu, Wai Ho, Giang (tauiwi) and Rouge (tangata whenua). It is an example of the comradeship that we must capitalise on if we are serious about gathering collective strength.
Ngā mihi and Chūnjié kuàilè to you all.
(Original article posted Dec 2010, updated Jan 2012)
How can we help push a constitutional review towards this vision?
We hope whānau will have a say in what rules and guidelines this country should be governed by. We urge people to find out what the current constitutional review process is all about.
Te Wharepora Hou would like to offer the following information to start kōrero among whānau.
What is a ‘constitutional review’ and why should I care?
Starting in 2011, the government will take a step back and look at the ‘bigger picture’ of how we run this whole country. This is the ‘constitutional review’ that you will hear about.
This could be very important for Māori, but it certainly won’t fix everything. The government’s laws and policies have always impacted on our right to live as Māori. Politics affect our day to day living; what education our tamariki can receive, what sort of healthcare is available, whether your whānau still own your tūpuna land, what support is available for you when you are jobless and homeless or struggling to access basic needs, whether your land will be mined or fracked, whether your seas will be drilled for oil and many many more situations in life. As Māori, political power has often played a big part in our right to our identity and our unique place as Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa.
What do we have currently?
At the moment we do not have a single document that is ‘our Constitution’. We have a collection of different documents and laws that guide how we make laws and policies. The Treaty of Waitangi is considered to be one of those documents. This review will consider the place of the Treaty of Waitangi. The review may have an impact on how we assert ourselves as the Tangata Whenua of this land.
What is at stake?
Together as Māori we could seize this opportunity to design a set of rules according to tikanga and kawa. Our collective wisdom could offer an improved system of political power. Positive change for whānau is good for the future of all New Zealanders.
Who should keep me informed?
The government have called for this review. There is a government panel who will lead the public discussion. They are called the Constitutional Review Panel.
There is also an iwi group lead by iwi representatives Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu. They are called the Constitutional Transformation Working Group.
How can I take part?
Both the government panel and the iwi group will be asking for your whakaaro and ideas. There will be hui held around the country in 2012.
It is important that whānau understand that this korero is not just for academics, lawyers, politicians and iwi leaders. As Māori, we have a right and also a responsibility to have our say. Our experiences in our every day lives and our ideas for how to improve our right to live as Māori is the information that we should be asking the government to value.
Your iwi are not the only way to have a say, make sure you know how to be involved no matter where you live or who you are connected to.
Who is putting out this article?
Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tamaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and all those who are too often silenced. We are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.
We want to ensure that whānau are well informed of important issues so you could contact us if you would like further information.
Te Wharepora Hou
021 025 88302
31 December 2011
Actually before I start on next year I better look at 2011 first. Woah – freaky year!
Around the end of 2010 I decided to pitch in with a few other like-minded wāhine and add our voice to the mix a bit more. Leading into 2011 I took life-long inspiration from those amazing fighters at all levels around me including; the kuia/kaumātua at home keeping it real, the whānau back at our marae burning the home fires, the people on the ground in our communities, our young people ‘halleluiah rangatahi’ who continue to inspire me, our academics, politicians, artists, gardeners, te reo warriors, teachers and especially our whānau raising our tamariki. There are so many people doing amazing work to strengthen our most precious resource that is whānau. There are so many people to thank for being brave enough to speak out for our right to live as Māori. There are so many people taking up our collective responsibility to care for each other and the environment around us.
My puku was telling me I could do more, so I tried. Facebook became a hugely important tool to start circulating my whakaaro via blog articles, press releases, Op Eds, radio and television interviews, community speaking and other engagements.
And I got shot down LOL! More than once. And it will happen again of that I am most certain.
But just today someone who I consider a stalwart fighter of our people reminded me that we need to do more of it – we must not stop. And as always, the other stalwarts of my life will support my need to keep contributing. I cannot contribute to my community without the tautoko of my family, and without having first assured their wellbeing.
This brings me to 2012.
I have huge hope for our future as whānau, hapū and iwi. Our strength and vigilance to maintain our identity on our own lands has not faltered. We have proved time and time again that we are born with what we need to keep ourselves alive – no one can remove whakapapa.
“And we will need more of the same” says our stalwart fighter (who shall remain nameless because a private facebook chat does not a public speech make).
I agree with him. It is nothing new but we are facing even tougher far right agendas which threaten our collective integrity and wisdom as Tangata Whenua. We need to be steadfast in keeping our waters clean, our whenua un-mined and un-fracked and our moana deeply undrilled. We need to be determined to keep our whānau out of poverty and safe from abuse. We need to keep sacrosanct our ability to grow, hunt and fish for kai. There is much to protect.
