Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen : A Commentary

“The way I see it, if you’re a Māori woman and that’s all you are, that alone will put you on a collision course with, that society and its expectations. And if you flatly refuse to give up your Māori value system for an easier way of life, and you live in a society which is supposed to be bicultural and multiracial but isn’t – that’s a lie – then you’ll be in constant conflict with how that society is run and how it sees itself. That’s been my experience.” (Merata Mita in Head and Shoulders).

There is something particularly powerful about the voices of the whānau as they share the story of the life and works of their mother, Merata Mita. It is a narrative form that has sat at the centre of her work and her inspirational approach to her storytelling, both documentary and drama. In ‘Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen’ Director, Heperi Mita (Merata’s youngest son) takes us through a whānau journey that brings to the fore the many experiences that both shaped and motivated his mothers life and work. When whānau share their stories of those they love it is layered, like a well recited cultural genealogical template that is our whakapapa.

Whakapapa is both identity and stories. It is a cultural framework through which we come to recall who we are, where we are from, the collectives to which we are connected and to whom we are responsible. It is a series of layers that go as long, as deep, as high, as wide as we determine as Māori. This story, in my view, is inherently one of whakapapa kōrero, of storytelling that is deeply embedded within and emboldened by the influences of our connections and relational way of understanding our place and our role in the world.

In the opening sequence Hepi speaks to his role as an archivist and the place Merata’s films play in the creation of spaces to enable the telling of this country’s stories. Stories, that even today, many seek to deny and to silence. For years Merata Mita struggled in a space where Māori voices were denied, Māori stories were deemed insignificant and where Māori women’s place was contested, sometimes even by our own men, where colonial notions of gender worked to marginalise the fundamental essence of Mana Wahine. Merata worked relentlessly and unapologetically in those spaces with a hope that “once the work shows you are capable then prejudices of race and sex may fall away” (Merata Mita).

Across her works, Merata actively engaged issues of colonisation, racism, sexism and classism, and represented examples of the intersection of those issues before many even considered the ways in which such multiple intersecting oppressions impacted upon our people. Her commentary within interviews about her work highlight a desire and intention to bring forward all of those issues when it was far from acceptable to do so, including issues that were deeply personal. As is so clearly articulated by all voices in the film, her work has also been critical in the remembering of the courage and strength of Māori and Indigenous nations that live in a context of colonial occupation. As her reflections on the documentary ‘Bastion Point Day 507’ highlights,
“What courage, what strength what commitment what dedication to stand and say, in the face of our army and our police and the rest of the country howling for their blood. What extraordinary people. From that day forward I have been fearless because its as if you’ve become part of something greater its like a rebirth its kind of like when you fear nothing, when you lose your fear about anything it makes you that much more powerful you get so much more strength” (Merata Mita)

The work of Merata Mita has been a powerful critical influence for many Indigenous Peoples. It has also been influential in the ways that Māori and Indigenous films and storytelling has evolved over the past 40 years. This documentary tells us of the life of a mother, a film maker, an activist, a mentor, a storyteller, a change agent. It tells us of Mana Wahine, of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination), and of work driven by an aspirational vision for a future where all of our tamariki and mokopuna can live fully as Māori on our own lands. It also reveals to the world the struggles that she as a Māori women filmmaker and her tamariki endured in order to be a part of the transformative change that is needed in Aotearoa. As Merata voiced, “When you come up against that kind of racism, you know… so raw its probably one of the ugliest things you have to experience in your lifetime. But the fact of the matter is that when you have children you have an investment in the future and so you come out fighting again”.

That is a message that is all too common in the experiences of many Māori activists and their whānau across a range of struggles and movements in this country. Being at the cutting edge of challenging the status quo, in order to seek change for future generations, often comes at a high cost. And most often that cost is borne by whānau. As we weave through the stories shared by Hepi, Rafer, Richard, Rhys, Awatea, Eruera (to whom the film is dedicated), we hear of painful experiences that the whānau have carried, such as police violence during the production of films such as ‘Patu’, we also hear of the involvement of whānau throughout each of her films and reflections that highlight a deep sense of aroha and respect for the work that Merata brought to the world. We are also reminded of the centrality of whānau to the work. Both as support and as inspiration. The reflections shared are testament to the powerful contribution that whānau make to the act of sharing forward the stories that are of those Māori women, Māori people that put themselves at the forefront of the struggles of our people. This is something Merata did many times with films such as Patu, Bastion Point Day 507, Te Hikoi Ki Waitangi, Mauri and others. We hear also of the life influences that are integral to her work including the bringing forward of her cultural and spiritual understandings within films such as Mauri (1988) where the audience experiences a broad range of cultural, political, emotional and spiritual responses, aligning to her view that “wairua is an active force in filmmaking” (Merata Mita).

What ‘Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen’ presents us with is not only the story of the first Māori woman to write and direct a feature film (Mauri 1988), which in and of itself shows us that powerhouse of a Māori woman she was, it is a story of the perseverance of a Māori woman to bring our stories, our images, our histories, our struggles, our people, ourselves to the screen in order to challenge the world to become a better place for our tamariki and mokopuna.
“Our land get taken the fisheries and forests get taken and in the same category is our stories. What we see on the screen is only the dominant white monocultural perspective on life, we need to see our own,we need to see our own people up there, we need to be able to identify with our own race, we need to see each other up there and we need to go out and do it.” (Merata Mita)

This is a documentary that opens the door for many who have not seen the extensive collection that is the work of Merata Mita, and encourages us all to seek out her works as a way of understanding many of the issues that we currently face here in Aotearoa. These are works that context racism, sexism, classism as inherent to the ongoing systems of colonisation. As the current debate over the inclusion of Māori history within education continues to rage, we are reminded that in order to move forward in Aotearoa we must come to terms with our past. The influence of Merata’s work in the context of decolonisation is internationally renowned and validated as evidenced through her close relationships with Indigenous filmmakers such as Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki), Hawaiian Sovereignty leader and scholar Haunani Kay Trask and Sundance Indigenous Progamme leaders Heather Rae (Cherokee) and Bird Runningwater (Cheyanne/Mescalaro Apache), amongst many others.

Decolonising and Indigenising the screen has never been solely about image, or the narrative. It is about the essence of what it means to be Māori, what it means to be Indigenous. It is fundamental to challenging dominant colonial imagery and representations. It is about telling those stories, framing those images and shaping our understandings in ways that align to our cultural, spiritual, emotional and intellectual ways of being as Māori and Indigenous Nations. It is about our right to be self-determining in all spaces, including film. What is clear from is that for our stories as Māori and Indigenous Peoples to be heard we must tell them ourselves. We must see ourselves and we must create those images through our own lens. That has always sat at the centre of the decolonising intent of Merata’s work. An intent that has been honoured in this documentary by those that most count. Her children.

Merata: How Mum Decolonised The Screen opens in Cinema’s nationwide in Aotearoa (New Zealand) on ‘Mothers Day’, May 10th 2019

Production company: Arama Pictures
Director: Heperi Mita
Producer: Chelsea Winstanley
Executive producer: Cliff Curtis
Director of photography: Mike Jonathon
Editor: Te Rurehe Paki
Featuring: Merata Mita, Rafer Rautjoki, Richard Rautjoki, Rhys Rautjoki, Awatea Mita, Eruera “Bob” Mita, Hepi Mita, Alanis Obomsawin, Jesse Wente, C.M. Kaliko Baker, Tammi Haili’opua Baker, Heather Rae, Bird Runningwater, Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, Sterlin Harjo, Pauline Clague, Blackhorse Lowe, Taika Waititi
In English, Maori
95 minutes


An open letter to Aotearoa from Takatāpui and LGBTIQ whānau

Dear Aotearoa,

We write this letter to voice our profound concern at the hatred and abusive bullying that continues to be targeted at Takatāpui and LGBTIQ people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over the past few months we have seen continued homophobic and transphobic attacks upon our communities. We should not have to, and will not, tolerate such abuse.

We ask those that live on these lands to stand with us against all oppression that is targeted at people who do not conform to outdated views of sexuality and gender identity. We ask that you do not tolerate hatred in any form and to speak up when you see and hear it.

We ask you to remember we are your mokopuna, grandchildren, tupuna, grandparents, whaea, papa, mothers, fathers, tuakana, teina, tuahine, tungane, sisters, brothers, cousins, whanaunga, friends, colleagues, neighbours.

We wish to speak now to Takatāpui and LGBTIQ people who, like us, live with the homophobic and transphobic comments that are made by people who want to do us harm. In signing this letter we are voicing our aroha for you all, for us all.

We stand visibly so that you all know that we are here. So that those rangatahi and young people who are looking to see people who will stand up for Takatāpui and LGBTIQ rights know that we are here.

We stand visibly so that those who may be struggling with issues of acceptance know that we are here. That we are Takatāpui and LGBTIQ. That you are not alone. That being Takatāpui and LGBTIQ is something that is beautiful, strong, political, cultural, social, fun, loving, caring, intelligent, sacred, honoured, and powerful.

We stand visibly so that you see that we are from all over the country, that we are from all cultures and ethnic groups, that we do all kinds of work and that we are everywhere.

We are visible so you see us and so that you know we are here and we will speak back to all that continue to perpetrate pain and trauma on Takatāpui and LGBTIQ people because of who we are and who we choose to live our lives with as lovers and partners.

Being visible at a time when there is an increase in homophobia and transphobia is an important stand to take by those that can take such a stand.

One of the key aims of such abusive bullying is to silence those who are victimised by the impact of the hatred. But we will not be silenced. Nor will we let such views go unanswered.

If we are to make this country safe for Takatāpui and LGBTIQ people and their whānau then we must say no to homophobia and transphobia, and we must do it now.

Ngā manaakitanga,

1. Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Māhanga, Ngā Māhanga a Tairi, Director, Te Kotahi Research Institute
2. Dr Alison Green, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Ranginui, CEO Te Whaariki Takapou
3. Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, Whānau a Kai, Ngāti Oneone, Te Aitanga a Mahaki. Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Founder/Chair, Tiwhanawhana Trust
4. Usufonoimanū Pesetā Betty Siō
5. Annette Sykes, Ngati Pikiao Ngati Makino, Te Arawa, Activist Lawyer
6. Julia Whaipooti, Ngāti Porou, Senior Advisor, Office of the Children’s Commissioner
7. Dr Tawhanga Nopera, Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa
8. Sharon Hawke, Ngāti Whatua
9. Maree Sheehan, Ngāti Maniapoto-Waikato, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Musician/Composer
10. Associate Professor Mera Penehira, Ngāti Raukawa, Rangitāne, Ngai Te Rangi, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi
11. Phylesha Brown-Acton, Director, F’INE Pasifika Aotearoa
12. Te Ringahuia Hata, He uri nā Te Whakatōhea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui
13. Renae Maihi, Filmmaker
14. Gina Cole, Writer
15. Laura O’Connell Rapira, Te Ātiawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whakaue, Te Rarawa, Director of ActionStation
16. Joel Walsham, Artist
17. Frankie Hill – Musician and small business owner
18. Kristin Smith, Co-director Kūwaha Ltd
19. Lexie Matheson ONZM, Academic Equity Leader, AUT University
20. Sarah Jane Parton, postgraduate student, Victoria University. Tongareva (Cook Islands), Tahiti
21. Scout Barbour-Evans, parent, student and youth worker, Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa and Ngāti Porou
22. Geraint Scott, Train Driver
23. Sally Dellow, Senior Scientist Engineering Geology
24. Manisha Morar, student, Tauiwi
25. Emilie Rākete, Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa. Postgraduate student and community organiser
26. Kendra Cox. Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Ngai Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou. Community organiser and social work student
27. Sandy Hildebrandt, BA, BSc, PGDipSci – Environmental Management
28. Kate McIntyre, community organiser
29. Merran Lawler, Kaiarahi, Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga/National Network of Stopping Violence Services
30. Chaz Harris and Adam Reynolds, co-founders of Promised Land Tales
31. Aatir Zaidi, Chairperson EquAsian
32. Kassie Hartendorp, Ngāti Raukawa, ActionStation and Tīwhanawhana Trust
33. Whetū Bennett, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Hāu, Tainui
34. Fetū-o-le-moana Teuila Tamapeau, Makefu (Niuē) , Fagaloa (Sāmoa), Content Publisher Auckland Council and Freelance Digital Moana Navigator
35. Henry Laws, community organiser
36. Tabby Besley, Managing Director InsideOUT
37. Toni Duder, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu and RainbowYOUTH
38. Morgan Butler, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tainui and Te Rarawa
39. Anne Waapu, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Ātihaunui a Pāpārangi
40. Nishhza Thiruselvam, Eelam Tamil, postgraduate student, community organiser, Tauiwi
41. Hans Landon-Lane, Performer & Communications Advisor
42. Jack Byrne, human rights researcher, TransAction
43. Will Hansen, history postgraduate student and Lesbian and Gay Archives of NZ trustee
44. Bell Murphy, Feminist Self Defence Teacher and PhD Candidate in Gender Studies
45. Kay Jones, Independent Contractor, Facilitator Wellington Bisexual Women’s Group
46. Angelo Libeau, Crisis Support Worker & Development Coordinator – Rape Crisis Dunedin
47. Max Tweedie, New Zealand AIDS Foundation
48. Tommy Hamilton – re.frame project collaborator
49. Stace Robertson, All of Us Project + re.frame
50. Anya Satyanand, The Prince’s Trust New Zealand
51. Nicole Skews-Poole, activist and campaigner
52. Robyn Vella Facilitator Auckland
53. Sam Sutherland, Computer Analyst
54. Philip Wills (Kāi Tahu), Student
55. Bronte Perry, Technician
56. Val Smith, Educator and Artist
57. Christian Rika, Digital media specialist, Ngāpuhi me Ngāti Porou
58. Associate Professor Dr. Taima Moeke-Pickering, Ngati Pukeko/Ngai Tuhoe, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
59. Murphy, Journalist
60. Dr Clive Aspin, Ngāti Maru, Suicide Mortality Review Committee
61. Matai Smith, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Taamanuhiri, Ngāti Kahungunu, Broadcaster
62. Steve Lovett, Elam School of Fine Arts
63. Elizabeth Wiltshire, Cross-Agency Rainbow Network
64.Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho, Lecturer/Researcher, University of Otago, Wellington School of Medicine, ​ Ngāti Kahungunu; Rongomaiwāhine, Rongowhakaata; Ngāi Tāhu; Ngāti Manawa; Ngāi Tūhoe; Ngāti Pahauwera; Ngāti Irakehu, Ngāi Tarewa, Samoan, Tahitian
65. Ricardo Menéndez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator
66.Dr Huhana Hickey MNZM MInstD, Crown director, consultant and advocate, Tainui (Ngati Tahinga),Whakatohea
67. Matt Jackson, HR Manager
68. Te Miha Ua, Ngāti Te Kanawa, Ngāti Uenukukopako, Ngāti Rangiteaorere, Ngāti Rakaiwhakairi, Wairarapa Moana Hapū, Te Runanga o Awarua, Ph.D Candidate and Public Servant
69. Peter R F Thomas, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi
70. Eriata D Peri, Te Mahirehure
71. Laura
Dr Donna Campbell. Ngāpuhi and Ngati Ruanui, Senior Lecturer, University of Waikato
72. Dr. A.W. Peet, NZ citizen, Professor of Physics, University of Toronto
73.Riki Anderson Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tamatea, Ngāti Marau, Lead Te Atakura Coach, Te Pae Mātauranga ki te Ao
74. Wetini Paul, Community Based Researcher, Te Whāriki Takapou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Tūhoe
75. Dr Lynne Russell, Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Senior Research Fellow, Victoria University of Wellington
76. Samantha Higgs, Early Intervention Teacher, B.Ed, Dip. Tchg. ECE, Grad Dip. Ed Psych, Grad Dip. Early Intervention, Pākehā/Tauiwi
77. Creek Waddington, Ngāti Pākehā /Tauiwi (Irish, mostly), radio presenter with Quilted Bananas collective
78. Suzi Paige MBA, Operations Manager and Entrepreneur
79. Zoë Elizabeth Hayes, Ngāti Uoneone, Ngāti Tautahi, Ngāpuhi, Funding and Resource Coordinator at Rape Crisis Dunedin
80. Associate Professor Terryann Clark, Ngāpuhi, University of Auckland
81. Lex Davis, Te Rarawa, Trustee Kauhkura Charitable Trust
82. Dr Nathaniel Thomas Swire, Medical Practitioner

We thank all who have added their names to this letter since publication. We have closed that option now given the time that it takes to continue to update however please make yourselves and your support visible in ways that work for you and share the letter with those in your whānau, communities, networks.
Ngā manaakitanga.

Wild West festival denigrates Indigenous Peoples

Press Release: Te Wharepora Hou, Māori Women’s Network

Contacts for comment:
Tina Ngata
Mera Penehira
Tia Taurere

The promotion of a Wild West Festival in Waimamaku has raised the ire of many in terms of cultural appropriation and racist portrayals of Native American people and culture.

Tina Ngata who has been a consistent voice in regards to issues of cultural mis-appropriation notes that “The American West was not “Wild” to anyone but the colonial invaders – who then attempted to settle it by means of genocide, including bounties for Native American scalps, mass displacement, forced marches, massacres, the theft of Native American children, and purposeful infection. This is not a period to be festive about at all, and there is literally no way to hold a “Wild West Festival” without being racist and colonial. From the concept to the costumes, this is a thoroughly offensive, redneck event. “

Promoting the festival over the week, organisers posted images of people in costumes including images enacting shooting Native Americans. pretend Tipi, people in ‘black face’ degrading African Americans and images of people wearing headdresses, alongside a statement calling for people to “visit our reservation”.

For many generations Native American people have been dealing with the impact of the invasion of their lands of which the idea of the ‘Wild West’ is a part. They have been challenging these forms of racist representation which denies the genocide of Native American Peoples and the ongoing denigration of Native American women.

Associate Professor Leonie Pihama of Te Kotahi Research Institute considers this as another example of the racism that exists within this country and is expressed daily, she states “this is another example of how insidious and deeply embedded racism is in this country.” Furthermore she notes “the event organisers are promoting and reproducting the demeaning of Native American Peoples and in representing sacred cultural garments as costumes and belittling the ways that Native American People live. Saying “visit our reservation” is a disgusting indication that these people have no idea that Native American nations were forcibly removed from their lands and placed onto reservations and today the denial of Treaty rights for many nations continues to impact.”

Associate Professor Mera Penehira who teaches Indigenous Studies at Te Wānanga o Awanuiārangi who also responded directly to the organisation on social media commented today; “this represents an appalling lack of judgement and results in the furthering deeply entrenched racism that has no place in Aotearoa. We need to actively resist and speak out against this! It is not ok!”.

Tia Taurere from Te Taitokerau who lives in Vancouver working with Native communities made the following statement to festival organisers:
Waimamaku Wild West Festival. As a mother of three Native/Maori children, married to a native man and living on Indian land (No te Hokianga!) it is disturbing to see this event disrespecting our Native American/Canadian Turtle Island brothers and sisters. The false portrayal of ‘Injuns’ from Hollywood and Halloween prospering off this sacred culture as a ‘costume’ continues to oppress the indigenous peoples. Indian reservations are not sideshows to come and have fun but often places of poverty and trauma as survivors of genocide. Please do your homework and understand how deeply disrespectful this is to native people!

In an open letter to the festival organisers Tina Ngata made the following comments:

Hey Waimamaku Wild West Festival

I see you have a super colonial shin-dig planned and you’re censoring the comments on your own page. That’s ok we will just share the heck outta your page.

So first of all – the period of time you are commemorating here for your festival is one of genocide. The West coast of Great Turtle Island was not “wild” to the nations who already lived there. It was already occupied and well known. And there were no reservations.

It is called “wild” because the invasions began in the east and the racist, bigoted invaders considered Indigenous people as little more than animals with no rights, which meant the land was, in their eyes unoccupied, awaiting “discovery” and settlement and therefore “WILD”.

The period of time you are referring to as the “Wild West” was one of rampant invasion, land theft, rape, and massacre.

It is the period of the “Trail of Tears” where tens of thousands of Choctaw Cherokee and Seminole after having their lands stolen under the Indian Removal Act, were force-marched by militia to lands thousands of kms away. Thousands and thousands died JUST IN THIS INSTANCE and there were plenty of these instances all over Great Turtle Island.

THAT’S how reservations started. By true landowners being pushed off their territories and forced to live in small plots of land so that settlers could farm their land.

“Come see our Indian reservation”. Good lord.

Other ways settlers “conquered the Wild West” was “Indian scalp bounties” – yep the national and state colonial governments paid the white settlers you are celebrating for the skinned top of a Native American head.

Oh and of course the time honored colonial practices of purposeful infection, and rampant child theft. Even IF you survived the massacres and forced marches thousands of miles from your home, you were often subjected to horrid, infectious conditions, and men would show up to literally take your children from you to places where unspeakable horrors were done to them in under the pretence of making them “less wild”.

That is the “Wild West” you are having your “fest” about. That is the “Indian Reservation” you are promoting here. Honestly by the looks of some of you I don’t think you will care even when you do learn more. I mean… BLACKFACE? Really?

So anyway – go learn some fucking history and quit perpetuating racist stereotypes, Waimamaku. You’re coming across as a bunch of uneducated rednecks. Stop with the warbonnets. Have you even read anything since 1960?

And whānau Māori participating in this… wake TF up you should damn well know better it’s for you to pull this colonial BS up. Shame on you. Gross.

More on this kaupapa by Tina Ngata can be found at :

A day in Twitter-Verse

I have been recovering from a puku illness that worked its way through our whare, beginning with Rangipua, my mokopuna. She shared it freely and without a care in the world as mokopuna do when they are deeply loved. So we sat today and she watched ‘Pipi Mā’ and ‘Dora Te Matatoa’ and I read and dropped occassionally into twitter-verse. The first tweet to catch my attention was from Sandy Grande. It was a powerful Op.Ed providing critical discussion about the looming Thanksgiving Day on Turtle Island titled ‘Don’t Forget Indigenous Struggles On Thanksgiving.

It is somewhat ironic that the next story was of the missionary who deeply embedded in colonising practices was killed trying to forcibly enter Indigenous lands. On TV3 Newshub told us;
“An American missionary has died after trying to preach to a tribe known for its hostility to outsiders”. Interesting terminology “hostility to outsiders” when in fact the Sentinelese are protecting their territory and their people from outside invasion. TVNZ went a step further with their introduction “An American man has been killed by a stone-age tribe” – Seriously “a stone-age tribe” – what kind of imperialist reductionist view does that journalist have to write something that reads like it comes straight from a James Cook journal- yes another invader 250 years ago – who sadly our people did not kill on invasion. Did anyone even consider that he was killed by a nation asserting their sovereign rights as he attempted to invade their lands? No, it is more dramatic to use colonial denigrating phrases than to describe people in ways that are self-determining. Radio NZ gave some hope, introducing their piece “An American self-styled adventurer and Christian missionary has been killed by a tribe on a remote island where he had gone to proselytise, local law enforcement officials say.”