So I stand in awe of all of us as we continue to be resolute together and support each other. We fight in many ways. We should continue to sing waiata, write poetry, learn to reo, speak te reo, hīkoi in protest, grow gardens (so I can buy your organic veggies cos my gardening sux right now), care for our earth, write submissions, and press releases, and Op Eds, and blogs, speak out, stand up, speak out and stand up.
If we feel hurt enough, we may also need to think of other ways to resist. So let us think…..
But mostly, take care of our own whānau. Be kind to each other. Thanks to my ever wise mother who reminds me “Sometimes it is easier to save the world than to look after those around you.” Check myself.
Thank you to my husband and children for your ongoing tolerance and support.
Happy (Gregorian Calendar) New Year everyone!
Dr Leonie Pihama, Māori And Indigenous Analysis Ltd., Te Kotahi Institute, University of Waikato
Over the past few days I have been participating in the NZ Association for Research in Education annual conference. NZARE is a time when educational researchers and practitioners come together to discuss a range of research and intervention initiatives happening within the education sector. Just a few weeks ago I attended a Māori Health research hui that also included a range of health researchers and practitioners. At both gatherings it was clear that many Māori work well beyond the boundaries of what is considered to be a part of what is done in those sectors. The focus of whānau ora and hauora go across and beyond the ways in which society segments sectors. It is no surprise then that for Māori in those sectors the need to work collaboratively and across areas is clearly acknowledged.
There has been another burst of focus on child abuse within Māori whānau. We see that public outburst generally on the death or murder of one of our tamariki/mokopuna. We are then inundated with images of past abuses, of Māori babies and children beaten often at the hands of our own. We are all overcome then with disgust and sadness and often anger. And then there is nothing… virtually no media attention, no media discussion, no media information, no media contribution to education. Nothing. Until the next baby or child is beaten and killed. And so it continues…
The point is not that the media should not inform us of these things, or that they are not newsworthy as clearly they are. But that we rarely see any attempt in the media to provide an educational or informative role outside of social service ads. Other than Māori Television, primarily through the many profile programmes that they provide us with, there is little attempt or commitment to give any real time to how we turn around issues of abuse or violence within our homes.
The child poverty documentary was a long awaited one, and was timed perfectly for broadcast at the height of the elections and where many commented on how disturbing and disgusting and even how wrong it was to see families and whānau living in such conditions.. and many of those conditions were in fact state owned housing, such programmes that inform and challenge us are a rarity. They are programmes that show the complexity of child poverty, that don’t give easy answers or advocate a quick fix, nor do they provide the general ‘public’ with the easy way of seeing things through blaming the victims or announcing this is all about the deficiencies of those whānau. That complexity is shown in child mortality rates where key causes of child mortality are: Medical 38%, Unintentional injury 32.7 %, Intentional injury 19.6%, Unexplained 8.7 %, Missing data .9%
Table 1.1: Mortality (number of deaths) in children and young people aged 28 days to 24 years by cause of death and age group, New Zealand 2006–2010 combined (n=3356 deaths)
Category <1 year* 1–4 5–9 10–14 15–19 20–24 (%) Total Percentage
Medical 371 209 95 126 233 242 1276 38
Unintentional injury 15 112 59 85 419 409 1099 32.7
Intentional injury 8 22 3 32 274 320 659 19.6
Unexplained 275 17 – – – – 292 8.7
Missingdata 14 3 – 1 6 6 30 0.9
Total 683 363 157 244 932 977 3356 100.0
The Children’s Social Health Monitoring group highlight that Māori and Pacific children live within lower living standards at disproportionate rates. All of the indicators that are presented related to notions of poverty are based within a taken for granted assumption that all poverty is related to monetary terms.
I am not in any way questioning or challenging such an assumption. However it is limited in regards to Māori children. The direct output of such an assumption is that throughout the election process and in particular in the last couple of weeks of the campaign, when the documentary aired, there was a preoccupation with the advocating of the minimum wage, excluding National of course who advocate minimal taxing of the wealthy and not minimum wage for those in poverty, there was much talk of increased access for children to health care, some labour candidates advocated a Minister of Children, The Māori Party a Minister of Whānau.
Without doubt all of these things are useful. However they are not the whole picture. As with the child poverty programme that highlighted the direct impact of poverty on tamariki and whānau there was very little comment that the majority of children living in poverty are Māori and Pacific children. There was very little comment on colonization, there was virtually no comment on systemic and institutional racism. And why are those things important? Because they provide the underpinning reasons for why we have such a large proportion of tamariki who would be considered to be in that group that is being referred to as ‘vulnerable children’.