The article further describes the island as home to “what is considered the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world”. Yes that is bordering on “stone-age” but quickly recovered with the statement that “Mr Chau was killed by members of the Sentinelese community using bows and arrows, according to multiple media accounts.” Yes this is a community of people who are self-determining and sovereign on their own lands and who chose to be so and where the countries nearby respect that decision. I was thankful to Tina Ngata who on her ‘The Non-Plastic Māori’ twitter wrote
“Sentinelese: Making Indigenous territory great again.”

The next thread in Twitter-verse highlighted the many partial or flawed media reports, and responses, to the Auckland Pride Festival Boards decision to not include Police in uniform in the parade. Well, to be entirely honest I was pretty disgusted when they agreed to that a few years ago given the ongoing embedded homophobia, transphobia and racism within both the Police and Corrections. And I have never attended a Pride Parade since.

The issues surrounding the inclusion or otherwise of the Police and Institutions of Incarceration such as Corrections are not new. In 2016 No Pride in Prisons (now People Against Prisons Aotearoa) made a clear statement protesting the inclusion of Corrections staff in uniform when there is clear violence perpetuated against transgender people in prisons.

We should be thankful that there was a group of young activists willing and courageous to stand up to their own community, the Takatāpui and LGBTIQ community, and challenge that decision. They did so at their own personal risk and continue to be a significant voice for the wellbeing of all within Māori, Takatāpui and LGBTIQ communities. As we saw in 2016 the issues raised by No Pride in Prisons led to Corrections being called to task in regards to their failure to deliver.

The systemic racism in the Justice system began with the building of Prisons on stolen whānau, hapū and iwi lands, to incarcerate our people. Māori experience a long line of colonial imposed racist laws in this country, and continued systemic racism across sectors. What continues to concern me is the dramatizing of the issue by the media in ways that construct the Police as an Institution as the victims of exclusion. The Police are not victims. Our people are the victims of racist systemic oppression. The Police are not victims. Our people are the victims of homophobic, transphobic oppression.

For clarity of the Auckland Pride Board position I include here their recent press release
“The Auckland Pride Board remains committed to creating a space for our rainbow communities to feel safe celebrating their gender and sexual identity, despite some institutions pulling out from the Parade in recent days.
“The 2019 Auckland Pride Parade was always intended to be a place to cultivate our roots in activism and protest. We have always welcomed business groups and institutions who wish to participate in a way that works for the safety of all members of our Rainbow community”, says Cissy Rock, Auckland Pride Board Chair.
“The Auckland Pride Board remains committed to delivering an event that places the visibility and safety of our Rainbow community at the forefront, while ensuring every organisation that wishes to participate works proactively with the Board to meet those standards.
“Unfortunately, institutions such as the Police were not able to compromise with the Pride Board despite months of consultation with the community that highlighted more work needed to be done in order for participants to feel safe with the Police’s presence in the parade.
“The Pride Parade is so much more than its corporate sponsors or Government institutions. It is about our Rainbow community coming together to both celebrate and fight for a future where everyone is free from systemic discrimination.
“We remain open to finding common ground with institutions that are working towards ensuring they are truly Rainbow inclusive, but have yet to get to that point. True allyship by institutions to our community is listening to its affected members and compromising where possible. If members from our community are highlighting concerns around discrimination by those institutions, we expect them to work to address them, and that may include making compromises regarding their participation at the Pride Parade.
“We will resume our work towards creating a Pride Parade and Festival as soon as we come to an agreement with our members about the way to move forward at the upcoming special general meeting.”

I ended today with some sadness, in Twitter-verse, reading this poem by Laura O’connell Rapira, and I share it here with her permission.

Who do you call
When the people paid to keep your brown body safe
Make you feel erased
Because they love their uniform
More than they love you
What do you do
When you’re afraid
And the newspapers say
You’re a muppet
A lunatic
This is what inclusion looks like, idiot
Go back to your fringe
What do you do
When your brown skin gets you arrested
And put in prison more often
By people in blue uniforms
But blue uniforms are considered
More important
Than brown bodies
Your phone company thinks so too
So does your bank
So do the people on Facebook and Twitter
Look, there’s a rainbow car coming It says ‘Safer Communities Together’
Maybe they can help us?
Oh, they drove past
I guess there’s no room for bruised brown bodies
In the rainbow

To those corporate sponsors that have chosen to remove their support based on a misguided notion of what constitutes inclusion, diversity and exclusion. Lets be clear, it is not for corporate entities or their representatives to define for us what inclusion means, nor is it for the Police to cry victim or foul when they have failed to make substantial systemic changes to protect our people from racism, homophobia and transphobia. To assume such a position merely reinforces the position taken by the Auckland Pride Board, that such Institutions continue to only make superficial changes that serve their interests. The Police are not victims. The Police are not being excluded. They are being asked to up their performance in regards to the Takatāpui and LGBTIQ community. And they have failed to do so. Painting a rainbow on a car does not make that a different kind of Police diversity car, it is still a car that Takatāpui and LGBTIQ are placed into for arrest. Just like painting koru and the word “Pirihimana” on a Police car does not make it a ‘Māori-friendly’ car, it remains a Police Car. As I hashtagged tonight on my final tweet this day in Twitter-verse #OnceAPoliceCarAlwaysAPoliceCar.

I remember Pride when it was in its earlier form from 1992 as the Hero Parade. It was about community. We went on those early parades to take a place for ‘Wahine mō ngā wahine o Te Moana nui a Kiwa’ and for ‘Lesbian Mothers’. We marched with twin sons in a pram and then with all three of my eldest tamariki. I remember my tamariki as they grew up standing on step-ladders in Ponsonby Road so they could see friends and whānau on the parade. And then reading letters in the newspaper the day after about “those people” that take children to a parade of “obscenities” and thinking “oh that’s us, those are our children.” Where it is great to have financial support it should never be tied to giving away the fundamental reason for why the Pride Parade exists, to celebrate ourselves as Takatāpui, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender, Queer and our whānau, friends and colleagues that support us fully.

Te Toka Tūmoana: Supporting the Navigation of Indigenous Wellbeing in Colonised Waters

Presentation to IUSTI Asia Pacific Sexual Health Congress 2018, Tāmaki Mākaurau

The term Te Toka Tūmoana is one that is used widely by Māori in reference to Māori leadership. It is referred to in hapū and iwi mōteatea, traditional chants, pūrākau, our cultural forms of storytelling and storywork, whakataukī, our proverbial sayings. In the report Ngā Toka Tū Moana the authors write:
“The metaphor of “he toka tū moana” has come from the heritage of the people. It is not a new metaphor, but it is an old one to bring forward and apply to the leaders of the future. The strong leaders of iwi were described this way. Ko rātou ngā toka tū moana. Ka ākina rātou e ngā ngaru o te moana. Ka ākina e te tai, ka ākina e ngā hau. Engari ahakoa pēhea ka tū tonu, ka tū tonu. They are the rocks standing in the sea. They are bashed by the waves of the ocean. They are dashed by the tide. They are struck by the winds. But no matter what hits them, they stand and they stand. (p.56)”

In the health sector, including the Sexual and reproductive health sector the role of Māori leadership is essential but is more often than not it is ignored, marginalized, not consulted or consulted rather than engaged in meaningful ways, underfunded and under-resourced, or is denied, rejected.

This may not be the story that many people wish to hear, but it is a story that must continue to be voiced. This is an position that has been embedded across many sectors and is has been a part of approaches taken by successive governments.

We know that the evidence is clear that health disparities experiences by Māori in the health sector and across all domains of life continue to impact significantly on the lives of whānau, hapū, iwi both individually and collectively. There are many statistics in the sector that indicate this is the case. This is also the case for many Indigenous and People of Colour globally, including our relations from Te Moana nui a kiwa, the great ocean of Kiwa, the Pacific ocean.

For generations the stories of how we have come to this context have been made invisible, and continue to be invisibilised in our education system across the country. Not knowing our histories means, as a colleague Rihi Te Nana has stressed to us continually in our work “that we do not know our own backstory”. To every individual and collective story, there are many back stories. Few people, I would assert, know the stories of the Indigenous nations upon which they live, walk and work every day, and just as few will know the history of People of Colour, of takatāpui, two-spirit, queer or lgbtiq communities. That is certainly the case here in Aotearoa.

And even those that may know something or consider themselves ‘experts’ about gender identity, sexual identity or sexual and reproductive health, or the histories of oppressions and struggles for takatāpui, two-spirit or LGBTIQ in a mainstream heteronormative context often fail to incorporate an analysis of the intersection of colonization, of Indigenous dispossession, or of capitalist imposed class systems. These tend to be untold stories. This is also the experience of many Indigenous Peoples in this room.

Why… you may ask is this important?

I want to tell you a very small part of our story. I am from Taranaki. From Waitara. The place of the first colonial invasion wars. Some of you will know the history of Taranaki, but many of you will not. It is a history that is rarely spoken of outside of Māori contexts and is not required to be taught in our conventional western schooling system. Both the invasion of Parihaka and the attacks on hapū and iwi in Waitara were deliberate act of colonial aggression and oppression of our people. The following excerpts from the Waitangi Tribunal reports gives us a glimpse into the violence of that time.
On 5 November 1881, the militia and volunteers arrived at the gates of the undefended settlement. Although a colonel was nominally in command, the force was led by the Native Minister, mounted on a white charger. The troops were equipped with artillery and had been ordered to shoot at the slightest hint of resistance. Mounted on a nearby hill and trained on the village was a six-pounder Armstrong gun. (p.236)

When the cavalry approached, there were only two lines of defence; the first, a chorus of 200 boys, the second, a chanting of girls. On Te Whiti’s clear orders, there was no recourse to arms, despite the rape of women, theft of heirlooms and household property, burning of homes and crops, taking of stock, and forced transportations that ensued. There was no resistance again when Tohu and Te Whiti were imprisoned and charged with sedition. (p.8)

The impact of the Pāhua (the invasion of Parihaka), is one example of the impact of Historical Trauma events intergenerationally upon our people. The violence of such events is remembered in our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. Recent research provides some understanding of the intense pain suffered by and remembered intergenerationally by our people, for example,
This old kuia used to when this particular men, used to go past, she would see them she would go ‘nasty’ men, he was a nasty man and he would walk back, nasty, I didn’t then what that meant, but they were the soldiers. Look at them ‘nasty men’ and come back with the Pākehā diseases, it was either syphilis, gonorrhea that type of diseases and that why, there were called the ‘nasty diseases’ because the wahine got it. (Reinfeld, Pihama & Cameron, 2015, p.43)

These forms of colonial and intergenerational impacts are the consequence of the invasion of our territories (Wirihana & Smith 2014; Pihama 2014). Historical trauma as an impact of colonization has for over 200 years included the dispossession and theft of Māori land and resources; the subjugation of Māori knowledges and practices; and the imposition of colonial, western knowledge ways of being, knowledge, systems and structures upon Māori whānau, hapū, iwi and communities.