Our whānau have been under constant attack and threat since colonization. Where much of the focus of economic development has been at an Iwi level it was in fact the whānau that was the first structure actively attacked through colonization. It was a deliberate and planned attack. We see that through the development and operation of Mission and Native schooling.
Notions of civilizing and christianising Māori were focus on the whānau. The foci of attack were multiple, in terms of te reo and tikanga Māori. Linda Smith wrote that the Native schools were the equivalent of ‘trojan horses’ amongst our people. They were placed at the centre of communities to actively promote an way of life that up until that time was essentially foreign to our people.
At the heart of all interactions was the notion of individuality as opposed to collectivity. Where multiple generations in whānau supported collective obligation, accountability and reciprocity, the notion of the individual promoted individual rights, individual ownership of property, to be accountable only to one self etc. These notions are all actively a part of western pedagogy.
Notions of privatization and private homes, private ownership, private property, all undermine cultural constructs within tikanga of whanaungatanga and collective responsibility. The private domestic space is enabling of family violence, it is enabling in that it is grounded upon the nuclear family structure, which we often refer to as whānau but in fact the nuclear family is not whānau, it is a structure based on private ownership and individual private actions. Which enables unhealthy relationships on many levels to go undetected and with little hope of intervention.
What I am positing is that the idea of ‘working with vulnerable children’ is itself problematic and that perhaps this forum could redefine what is a critical area within the lives of our whānau. It locates a sense of ‘being without protection’ or being ‘extremely susceptible’ or ‘weak’ or ‘helpless’, yet many of our whānau are none of these things, in fact even the Child Poverty documentary showed the ways in which whānau negotiated and sought ways to protect and care for their tamariki, however within a systemic context where state systems of provision are dysfunctional, as opposed to the notion that whānau are dysfunctional, then it is easier to locate the problem in the home.
There seems to be an obsession with creating terminology that serves to act as a smoke screen to what is actually happening for our people. Our children, our whānau are faced with systems of economic elitism, cultural oppression, gender inequalities and racism. Rather than refer to our tamariki as vulnerable children we should be continuing to talk about the dysfunctional system that works with our children, and the need for us to gain an ability for economic and ongoing sustainable resources to put things in place that actually work for our people.
Yes we must have access to health care for all children, but we must also have that care be appropriate to our people, as the disparities work from Māori Public Health specialists indicates that racism pervades both our access to Primary care and the forms of treatment we receive.
Last night Ngaropi and I spoke about the ways in which ideas of poverty dominate the discussions and whilst, as I said earlier we both agree with the notion that poverty creates a range of circumstances that have been created through ongoing political neglect and colonial capitalist systems that are again about individual benefit and gain over the wellbeing of all. What we spoke about is that as a direct result of colonization in Taranaki our people have been dispossessed of access to all those things that have in the past mitigated against economic poverty. We had access to kai and even in the context of economic depression we could feed ourselves, our whānau, our hapū, our iwi, and we did that collectively. In a korero from Aunty Marj reflecting on rongoa she spoke of seeing her father bring a cart load of piharau, lamprey eels, to the marae to share with the people.
Those ways of being are significant. They are about whanaungatanga. They are the essence of whānau ora. Yet for the past 30 years since the pollution of the seabeds at Waitara and the earlier pollution of the river that is not a sight that would be seen. In fact my tamariki have never eaten kai moana from the Waitara coast. Then earlier this week the NPDC were granted a further 30 years extension to the use of the pipeline. Why? Because its more economic than developing a landbased treatment plant.
So we ask, is it solely an economic or monetary explanation for why many can not feed their whānau? As I have said previously, that is one part of the picture. And in many ways it is the most pallitable part of the picture. But underpinning the ability of many of our people to feed ourselves and our tamariki is the dispossession of access to those resources that could and did provide for us in times where this dysfunctional system created contexts of vulnerability.
02 December 2011
Responses to the issue of Māori representation suggest some deeply rooted fear amongst opponents.
Last Friday it was reported that the Whangarei District Council voted against Māori seats. Over the past month councils around the country have voted similarly except for Waikato Regional and Nelson City Councils.
In a Gisborne Herald column (16 Nov) Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie addressed the most common concerns in relation to Māori wards.
Gisborne District Council and all local authorities around the country would do well to engage in more informed and meaningful dialogue around this issue. Robust conversations among communities, iwi leaders, hapū members and councils would result in better understanding of what Māori wards could deliver.