The marginalization of mātauranga Māori and Indigenous knowledges continues today. Across Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific, Western systems and structures of health, including sexual and reproductive health continue to foster, maintain and reproduce 21st century colonialism. Programmes implemented here continue to deny the history of violence that underpins the extremely high rates of Family violence and Sexual violence in this country. The denial of such history can be described as selective amnesia. It is an act of erasure. It serves to deny the role of both colonization and successive colonial governments in the reproduction of violence, and as such reinforces the deficit, colonial views of Māori people.

Despite a host of international rights instruments and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, Aotearoa, Australia and the United States governments and aid and development NGOs continue to traffic discourses of Western superiority – the representation of Indigenous peoples as ‘problem’ and ‘risk’, as incapable of making good choices, as living chaotic and unplanned lives, as peoples without knowledges and values, and as beholden recipients of sexual and reproductive health aid and development funds.

I want to speak of two contemporary examples of this in Aotearoa.

Firstly, In 2011 I was asked to contribute to review by the Families Commission related to a request by the then Minister of Social Development into ‘Teen Pregnancy” and what she referred to as “Repeat Teen Pregnancy”.It became quickly evident clear that most of literature maintained the notion that Teen pregnancy in Aotearoa is a ‘problem’, and that Māori young people in particular are ‘the’ problem.

In the article titled ‘Teenage Pregnancy: Cause for Concern’ Woodward et al. (2001) provide an overview of teenage pregnancy issues from a sample of 533 participants drawn from the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development study. Of the 533 participants it is noted that 26% of the sample had been pregnant, and 14% had become parents. The article indicates the impact of teenage pregnancy as follows:
It has been well documented that an early transmission to parenthood has far reaching physical, social and emotional consequences for young women, including an increased risk of antenatal complications and mortality, failure to complete schooling, socio-economic disadvantage, welfare dependence, martial difficulties, maternal depression, and less competent parenting. (Woodward et al., 2001, p. 3)

A particular issue in regards to the Woodward et al. (2001) study is the level of Māori participation. Contact with the authors noted that there were 61 Māori participants amongst the 533 women. Of these numbers, 30 became pregnant and 23 became parents. However, the age range for these statistics is 17-21 years with no indication by the authors of how many participants were actually teenagers (17-19 years old) at the time of their pregnancy.

The authors state that using statistical trend analyses, ‘Māori ethnicity’ was found to be a ‘risk factor’ in itself in increasing the likelihood of early pregnancy and to becoming a teen parent, yet they then follow with the statement, however, that “these trends failed to reach statistical significance” (Woodward et al., 2001, p. 7). Yet, in spite of such key issues and a clear lack in the research, Woodward et al. (2001) make broad generalised statements that early 
pregnancy rates are elevated amongst those whom identify as Māori.

What is clear from such a small sample size, and the fact that the participants are drawn from one specific geographical area, is that there are methodological issues in regards to statistical validity and generalisability to the Māori population as a whole. Woodward et al. (2001) present a fundamentally ‘deficit’ approach to teenage pregnancy more generally, and to Māori ethnicity specifically. As mentioned earlier, Māori ethnicity is listed as a ‘risk factor’ for teenage pregnancy along with adolescent conduct problems, poor school achievement, and family adversity. Such constructions reproduce the stigmatistion of young Māori parents and whānau (Waetford, 2008).

This is not new and is not restricted to Māori and teen pregnancy rather it highlights the broader pathological discourses that dominate in regards to Māori sexual health, as Nash (2001) states:
The Public Health discourse provides linguistic resources that construct early childbearing as pathological; a pathology that extends to all areas of teenage mothers’ lives. This discourse offers a dominant framework for research in this area and additionally suggests a requirement for public health surveillance and intervention to manage individuals (p. 310).

Māori ethnicity itself is thereby posited as an unfavourable ‘deficit’ variable, in-line with dominant deficit discourse and whilst there is not consideration of the ways in which Māori are systematically and historically positioned in regards to colonization. The focus of our people as ‘deficit’ continues to be privileged across the health sector however our people have articulated for many years that we are not the problem, we are the solution. The risk factors are in fact colonisation and systemic racism and the ways in which they continue to impose oppressive structures upon our people. As Alison Green states,
The representation of Māori as ‘problem’ is more than an imagining. Instead, it has a materiality in the form of how knowledge and power are produced and how these are implemented in the health policy sector. Smith describes problematising indigenous peoples as a Western obsession (1999). The representation of Māori as ‘problem’ justifies the growth of the institutions and instruments involved in the surveillance, the management, and the control of Māori sexual and reproductive health. (Green, 2011; p.38)

Nash (2001) states that this contributes to the construction of key barriers in regards to research and discussions related to Māori including:
(i) the privilege given to forms of statistical explanation that favour a positivist over a hermeneutic account, embedded in the practical-theoretical “at risk” concept; (ii) the preference for behaviourist and reductionist models that isolate behaviour from its social context; and (iii) the support given to an authoritative concept of culture that inhibits recognition of actual and lived cultural practices. (p. 202)

Breheny and Stephens (2010) critique the construction of ethnicity within research related to teenage pregnancy. They highlight that Māori ethnicity has been presented as deficient thereby “affording a way of indicating culture as problematic (p. 313)”.

Data related to the sexual health of Māori including teen pregnancy is regularly compared to that of Pakeha, with the assumption that Pakeha experiences are the ‘norm’ or standard against which other ethnic groups are to be benchmarked.
In contrast to the limitations of much of the existing ‘scientific’ medical research, the work undertaken by Mantell, Craig, Stewart, Ekeroma, and Mitchell (2004) examining pregnancy outcomes for Māori women highlights some key findings in regards to Māori and teenage pregnancy. As part of a broader study of ethnicity and birth outcomes, Mantell et al. (2004) explore trends for over 65,000 live Māori singleton births during the period of 1996-2001. Their data focuses on three key areas, (i) age of childbearing; (ii) the effect of young motherhood on birth outcomes and (iii) prevalence of small babies – both preterm and small for gestational age (SGA). The research challenges some of the fundamental assumptions made about Māori teen parents, and in particular, Māori teenage mothers. Mantell et al. (2004) state that
Teenage pregnancy is not a risk factor for adverse outcomes for Māori women once socioeconomic status has been taken into account. For both preterm birth (OR 1.05) and small for gestational age (OR 1.00), teenage pregnancy appears to confer no additional risk when compared to women 30- 34. (Mantell et al. 2004, p. 538)

Rawiri (2007) investigated the role of social support in helping adolescent Māori mothers cope with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. It highlights the importance of social support and the continuation of education noting that by combining the efforts of positive social networks and social support, services can improve the lives of adolescent Māori mothers and their children. Importantly, the study notes the impact of colonization and the breakdown of communal whānau living as a significant issue.

Both Mantell and Rawiri provide us with understandings that include collective, historical and cultural understandings from specifically Māori approaches that call for transformative change across micro, meso and macro or systemic levels.

I want to turn now to my 2nd example that relates to Māori and sexual health education, in particular the ACC developed and funded ‘Mates and Dates’ programme.
‘Mates and Dates ‘ is described by ACC as follows:
Mates & Dates is a best practice, multi-year programme designed for NZ secondary school students across years 9-13 to promote safe, healthy and respectful relationships. (ACC, p.3)

The sole reference to Māori in the Educational Resource information in regards to how the programme will work in ‘your school’ states
Mates & Dates supports the National Education Goals (NEG):
NEG 9 – It is culturally appropriate for all and supports success by Māori (p.6)

The initial evaluation by Duncan & Kingi (2015) raised issued about the content of the programme, highlighting the following findings:
When the programme was assessed for its ability to meet best practice in relation to specific groups (i.e. Māori, Pacific peoples, Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI), people with disabilities), the following areas for improvement were identified:
• kaupapa Māori best practice is missing from the programme, although some of the principles are implicit 

• there is little acknowledgment of the principles and values of Pacific society, and this needs to be explicitly articulated 

• the needs of people with disabilities were not addressed, specifically the accessibility requirements of deaf students and students on the autism spectrum (p.ii)

Furthermore it was stated:
Kaupapa Māori principles need to be explicitly articulated in course materials. There must be acknowledgement and inclusion of the needs of Pacific participants. The needs of deaf students, students on the autism spectrum and students with other disabilities must also be acknowledged – course design should be improved to enable access, engagement, and learning. Resources need to reflect their audience if they are to resonate and have meaning. (p. v)

One must question how the notion of ‘best practice’ is claimed within the Educational Resource when substantial issues were raised about the programme and where little change is evident. Rather, the only “improvements’ to the programme noted by ACC are as follows:
Subtitles have been added to all films for hearing impaired students.
• Films have been updated to reflect the New Zealand context. 

• Worksheets have been replaced with workbooks for students. 

• All role plays and continuums have been reviewed by a subject matter expert and have also been peer reviewed.
• Certain worksheet based activities have been replaced with discussion based or interactive activities.

Such “improvements” fall far short of any meaningful or substantive changes to the programme and do nothing to deal with the cultural issues raised in regards to the lack of Kaupapa Māori and Pasifika approaches.

The ‘Report on the 2016 Mates & Dates survey’ by Appleton-Dyer, Soupen and Edirisuriya (2016) is equally problematic. The lack of knowledge of the context within Aotearoa is evident throughout the report which raises even more issues in regards to the programme, not least what ACC considers to be acceptable evaluation methodologies and reporting. Where there have been critical issues raised in regards to the programme content and the failure to engage Māori in the sector in terms of the programme development there is no discussion of these issues in the 2016 report.

What is evident in the Appleton-Dyer (2016) report is a lack of cultural and methodological knowledge.The report is constructed in ways that call into question the capacity of ACC to adequately document and evaluate the programme.For example, the discussion of ethnic groups is as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 7.04.19 pm

Anyone who has any knowledge of quantitative research in this country should be appalled at the construction of ‘ethnic differences’ within the report.
What is a non-Māori or a non-Pacific or a non-asian student? How can these groups be constructed in this manner? The term ‘Pākehā’ does not appear anywhere in the report. So does that mean that Pākehā responses are somehow not ‘ethnic’ or not informed by ‘ethnicity’ or ‘culture’. The term NZ European appears once in the report. Just on this fundamental issue in terms of the report we have grounds to be highly skeptical of its contents. So lets look at this finding:
Most students suggested that they would not get angry with their partner if they did not do what they wanted them to do. However, Māori students (n=665) were more likely than non-Māori students (n=2449) to say they would “probably” get angry and yell at their partner/not talk to them if they didn’t do what they wanted them to do:
14% of Māori students said they would probably do this, compared to 8% of non- Māori students. This difference was statistically significant (p=0.000). (p.23)

So who is this difference statistically significant to? Who is non-Māori?
How has non-Māori, non-Pacific, and non-Asian become an ethnic grouping that one can compare to?

The evaluation team, Synergia continue to make the following finding:
What’s working well?
Overall, Mates & Dates is working well. It has improved students’ understanding across all the course content areas. 

Most of the students did not hold stereotyped views and intended to engage in healthy relationships behaviours. 

In more broad terms the programme has been clearly critiqued by a number of key organisations and researchers in the sector. Dr Katie Fitzpatrick states,
We absolutely must invest in relationship, consent and sexuality education in every school and it needs to be delivered by teachers.
It is irresponsible that such a significant sum of money is being used to fund this programme when it is being taught in a way that is inconsistent with effective education practice and education policy.
(NZ Herald August 8, 2018)

Te Whaariki Takapou, A Māori sexual and reproductive health promotion and research organisation, further highlights,
Sexual violence, like so many forms of violence experienced by Māori, will not be reduced by programmes like Mates and Dates. The programme is unconnected to the realities of Māori and fails to draw on the wealth of historical and contemporary Māori knowledges and practices associated with healthy relationships. August 7, 2018

What is required is an evidence-based national plan for culturally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education that includes consent and sexual violence. There are programmes underway in some schools where teachers are already addressing consent and sexual violence as part of comprehensive sexuality education. However, the road block to rolling out a national plan and programmes across all schools, including Māori-medium schools, is the lack of specific policy, funding and the political ‘will’ to lead the charge. August 7, 2018

In closing it is important that IUSTI18 conference think deeply about how you engage with Māori and Indigenous Peoples in this sector, how you consider the historical, colonial and intergenerational trauma that impacts on our communities, how do you all as participants take the opportunity to advocate for the rights of Māori and Indigenous peoples to self-determine our own sexual and reproductive health across research, policy, funding and services in Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific, and how do you challenge the continued systemic racism that enables agencies and organisations to continue to reproduce the ongoing marginalization and under resourcing of Indigenous initiatives in this sector.

Appleton-Dyer,S. Soupen, A. Edirisuriya, N (2016) Report on the 2016 Mates & Dates survey : Report for the Violence Prevention Portfolio at ACC
Breheny, M. & Stephens, C. (2008). `Breaking the Cycle’ : Constructing intergenerational explanations for disadvantage. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(6), 754-763.
Breheny, M. & Stephens, C. (2010). Youth or disadvantage? The construction of teenage mothers in medical journals. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 12(3), 307-322.
Duncan, Anne and Kingi, Venezia (2015) Evaluation of ACC’s Mates and Dates: School-based Healthy Relationships Primary Prevention Programme. Lighthouse Consulting
Green JA (2011) A Discursive Analysis of Māori in Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy (Masters of Māori and Pacific Development). Hamilton, New Zealand: The University of Waikato.
Luker, K. (1996). Dubious conceptions: The politics of teenage pregnancy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Mantell, C.D., Craig, E.D., Stewart, A.W., Ekeroma, A.J., & Mitchell, A. (2004). Ethnicity and birth outcome: New Zealand trends 1980-2001: Part 2. Pregnancy outcomes for Māori women. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 44, 537-540
Nash, R. (2001). Teenage pregnancy: Barriers to an integrated model for policy research. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 17, 200-213.
Pihama, L., Te Nana, R., Reynolds, P., Smith, C., Reid, J., Smith, L.T. (2014) Positioning historical trauma theory within Aotearoa New Zealand in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 10(3), 248–262.
Rawiri, C. (2007). Adolescent Māori mothers experiences with social support during pregnancy, birth and motherhood and their participation in education. Master of Social Science thesis, University of Waikato, Hamilton.
Waetford, C. H. (2008). The knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of young Māori women in relation to sexual health: A descriptive qualitative study. Master of Health Science thesis. Auckland University of Technology.
Wirihana, R. & Smith C. (2014) ‘Historical Trauma, Healing and Well-being in Māori Communities’ in MAI Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3.
Woodward, L. J., Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2001). Teenage pregnancy: Cause for concern. New Zealand Medical Journal, 114(1135), 301-303.

Some Reflections on Māori Women & Women’s Suffrage

Over the past few months we have been inundated with events related to the 125th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. In the context where we have Jacinda Adern as Prime Minister who has been pushing many boundaries in that position both politically and personally as a new parent there has been significant celebration of the place of women within politics. I remember similar celebrations of the 100th Anniversary in 1993, with a raft of events, dinners, awards, documentaries and publications. One such publication was ‘Māori Women and The Vote’ by Tania Rei that provided us with a discussion of the role of wāhine Māori in Te Kotahitanga and the involvement of our tūpuna wāhine alongside the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). As a part of my doctoral work in 2001 I wrote a section that reflected on the involvement of Māori women during the Suffrage movement period. Given the current discussions related to the 125th Suffrage Anniversary I have decided to reproduce a brief section with some additional material and links here.

Tania Rei (1993) explores Māori women’s involvement in gaining voice in Te Kotahitanga and also alongside Pākehā women in the franchise struggle. Te Kotahitanga was a gathering of Māori leaders, both female and male, formed to unite Māori to present grievances to the Crown. Tania notes that it was modelled on the existing colonial settler parliament and electoral districts were defined by tribal boundaries. This was by no means a small gathering, by 1893 21,900 women and men were a part of Te Kotahitanga and by 1895 there were 35,000.

It is clear from documentation that from the inception of Te Kotahitanga Māori women were actively involved. Photographs of Te Kotahitanga hui from the Alexander Turnbull Library show that Māori women’s participation was high, in fact Tania Rei states that reports of the hui identify that equal numbers of women and men were in attendance (Rei, 1993, p.16). It is important to note that the Constitution Act of 1852, that was enacted to embed colonial systems of democracy in Aotearoa, provided voting rights to Pākehā, Māori and ‘half-caste’ men that could show they met the criteria of property ownership. Also the Māori Representation Act 1867 saw the establishment of the original four Māori electoral seats which meant that there were processes in place that saw Māori engaged in the Pākehā political system and which were central to the establishment of Te Kotahitanga as a Māori assembly that could provide collective voice to Māori concerns.

Although Māori women attended Te Kotahitanga in equal numbers to Māori men the impact of colonial gender beliefs, and practices, were already embedded with Māori women at that time being denied the right to vote or stand as members. Just under a year after the official opening of Te Kotahitanga, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Reinga, Ngāti Manawa, Te Kaitutae) put a motion that Māori women be given the right to vote and to stand as member of Te Kotahitanga ( After the initial motion was abandoned, the right for Māori women to vote and stand for Te Kotahitanga was not realised until 1897.

In 1893 Ngā Kōmiti Wāhine were formed as a means by which Māori women could deal with issues confronting Māori women at the time. Ngā Kōmiti Wāhine dealt with key issues related to the well-being of Māori women and whānau including; alcohol, smoking, domestic violence, promiscuity, retention of Māori women’s knowledge etc. Tania Rei notes that Māori women spoke freely about these issues whenever possible. In the publication ‘Te Puni Wāhine’ a copy of the rules of the Tāmairangi Women’s Committee, the Wairarapa branch of Ngā Kōmiti Wāhine, has been reprinted from the Māori newspaper ‘Te Puke Ki Hikurangi’. It is noted in Te Puni Wāhine (1994) “He Kōmiti Wāhine tēnei nō Pāpāwai, marae o Wairarapa. I tapā hei whakamaumahara ki a Tāmairangi, wahine rongonui o tērā takiwā. This is the Women’s Committee from Papawai a marae in the Wairarapa. The name was given in memory of Tāmairangi a renowned woman of that area.” (p.13).

The rules included notions such believing in God; not working on Sundays; not taking alcohol onto marae, except for medicinal purposes, or into other peoples houses; women caring for children and husbands; observing teachings of elders; showing respect for each other; caring for pregnant women and the sick; not being promiscuous; not smoking in meetings; not holding grudges; attending Sunday meetings but not monopolising them; maintaining skills in weaving and cooking; and sharing work. Fines were imposed on those that transgressed the rules.

There are a number of observations that can be made in relation to the rules outlined by the Tāmairangi committee in regard to positioning of how they viewed their roles and obligations both to themselves and in the wider Māori community. A missionary influence is clearly indicated in the idea that work should take place only on the six days and that the seventh day is a day of rest. The influence of christianity in defining gender roles and the development of rules that aligned with christian ideologies, highlights the impact of such ideological assertions within Māori communities. There is also clear indication of some alignment with tikanga Māori within the rules, in particular those related to notions of manaakitanga: caring and providing for each other, whanaungatanga: relationships, hauora: health and wellbeing, mahi tahi; working collectively and collaboratively, mana tangata: fundamental respect for the mana of all people, whare tangata: women as the givers of life and the home of future generations, mātauranga Māori: Māori knowledge, taonga tuku iho: those treasured things tangible and intangible handed to us from our ancestors. Most evident are the strong statements regarding an expected respect for each other, the need to care and provide for each other and an assertion for the wellbeing of Māori.

The consistent references to the use of alcohol can be viewed in the context of increasing alcohol use in Māori communities, one of the many tools of colonisation. Therefore, it is not surprising that Māori women involved themselves in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) movement. Tania Rei (1993) identifies the objectives of the WCTU as follows;
“This organisation wanted to control the use of alcohol which it believed was the cause of many social and economic problems for women and children. Branches of WCTU were set up from 1884, and from 1886 the organisation lobbied for the parliamentary franchise. By 1890 many members of the WCTU had widened their goals and saw the vote as an issue of justice, an ordinary right that women were entitled to as citizens of the state, as well as a means of achieving far reaching social reforms including equal opportunities in employment and education.” (p.25)

Whilst the exact time of Māori women’s involvement in the WCTU is unknown there were Māori women who had concerns about alcohol abuse joining in the 1870s (Rei 1993). As we know, the WCTU were successful in gaining women the vote for the colonial parliament in 1893.

The debates surrounding suffrage highlight the key ideologies of the time in regard to the position of women in the colonial settler society. They also give us insights into the ways in which some Māori men had also internalised colonial gender ideologies. Māori men were also involved in this process, both for and against women’s suffrage. In 1892 when women’s franchise was before the house it was reported that Eparaima Te Mutu Kapa would fully support the measure and that he believed that it was an injustice to deny women the vote. Hoani Taipua stated that he would not support the move as he did not believe Māori women were sufficiently qualified to exercise the vote. Rāpata Wahawaha spoke on the franchise issue (Rei, 199),
“In his opinion Māori women were nurturers, wavers and cultivators and they had always been excluded from sacred ceremonial duties. He claimed christian doctrine supported his view, women did not preach or take part in the political assemblies of Europeans. ‘It is only in the last few years that the voices of fanatical women have been heard in the streets of Wellington and Gisborne and other places. This has considerably puzzled us. We do not know whether the old rule was the correct one or whether this is the right thing’. He believed that most laws had a ‘sting’ and the vote might bring unforeseen burdens for Māori women. The measure should be delayed until they had been consulted.” (p.32)

The influence of christianity in the positioning of Māori men who spoke against the motion can not be underestimated. However, what is clear from the numbers of Māori women who did vote in 1893 was that Māori women did not view the vote as a right only for Māori men. This too is patently clear in the assertion of Māori women to vote and stand in the Kotahitanga movement.

Where gaining the vote was for those Māori women considered a victory the involvement of Māori women in the WCTU was not completely beneficial. In Ngā Kōmiti Wāhine, Māori women were seeking to retain Māori women’s traditional skills, however, the WCTU expected Māori women to give up certain traditional practices. The Temperance Pledge to be taken by Māori women was worded as follows:
“He whakaae tēnei nāku kia kaua ahau e kai tūpeka, e inu rānei i tētahi mea e haurangi ai te tangata, kia kaua hoki ahau e whakaae ki te tā moko. Mā te Atua ahau e āwhina.
I agree by this pledge, not to smoke tobacco, not to drink any beverages that are intoxicating, and also not to take the tā moko. May God help me.”

The Temperance movement maintained that Māori women should not take moko kauae, which in terms of wider dominant discourses was considered a barbaric act. Tania Rei (1993) notes that one possible reason for Māori women agreeing to such a pledge could have been due to the infections that were experienced from the movement from bone to metal implements in the practice of tāmoko. Whether that was the case is not certain however what was clear is that for those Māori women seeking to be involved in the Temperance and Suffrage movements the practice of moko kauae was expected to be discontinued. It is also documented that moko was often viewed by Pākehā as ‘ugly’ and a ‘savage’ custom (Robley, 1896). In this period the practice of tāmoko was considered a dying practice (Robley, 1896). Grey and Lubbrock (Robley, 1896) respectively wrote that the illustrations gathered by Robley were valuable documentation of an art that was passing away and was an important part of preserving an part of Māori traditions that were disappearing. Such statements are indicative of the view regarding aspects of Māori life that were being intentionally removed or denied to our people through impositions of colonial superiority, of which the WCTU pledge played a part.