One example of where better Māori representation could benefit everyone is in the area of waste water and sewerage. Currently around the country Māori groups (often alongside Pākehā groups) are fighting to uphold their responsibilities as guardians over natural resources. Hapū are concerned with the long term well-being of rivers, lakes and harbours. Accountability to whānau requires hapū to protect that resource as a taonga, a source of food and spiritual nourishment. Yet hapū are battling short term planning that often favours cost-cutting and ‘developers’. At the core of these struggles is a reluctance to share power. There is a refusal to acknowledge expertise held by local Māori over hundreds of years of care for that resource. There have been ‘economic’ waste-water decisions made over 30 years ago that have done nothing but explode wider costs by ruining waters and ecosystems, eventually ending up in expensive litigation. Having proper hapū representation at the decision table 30 years ago may well have saved the natural resource and public finances. This would have been good for ALL of the community.
A letter to the editor in The Star (Dunedin) from Peter Aitken refers to Māori representation as ‘racist’. He further aligns the concept of Māori wards to the oppressive regime of South African apartheid. That apartheid system treated black people as subservient on the principle that they were lesser human beings. In fact through the ongoing denial of human rights, inhumane denigration, disgusting humiliation and outright murder, black people were treated as barely human at all. Affirming Māori rights in relation to natural resources guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi will not diminish any human rights for non-Māori. Māori representation will not subjugate non-Māori as lesser human beings. It does not deny non-Māori their dignity and existence, nor exclude their active participation in decision-making.
Another flawed line is that Māori should reject ‘special treatment’ as patronising. It is that argument in itself which is patronising. It comes from a level of ignorance and prejudice that uses the term ‘special treatment’ in the first place. The issue is instead about rectifying the systemic structures that have denied Māori having real input into resource management issues that they have always been entitled to under the Treaty.
The current democratic process has failed to deliver Māori representation. Whatever the arguments, we are still left with the fact that Māori are not recognised as sovereign stakeholders. This sovereignty was guaranteed under the Whakaputanga Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Waitangi and endorsed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is the basis upon which Tangata Whenua agreed to welcome other peoples to our lands.
Whatever the model, it is Māori upholding their rights and responsibilities as hosts of this land which has to be the outcome. Māori representation is not an outcome in itself.
Māori cultural values and worldviews offer this country a rich source for planning and development. At the heart of these values are notions of kaitiaki and manaaki – to look after, care for, and treat with respect. Those are the endeavours of tino rangatiratanga/sovereignty and sustainable economic development.
Those opponents of Māori representation need to come to an understanding that at the heart of the Treaty – is not what you think it is.
(Te Rarawa/Ngāpuhi/Ngāti Porou)
Tonight the final of the seven Māori electorate debates screened on Māori Television. It was filmed live at Māori Television and one of our wahine from Te Wharepora Hou, Marama Davidson, was given the opportunity to ask a question from the floor. I must congratulate Māori Television for taking the debates to the electorates, it was a creative and thoughtful process that enabled our people to see candidates in action in their areas. Having whānau reflect on their views of not only candidates but on participation within the electoral system raised a range of views of access, participation and the relevance of the so-called ‘democratic system’ to many of our whānau who are struggling on a daily way to put food on the table, to ensure a home, to earn a living, to survive on benefits, to have the realities of youth reflected in party policies and actions. The questions from each electorate were grounded in what the people of each area saw as priorities, and they were asked from the voices of those of the regions. Questions from the floor were to the point and covered issues of child abuse, directions for Māori health, Māori educational access and options, the position of Māori women in leadership, and the impact of poverty on children and whānau. The line up of whānau, Sid and Karlos Diamond and fellow musician Pieter T, from South Auckland brought the relevance of the political system to the fore, with the emphasis on the need for parties to basically ‘mahia te mahi’, to do as they say they will do, ‘to practice what they preach’ and to promote their messages in ways that reach into our communities and speak directly to our whānau that are currently not engaged with the system. And in line with those thoughts, it really was no surprise that Sid opened the debate with a clear, direct question as to what the parties were going to do about child abuse within our communities. And so the scene was set for a debate that was to focus primarily on issues of whānau ora, the impact of poverty, Māori health, the ability to provide educational choices and options for whānau and tamariki, and the fundamental rights of Māori women to participate in decision making. All issues of social justice, all issues of collective rights, all issues of wellbeing for whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. Some would ask ‘who was the winner’, in fact there is an ongoing obsession with naming ‘a’ winner after political debates, and interestingly it is generally the exact media outlets