Additionally it was highlighted the Election Act required that individuals be freehold property owners in order to vote:
“The 1893 Act stated, in addition to persons aged over 21 years with freehold title to land being able to register to vote,
[e]very person of the age of twenty-one years or upwards who has resided for one year in the colony and in the electoral district for which he claims to vote during the three months immediately preceding the registration of his vote, and is not registered in respect of a freehold or residential qualification for the same or any other district, is entitled (subject to the provisions of this Act) to be registered as an elector and to vote at the election of members for such district for the House of Representatives. (Electoral Act 1893, s 6(2).)
The Act specifically defined “person” as including “a woman,” and furthermore stated “[w]ords and expressions in this Act importing the masculine gender include women, except where otherwise expressly stated.” (Id. s 3.)”

The freehold property requirement mitigated against many Māori generally given the collective land holdings of whānau, hapū and iwi, and that by that time our people had experienced colonial confiscation, the theft of Māori lands and the individualisation of land titles by the colonial government.

As a part of re-membering the place of our tūpuna wāhine in the Suffrage period it is important that we create the space for their voices and their positions to be heard. As such below is the text of the speech given by Mere Mangakāhia in her advocacy for Māori women’s voices to be heard and to be acknowledged in our own right:
E whakamoemiti atu ana ahau kinga honore mema e noho nei, kia ora koutou katoa, ko te take i motini atu ai ahau, ki te Tumuaki Honore, me nga mema honore, ka mahia he ture e tenei whare kia whakamana nga wahine ki te pooti mema mo ratou ki te Paremata Māori.
1. He nui nga wahine o Nui Tireni kua mate a ratou taane, a he whenua karati, papatupu o ratou.
2. He nui nga wahine o Nui Tireni kua mate o ratou matua, kaore o ratou tungane, he karati, he papatupu o ratou.
3. He nui nga wahine mohio o Nui Tireni kei te moe tane, kaore nga tane e mohio ki te whakahaere i o raua whenua.
4. He nui nga wahine kua koroheketia o ratou matua, he wahine mohio, he karati, he papatupu o ratou.
5. He nui nga tane Rangatira o te motu nei kua inoi ki te kuini, mo nga mate e pa ara kia tatou, a kaore tonu tatou i pa ki te ora i runga i ta ratou inoitanga. Na reira ka inoi ahau ki tenei whare kia tu he mema wahine.
Ma tenei pea e tika ai, a tera ka tika ki te tuku inoi nga mema wahine ki te kuini, mo nga mate kua pa nei kia tatou me o tatou whenua, a tera pea e whakaae mai a te kuini ki te inoi a ona hoa Wahine Māori i te mea he wahine ano hoki a te kuini.
English translation:
I exult the honourable members of this gathering. Greetings.
I move this motion before the principle member and all honourable members so that a law may emerge from this parliament allowing women to vote and women to be accepted as members of the parliament.
Following are my reasons for presenting this motion that women may receive the vote and that there be women members:
1. There are many women who have been widowed and own much land.
2. There are many women whose fathers have died and do not have brothers.
3. There are many women who are knowledgeable of the management of land where their husbands are not.
4. There are many women whose fathers are elderly, who are also knowledgeable of the management of land and own land.
5. There have been many male leaders who have petitioned the Queen concerning the many issues that affect us all, however, we have not yet been adequately compensated according to those petitions. Therefore I pray to this gathering that women members be appointed. Perhaps by this course of action we may be satisfied concerning the many issues affecting us and our land.
Perhaps the Queen may listen to the petitions if they are presented by her Māori sisters, since she is a woman as well.

(Source: )

What we know is that our tūpuna wāhine stood with their own mana, and that the struggle against the importation of colonial tools and systems has been something we have been actively engaged in for many generations. To celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Suffrage movement is not unproblematic for Māori women as it remains a celebration of a struggle for involvement in what is fundamentally an imposed democratic system that continues to work against the interests of our people. What is important is that we reflect more critically not only on the processes by which our people came to vote, but that we look more deeply at how we came to have this system in place in the first place, and who really benefits from its ongoing reproduction.

Published References
Rei, T. (1993) Māori Women and The Vote, Huia Publishers, Wellington
Robley, H.G. (1896) Moko: The Art and History of Mäori Tattooing, Chapman and Hall, London Reprinted 1998 by Senate, Tiger Books International, UK
Te Puni Wāhine (1994) ‘Te Puke Ki Wairarapa’ 26 Äperira 1898 Wharangi 5, Wellington: Huia Publishers

“Mana Wahine is…”

A presentation to Mana Wahine: Showcasing the mahi of Wāhine Māori, Auckland Women’s Centre, Western Springs Community Garden Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau. October 9th, 2018.

He mihi maioha ki a Dayle Takitimu, Kathie Irwin, Rachel Brown, Kiterangi and Te Rehua Cameron, Whetu Fala, Maree Sheehan, Mera Penehira, Naomi Simmonds, Al Green, Kaapua Smith, Sina Brown Davis, Marnie Reinfeld, Ali Newth, Tina Ngata, Huia Hanlen, Gina Rangi, Sarah Jane Tiakiwai, Rihi Te Nana, Renae Maihi, Tammy Tauroa, Louisa Wall, Hineitimoana Greensill, Marama Davidson, Ninakaye Taanetinorau, Jenny Lee-Morgan, Moana Maniapoto, Annette Sykes.

This morning I attended a Waikato-Tainui Iwi summit and was reminded of the many incredible insights that our tupuna left us as guidance and learnings. Te Puea we know worked tirelessly for the people. She knew the power of having collective dreams and visions for the people. She worked and strategised for the benefit of the iwi. In the many tongikura (prophetic saying) attributed to Te Puea she provides us with learnings and calls on us all to aspire to a world within which all can dream for, and achieve, success. One of those sayings is,

Mehemea ka moemoeā ahau, ko ahau anake
Mehemea ka moemoeā tātou, ka taea e tātou,
If I dream alone only I benefit
If we all dream together we can all succeed together

In this tongi at its most simplistic level she reminds us to dream. For all of our people dreaming is important. Dreaming is life. Dreaming is knowledge. Dreaming is vision. Dreaming is a learning space. It is an ancestral teaching place. It is a spiritual and cultural based learning centre. Dreaming is methodology. Dreaming is pedagogy. This tongi also brings forward the strength of the collective. Te Puea highlights our collective responsibilities, our collective obligations, our collective accountabilities and our collective power of working for a common cause, for the wellbeing of the people. In preparing for this kōrero I felt it would was important to share wider collective views about Mana Wahine means for us as wāhine Māori. So I asked a range of wāhine to finish this sentence.

Mana Wahine is…

In doing so I was asking for wahine to share their whakaaro about what Mana Wahine means to them, what it ‘is’, not what it ‘is not’ as we are often told what we are not to do as wahine Māori, and often by others. But what I know is that many of those exact things we are told wahine Māori ‘do not do’, I or wahine that I know have actually done. So what does Mana Wahine mean to us, this particular collective of wāhine Māori at this point in time. I want to share those thoughts with you tonight and alongside you will see the names of each of those wahine that contributed their whakaaro.

Our collective Voices

Mana Wahine is …

… everything we ever were, are and will be – and in any moment everything we need it to be, it’s badassery, shape-shifting and our unique collective pulse.
… cackling laughter about mischief things, itchy wool blankets and real butter on fry bread. Dayle Takitimu

… where I learned stragy, vision, resistance and heart, from my maternal grandmother, my mother and my daughter”. Kathie Irwin

… having the strength to show vulnerability so that others may also grow and know they are not alone. Rachel Brown

… unapologetic! Kiterangi and Te Rehua Cameron

… utilising our divinity for the everyday-ness of mahi. Whetu Fala

… the past present and future. Maree Sheehan

… my grandmothers my mother my aunties, my sisters, my daughters and my mokopuna yet to come.Ko te mana wāhine ko ngā taupuwae a rātou, a tātou katoa nei wāhine mā. Mera Penehira

… dreams of our tūpuna embodied by us. It is our triumphs, our struggles, the lessons we learn and the teachings we share as Māori women, descendants of visionaries, dreamers, fighters and healers.
… theorizing over burgers and fries with your soul sisters Naomi Simmonds

… He tira wahine, he rongo ā whare!
… raising our children to live in relationship to everything because everything is always present. Al Green

… my nanny. Loving, fierce, loyal, proud…and, occasionally, sharp tongued. Kaapua Smith

… the power and presitige of the universe and the land, it is elemental, fertile, powerful
…. is the conduit between the spiritual and physical realms
… the protection and continuation of life. Sina Brown Davis

… frying the bread, doing the karanga, singing the waiata tautoko, poring the tea, drying the dishes, scrubbing the loos all while you have a baby on the breast Marnie Reinfelds

… ko au, ko koe, ko ia, ko tātau. Ali Newth

… Ko te mana wāhine, te mana whānau, Ko te mana wāhine, te mana wai, Ko te mana wāhine, te mana whenua, Ko te mana wāhine, te mana tieki, te mana whāngae pōtiki, whānau, hāpori. Tina Ngata

… being whoever you need to be. Huia Hanlen

… listening to your nanny’s quiet voice in your heart, when everyone else is yelling at you. Gina Rangi

… like flickering flames of memories, scars, tears, thoughts, hopes and dreams that you carry with you every day, constantly fanning them into your burning and passionate desire to leave this world a little bit better than when you entered it. Sarah Jane Tiakiwai

… Ko te hua o te mana wahine, ko te pono, te tika me te aroha ki a mātou nei tamariki mokopuna, a mātou whānau, me a mātou hapu, i te ao, i te po ahakoa te aha! Rihi Te Nana

… an understanding that Mana in its original source comes from the Atua & lives within us all. That is the spirit, power, ihi, wehi & mana of Papatuanuku & her descendants. As we know her descendants include Atua Taane therefore to me Mana wahine is the balancing & nurturing of the MANA of nga Atua Wahine ME nga Atua Tane that exists in us all. Renae Maihi

… imbued in our whakapapa and has the vested power to transform our realities Tammy Tauroa

… action, dynamic and purposeful. Doing for others, because someone must, doing what is right, role or not. Challenging and disrupting. Leaving a legacy that helps not hurts and makes us proud so we can hold our heads high. Louisa Wall

… a whakapapa that connects me to generations of strong, powerful women
… My grandmother, the absolute embodiment of mana wahine; reflected in her thoughts, her actions, what she stood for and how she carried herself in the world. Hineitimoana Greensill

… a collective power. Our individual embodiment of it is part of a whole that connects us to ancient tupuna and mokopuna yet to come. We can ground ourselves in it whether we are planting kai for our whānau, nursing sick tamariki, revitalising our reo and our tikanga, lawyering, researching, politicianing – as well as when we are in jail, when we are struggling and when we are lost. We can call on it and we are accountable to it in all the facets and changes of our lives. Marama Davidson

… to rise cloaked with courage, armed with truth, bathed in light. Ninakaye Taanetinorau

… knowing that we are the living stories of our ancestors and are storying the lives of our mokopuna. Jenny Lee-Morgan

… exists in every woman, whether she is a flamethrower or stealth bomber, a plant or a placeholder. … both tangible and barely discernible, a particular mauri unique to wāhine Māori that resonates with the mauri in all women. It is about connection – to generations past, to the land and to each other.
… about holding the line, even if we are staring each other down across those lines. Moana Maniapoto

… Creating from the ancients, sentinels of the present, creators of the future,
… I am, We are, Us all. Annette Sykes

Hate speech is not Free speech.

Over the past few months we have seen an intensification of public outrage against racist discourses being both supported and promulgated through the notion of free speech. The Free Speech Coalition emerged as two white supremacists sought entry to Aotearoa and were denied use of an Auckland city council venue due to their extremist views of race. What is interesting about this assertion of denial of free speech is that they were not denied free speech, in fact the Canadian supremacists received a great deal of media airtime to spew their hatred, which they did – quite freely. In her blog ‘If calling for Indigenous death is not hate speech, what the hell IS hate speech?’ Tina Ngata provides an overview of the issues surrounding this visit.[1].

Tina makes note of the manipulative ways in which some supporters of the visit advocated it as an issue of freedom of speech.
“Supporters still felt compelled to patronise others with their misunderstandings that freedom of speech required us to provide a public platform for even the most vile suggestions. This is not a matter of opinion we are talking about here – the concept of Freedom of Speech is clearly outlined in both national and international law as having limitations. Still – you confront them with this and they will merely pretend they didn’t see it.”[3]

So who is the Free Speech Coalition and what are they really about? The coalition members named on their website are:

  • Dr. Michael Bassett – Former Labour Party Minister
  • Dr. Don Brash – Former leader of the National and ACT Parties, and former Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
  • Ashley Church – Business Leader
  • Dr. David Cumin – Senior Lecturer University of Auckland
  • Melissa Derby – University of Canterbury Academic
  • Stephen Franks – Lawyer
  • Paul Moon – Professor of History Auckland University of Technology
  • Lindsay Perigo – Broadcaster
  • Rachel Poulain – Writer
  • Chris Trotter – Political Commentator
  • Jordan Williams – Lawyer

It is an interesting line up. Most, but not all, advocate right wing conservative politics. A number have been a part of supporting or instigating defamation suits, highlighting that for those particular coalition members free speech is a free for all unless it is about them.

There are numerous indications that many in the Coalition are more about securing their right to reproduce hate speech against Māori and other minority groups, or to defend those that do so, in this country than they are about ‘free speech’. For example Brash is a supporter of Bob Jones in this defamation suit against Renae Maihi as reported in February this year. In an article related to Brash’s defence of Bob Jones it is stated,
“The ‘racist’ tag is freely used, with apparent impunity, by “Maori rights” activists, often to shut down debate”, Dr Brash said. “But any comment on or challenge to treaty orthodoxy unleashes a clobbering machine that extends from social media, through the mainstream media, to the Human Rights Commissioner”, Dr Brash said.[5]

Central to the position of the Free Speech Coalition is also the ability to threaten court action[6] and supporting those taking defamation suits for being called out for their racist discourses. Clearly Brash’s notion of ‘free speech’ does not reach to those that criticise racism or hate speech. It is more closely located to a context of freedom to oppress rather than freedom to challenge.

In regards to Chris Trotter, Graham Cameron in Spinoff states; “Chris Trotter claimed that “free speech denialism… [is] born of fear.” [7] Where fear may be experienced by those that are at the brunt of racism and white supremacist attacks, it is exactly that, a symptom. Fear is a symptom that is the result of hatred and the impact of generations of racism both personal and systemic. The cause is hate speech and racism.

In another example of selected application of free speech, David Cumin wrote “Whether you agree that settlements are not a real barrier to peace or you think continual refusal to accept a Jewish state is conducive to a resolution, there should be no place for free speech to cross over to hate speech or, worse, hateful action”. [8] From this statement, it appears hate speech applies and should be challenged in relation to Israel but not here in regards to racist discourses against Māori.

Melissa Derby a Māori (Ngāti Ranginui) academic at the University of Canterbury has indicated within a number of articles related to the Human Rights Commission recommendation that the Human Rights Act be amended to include protection from “religious hate speech”[9] that “What we are seeing here is the Human Rights Commission putting up barriers to protect the beliefs of immigrant groups, and discriminating against Māori by not offering the same explicit safeguards. It’s like a form of neo-colonialism.” [10] A similar position is put by Paul Moon who goes further to bring in the western notion of enlightenment
“The freedom to criticise religion and to try to discover the truth was a burning issue (sometimes literally) in previous centuries. Yet in our more enlightened age, the Human Rights Commission is challenging the notion that we have progressed far enough to discuss, debate, and even criticise ideas that are different from our own”.[11]

The argument that protection from religious hate speech somehow denies Māori rights is difficult to see, in fact what we do know with the Tohunga Suppression Act (1907) and the subsequent denial of Māori spiritual practices for many generations that the lack of such protections has had a significant impact both on Māori people and mātauranga Māori.

In an interview with Chris Lynch on Newshub[12] in regards to free speech Melissa Derby shows a lack of analysis in regards to what constitutes racism and its impact,
“If you tell a racist joke and I find it distasteful and offensive should you be penalised for that. Course not. So you know its about where we draw the line here. Like I said by definition or the threshold for hate speech has to be high so that it doesn’t impinge on our right for freedom of speech. “

This was followed by an exchange with Chris Lynch, where Melissa goes on to show a fundamentally flawed understanding of racism and racial hierarchies and how they operate within power dynamics within society[13].
“M: It seems to me that we are an inclusive society but not where white people are concerned. It’s crazy and I don’t understand how people can be sort of be against racism but make what I see to be extraordinary racist comments based on their ethnicity. It seems to be it’s acceptable when it’s against white people
C: It’s kind of back to front racism isn’t it.
M: Yes it is.”

We need to be clear that there is no such thing a “back to front racism” and it is also not racist to call out members of the dominant group, in this case Pakeha or white people, when they make statements about our people that are offensive or inappropriate or uninformed or misinformed. Racism is about the imposition or reproduction of power relationships that have been defined through the notion of racial hierarchies that locate white people as superior and position Indigenous People, Black People, People of Colour on what were considered ‘lower rungs’ of the social order. In such an order white people are positioned in a place of superiority and dominance, a position that served as justification for the colonial invasion and occupation of Indigenous lands. Racism is about the imposition of ideologies and practices that oppress Indigenous People, Black People and all People of Colour. Racism and racist ideologies have been embedded through colonisation in all components of this society. Where Melissa Derby may consider herself an advocate for free speech it is equally clear that the discourses of race that she is articulating requires much more depth research and critical analysis.The current positioning that she is taking is uninformed and therefore extremely dangerous for Māori, as it serves to reinforce the wider racist discourses being asserted by some of her Free Speech Coalition colleagues.

Another member of the Free Speech Coalition that is prominent in his public comments on free speech, including his support of Bob Jones, is Paul Moon. Behind closed doors, or perhaps more appropriately, within unseen emails, Moon is just as capable of threatening those who challenge his views as many of his colleagues in the coalition. Where he seems to be more careful about not being associated with public threats, sending emails to Māori academics and their employers threatening possible legal action is as much a trademark of Paul Moon as it is other members of the coalition.

If we want to even more evidence that for many involved in the Free Speech coalition the issue is clearly not free speech just look here to the contradictions highlighted by Hayden Donnell.[14]

  • Don Brash, “after hearing Te Reo Māori on Radio New Zealand, called for the publicly funded station’s bosses to remove that “pointless” speech from the airwaves”.
  • Don brash “obtained a High Court injuction to delay the publication of Nicky Hager’s 2006 book The Hollow Men”.
  • David Farrar – “called for the government to take away Homebrew Crew’s grant money after they released an anti-government song, saying “They’re entitled to call [John Key] what they want, but I’d rather not have the taxpayer fund it”.”
  • Jordan Williams “sued Colin Craig for defamation over some ridiculous pamphlets.”
  • Stephen Franks – “called for legal penalties against people who burn flags, saying flag burning is “not speech” and shouldn’t be protected.”

So how can we understand this idea of Free Speech in Aotearoa. Well firstly we must acknowledge and place upfront colonisation and its impacts. In making the decision to not enable hate speech on her campus VC Professor Jan Thomas at Massey University gives a clear position that emphasises that an acceptance of freedom of speech can not be an enabling of hate speech,
“Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. Moreover, as Moana Jackson has eloquently argued, free speech has, especially in colonial societies, long been mobilised as a vehicle for racist comments, judgements and practices.Hate speech is repugnant, or as one American legal academic has stated, hate speech is “a rape of human dignity”. Hate speech should be called out for what it is, especially when it incites violence against minorities. Beyond the reach of the law, however, the battle against hate speech is fought most effectively through education and courageous leadership, rather than through suppression or legal censure.And this is where universities can take positive action by providing a venue for reasoned discussion and cogent argument. After all, the Education Act 1989 compels us to act as “critic and conscience” of society. This does not just mean protecting the values of academic freedom, it also means standing up for what is right.”

The concept of free speech advocated by the coalition is not of this land, just as the construct of democracy that it asserts to protect is not of this land. These are all imported constructs that have been created within western colonial knowledge and legal forms.   Where we hear views such as ‘I abhor their views but I defend their right to say it’ we are reminded of the saying “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (which is said to be penned by Evelyn Beatrice Hall and attributed to the free speech views of Voltaire) as the basis for such a comment. However, such a view is grounded within the western colonial legal definition and context from which the original statement derived. It is as Moana Jackson noted highly problematic to advocate from a position that enables those in power to continue to dominate over others[15]. Such advocacy of free speech does not serve the interests of those that live in a context of colonial oppression.

The power of words and the trauma of racism are well known to our people. Our tupuna understood the power and sanctity of words. We know that through karakia we can open and close spaces, we can clear spiritual and physical energies, we can create safe spaces and we can create harm. The vibration of kupu is inherently powerful. As such we have tikanga that come with speaking. We also have deep understanding that speech comes in many forms. We are expected to take responsibility for our words. We are expected to take responsibility for our thoughts. Racism is a transgression of mana. To do so comes with consequences. These are ways of understanding that to ensure healthy relationships we must take care with how we use words. This is not an easy task when we live with colonial occupation that does not adhere to these understandings.

Given what we know of the power of words, we have every right to challenge those that speak in ways that seek to cause destruction and harm to our people. This notion of western free speech is not ours, it is a cultural construction that colonisation has imposed upon our lands. The abuse of such is growing in this country. Racism is also not a two way street. Racism is grounded upon the belief that white people are superior to all others. Racism is not free speech, it is hate speech. There are not gradations of racism where some is somehow worse than others. Racism is racism. Freedom of speech can not be the mechanism by which this country enables freedom of hatred, freedom of racism, freedom of oppression. As Moana Jackson states:
“The bliss of freedom enjoyed by those who have power should never mean the right to cause pain to those who are comparatively powerless. And no one’s exercise of free speech should make another feel less free.”[16]





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Speaking Truth to Racism

Last Friday I received an email in my private email from someone called John Langford with the subject line ‘Attached Image Sir Robert Jones’. The email as below also stated ‘Please acknowledge receipt’. Even though the email signature noted a law firm this kind of subject line always raises issues in terms of the  potential for viruses spread by attachments from unknown and untrusted email accounts. So I left it for some time and then decided to do an online search to see who John Langford is before opening the attachment.