that broadcast the debates that then define who the winner is. The Decision 11 Leaders Debate on TV3 was a prime example, with conservative, and racist, broadcaster Paul Henry declaring the Prime Minister John Key the winner of that debate, after declaring himself an objective commentator. Now that’s Tui Ad material! So I am not interested in the idea that after every Māori electorate debate that a winner has to be declared, what is more important and significant is that we now have a Māori broadcaster that will get out amongst our people and take the political process to the regions and engage with whānau and bring to the fore both the best and the worst of Māori politicians views. If we are to increase our collective political participation as a people then we need more active ‘taking it to the streets’ and not just during election year, but in the next three years there needs to be ways in which those who are elected are held accountable and where Māori politicians work across parties to ensure the overall wellbeing of our people. Perhaps, one of the most poignant statements tonight came from political commentator, Sandra Lee, who brought her many years of experience within parliament and left wing political parties to play when she stated quite emphatically that there is a ‘natural’ coalition that could be forged on the left with Labour, Greens, Māori Party and Mana, and that the debate tonight highlighted that. In fact, if we put personalities aside then that is clearly a view that can be taken not only from the seven Māori Television debates, but also from the TVNZ Minor Party Leaders debate. What the TVNZ debate showed was that within the six minor parties (Māori Party, Mana Party, Greens, Act, United and New Zealand First) all but two are led by Māori! That is a powerful sight to see, and I mean that in a very visual sense, as to see a line up of the five Maori leaders (Greens and Māori Party have co-leaders) of those parties is to see a very powerful line up of seasoned and articulate and passionate Māori political leaders. On that level alone we can as a people be incredibly inspired. So the question is then, how do we get the best of all of our people in ‘the house’. It seems highly likely that we will see at least four of these party leader, Tariana, Pita, Metiria and Hone return to parliament. Winston Peters is making his ‘Phoenix Rising From the Ashes’ return to the political scene, that is if we have any faith in political polls, or what are now referred to as (flawed) ‘landline’ polls. As is the case in election year, there are predictions galore however even just a few months ago there was little indication through the polling that there would be such a gradual move to the left. But then some would say ‘no one could predict the Rena oil spill’ – well no one except for iwi, environmentalists, greenpeace, anti-drilling movements, anti-mining activists and many others… and then few would have expected that the many manipulations, which some would call ‘lies’ from the Prime Minister on all kinds of things, including his privileged position in the 1% and his personal financial gains and his statements from meetings (which he never actually attended) about the downgrading of the countries economic status, would provide great material for a range of you tube downloads and facebook creations. And so here we are, 5 days out from a general election and things are not looking as definitively National as some predicted just a few weeks ago. So what does that mean for Māori. It means there is a potential and need for deeper strategic thinking in terms of where we put our ‘two ticks’. It means looking across all of the seven Māori electorates and the party votes associated with the Māori rolls and the potential for party votes from the General rolls that may go the way of Māori parties. In the 2008 election our people voted for their preferred candidate but gave the bulk of their party vote to Labour, even when their preferred candidate was from the Māori Party. Labour received on average around 45-57% of the party vote. What that shows is that our people clearly hedge our bets when it comes to the Māori seats and that on the whole the votes are split. It also means that we are still not getting the full value of the two votes that we have available to us. In some ways this is a reflection on the limited information being provided in terms of the party vote and its actual impact. So lets look at two examples of how the party vote could make an impact. If Hone Harawira wins the Tai Tokerau seat, which is highly likely in my view, then around a 1.5% party vote could see Annette Sykes in parliament irrespective of whether she wins Waiariki. If the Māori Party return four members into parliament then around a 3.6% party vote could see the inclusion of Kaapua Smith. So a conscious party voting process would see at least two more Māori women in parliament, and that has to be good for us all! Similarly, if we look at the Labour Party list we will see that there are a range of Māori politicians on the list who, even on current polling numbers, would be returned to Parliament. So there appear to be some strategic options for our people, they are just not clearly voiced. What we need are some political strategists to give us a clear overview of those numbers and the possibilities for our people and we need that before next Saturday!! For me, Sandra Lee’s comment that there is a potential left-wing coalition right here, right now is critical and we need to see that as a real possibility and use it to inspire and motivate our people to the polls. And it will all be finally dependent on where we chose to put our votes, and whether we are willing to move away from the idea that we vote for a party because it’s the party we have always voted for… or if we vote in ways that will mean we have MMP not only retained but increased to reflect its true meaning for us as a people … More Māori in Parliament. Nga mihi!!
Dr Leonie Pihama