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.31.10 pm

Once I confirmed that Langford Law actually exists I opened the attachment. I have decided to share the attachment for reasons I will discuss below. So here is the letter from John Langford, a lawyer representing Bob Jones.

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.32.16 pm

It is noted in both the email and the letter that I need to acknowledge receipt. I am guessing this is some legal habit  as I do not know John Langford, I never asked him to contact me – so why exactly is there some expectation that I would respond? Seems strange to me. I actually get many such emails, some naïve, some entitled, some rude, some racist, some misogynist, some homophobic, some abusive, nearly all by white men and nearly all demand that I must respond. Then there is the general view within the letter that the “matter” is in my hands. That I somehow must take responsibility for resolving the issues that have been created by the statements made by Bob Jones. Interesting, the sense of entitlement that exists within such underpinning assumptions.

So, having reflected on this email for the past few days, and discussing options with friends and whānau I began to read papers and discussions related to what is known internationally as SLAPP: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPP is not new,  it is a process by which wealthy individuals, corporations or organisations use the threat of litigation to silence opposition. The Public Participation Project define SLAPP as follows:

SLAPP = Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation

SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.  These damaging suits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.

SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits.  SLAPP filers don’t go to court to seek justice.  Rather, SLAPPS are intended to intimidate those who disagree with them or their activities by draining the target’s financial resources.

SLAPPs are effective because even a meritless lawsuit can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend.  To end or prevent a SLAPP, those who speak out on issues of public interest frequently agree to muzzle themselves, apologize, or “correct” statements.

Sourcewatch provide an overview of some such cases in Aotearoa on their site.

What we are seeing in Aotearoa is clearly a use of legal threat and actions to silence the calling out of racism, with ‘defamation’ as the legal strategy being used as justification. The key focus in this email is that the term ‘racist’ used as a descriptor for Bob Jones as a result of his long history of racist comments about Māori is defamatory. It seems that for something to be defamatory it must be untrue.  That is clearly not my view. I use the term only when I believe it to be my honest and truthful opinion. A key part of that aligns to the definitions of racism that inform my understandings, for example:

Racism is promulgated on a number of fronts. Definitions of racism include “a mix of prejudice, power, ideology, stereotypes, domination, dis- parities and/or unequal treatment” (Berman & Paradies, 2010, p. 228). Fundamental to racism is an ideology of inferiority, promoted by social norms and institutions. These features constitute what Galtung (1969) has referred to as “structural violence” and provide a substrate upon which relational forms are perpetrated and experienced. Paradies and Williams (2008) suggest that racism operates at overlapping levels that can usefully be delineated as societal, institutional, interpersonal and internalised. Societal racism is constituted in the cultural ambience produced by the entrenched social orders and includes the values, epistemologies, norms and sensibilities that attach to hegemonic power.

Moewaka Barnes, A., Taiapa, K. Borell, B., 
 McCreanor, T, (2013) Māori Experiences And Responses To Racism In Aotearoa New Zealand, MAI Journal, 2(2), 63–77. (

Racism is a complex system, based on an ideology of inferiority and superiority, that drives the categorization of people by race/ethnicity and structures opportunity according to those categorizations, resulting in the inequitable distribution of power, goods and resources in society (Ahmed, Mohammed, & Williams, 2007; Jones, 2002; Paradies, 2006b). Racism is enacted via discriminatory institutional and individual practices (racial discrimination) and varies in form and type (Krieger, 2000). Its manifestations are embedded in particular social, political and historical contexts. In New Zealand, this context includes colonization, and related processes of dispossession and marginalization for indigenous peoples, which are reflected in entrenched unequal power relations in contemporary New Zealand society (Robson & Harris, 2007).

Harris, R., Cormack, D., Tobias, M. Yeh, L. Talamaivao, N., Minister, J.,Timutimu, R., (2012) The pervasive effects of racism: Experiences of racial discrimination in New Zealand over time and associations with multiple health domains Social Science & Medicine 74 Issue 3. (

Racism has many faces. Some of them may be veiled others frankly overt- unmasked. These faces may be grouped into three main forms-personal racism, cultural racism and institutional racism.Personal racism affects individuals or groups. It occurs when people of one group are seen as inferior to another because of skin colour or ethnic origin. It belongs to those situations in which an individual is directly diminished or discriminated against on grounds of race. In our country as in others, it may be manifested in jokes, disparaging comment and prejudiced attitudes. It may occur in rental housing, unequal distribution of opportunity and in our classrooms. Personal racism is the form that cuts most keenly at individual people. It is the variety that diminishes a person in their own eyes. It attacks the fount of personal identity and destroys a sense of self worth, as well as denying the indigenous person access to resources and opportunities in the larger society.Cultural racism is less obvious than the more open areas of prejudice between individuals. It is entrenched philosophy and beliefs. Its most obvious form in New Zealand is in the assumption that Pakeha culture, lifestyle and values are superior to those of other New Zealand cultures, notably those of Maori and Polynesian people.

It is rooted in the 19th century heritage of unshakeable belief in the cultural superiority of Europeans. It is a direct inheritance of colonialism and imperialism, and embodied in the ethos of the dominant group and thence the mind of the individual within the group. Without challenge and change this is transmitted to successive generations in the pre-school stage of development and becomes a recurrent theme in subsequent socialisation. Despite the fact that tenets of Pakeha culture become fractured, eroded or obsolete (for example the nature of family, the role of marriage and the position of women) the assumptions of cultural superiority persist.

One of the most pervasive forms of cultural racism is the assumption that Pakeha values, beliefs and systems are “normal”. This places Maori values, beliefs and systems in the category of “exotic”. Provision for Maori cultural preference thus become an “extra”. That which sees provision for Maoritanga as anything other than a normal ingredient of our national culture is essentially culturally racist. However, the most damaging aspect of cultural racism is the underlying notion of superiority. It is seldom overtly stated in modern New Zealand, but it is constantly implied in advertising, in education and in the marketplace. One of the ways in which this parcel of attitudes impacts on Maori culture is that the power culture, because it has the authority of “superiority”, takes to itself the right to select those aspects of Maoritanga it wants to use or include in general New Zealand culture.

New Zealand. Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Maori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare, & Rangihau, John Te Rangi-Aniwaniwa. (2001). Puao-te-ata-tu Day break : The report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Maori perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. Wellington: Govt. Print. (

Racism describes both ideological beliefs and practices arising from the assumed superiority and inferiority of particular races. It can take many different forms, but the most common are individual and institutional racism. The first refers to the manifestation of negative stereotypes about characteristics of particular races by an individual (Rizvi 1993). Institutional racism brings together prejudice and power, describing a situation where a powerful group enforces beliefs about particular racial characteristics through privileged control over social institutions. These beliefs, in turn, serve to underpin the power of the group in control…

Racism as ideology becomes hegemonic when it supports social relations based on domination and exploitation, enabling people to make sense of their everyday experiences and cultural practices as if they were natural.

Lee, J. ( 2007) Jade Taniwha: Māori-Chinese Identity and Schooling. Auckland: Rautaki, pp29-30).

Within Aotearoa, racism informs and frames those discourses which actively demean, undermine and stereotype Māori and those that articulate views that Māori are socially, physically, culturally, and biologically inferior to Pākehā based on notions of Pākeha cultural, social, physical, and biological superiority. These assertions are, in my opinion, evident within the views of Bob Jones, and the racist demeaning comments made in relation to Māori cultural practices, Māori language, Māori people.  These belief systems and oppressive ideologies also manifest in the institutional, systemic racism that denies our rangatiratanga, marginalises the place of te reo and tikanga Māori in Aotearoa, reproduces inequities in education, creates disparities in access to health care, informs systemic racism in the police and courts which see the over-incarceration of Māori people. The list goes on.

What is clear is that the threat of lawsuits is a tool being used as a means of silencing responses that challenge his views of our people. What is clear is that no matter how many suits he threatens or he files against those who stand up against the vitriolic attacks on our people, we will not stop calling him out, not now not ever. There will always be people who will speak truth back to racism.










Racism + White Privilege + Rich Bully = Bob Jones & a Defamation Suit

In the lead up to Waitangi Day 2018 Bob Jones a Pākehā millionaire with Right Wing Conservative views wrote an opinion piece for the National Business Review which was published on February 2nd. The article was full of racist demeaning statements by Bob Jones. This is not the first time that Jones has published his conservative rantings. The Spinoff blog also highlights previous obnoxious writings by Jones stating;
“Provocations over recent years include dismissing beggars as “mostly fat Māoris”, calling for a ban on women drivers and admonishing women victims of indecent assault as “silly” for walking in a park.”

Bob Jones comments from NBR Opinion Piece February 2018 were as follows;

Responses to the article saw the NBR quickly removing it from their website. The NZ Herald in seeking comment on the removal of the article states “NBR has been approached for comment, but did tweet on February 5 “Sir Bob Jones’ latest column has been removed from NBR’s website, due to inappropriate content”.”

The tweet itself appears here:
Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 2.26.38 pm

In March of this year a petition was presented by Renae Maihi and Professor Pou Temara to parliament with more than 68,000 signatures “calling on MPs to strip Sir Bob Jones of his knighthood over his controversial column about a Maori “Gratitude Day”. As the NZ Herald notes “The petition was prompted by a column Jones wrote in the National Business Review last month, calling for a Māori Gratitude Day instead of Waitangi Day. “I have in mind a public holiday where Maoris bring us breakfast in bed or weed our gardens, wash & polish our cars & so on, out of gratitude for existing,” The petition has now over 72,000 signatures.

As a part of the response to the article a complaint was made by Mel Whaanga to the Press Council that the article breached “the Press Council’s principles notably Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and 5 (opinion).” These principles are defined as:
Principle 1 Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view.
Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion and in reportage of proceedings where balance is to be judged on a number of stories, rather than a single report.

Principle 5 Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters
Opinion, whether newspaper column or internet blog, must be clearly identified as such unless a column, blog or other expression of opinion is widely understood to consist largely of the writer’s own opinions. Though requirements for a foundation of fact pertain, with comment and opinion balance is not essential. Cartoons are understood to be opinion.
Letters for publication are the prerogative of editors who are to be guided by fairness, balance, and public interest. Abridgement is acceptable but should not distort meaning.

The Press Council did not uphold the complaint with a split decision of 7:4. Central to the Press Council decision was an acceptance of the argument by NBR that the article as 1. An Opinion Piece 2. It was satire and 3. That withdrawal of the article and decision by NBR to not publish further Bob Jones article is an appropriate response. There was however a very powerfully stated Minority Dissent position.

Minority Dissent
Four members, Chris Darlow, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu and John Roughan would have upheld the complaint believing it clearly exceeded a reasonable boundary of free speech on the subject of race. Putting aside the accuracy of the claim there are no “full blooded” Maori alive today, which the complainant contested, the minority found it hard to follow the contention that had it not been for migrants to New Zealand there would no Maori today. The writer appeared to be straining for a reason to suggest Maori should grovel in gratitude to non-Maori for their survival, a suggestion the four members found gratuitously offensive.
They disagreed with the view that this was excusable as “satire”. The important principle of freedom of speech was not served in their view by humour that depends on giving deliberate, gratuitous offence to a racial minority for the amusement of the writer and those who share his racial attitudes. This was an egregious example of free speech being used for no purpose beyond cruel amusement. While the newspaper quickly removed the column from its website when it realised the offence it had caused, the piece should not have been published.
The NBR’s withdrawal of the column underlines a useful principle that free speech on the subject of race ought to stop short of humour that deliberately sets out to hurt. The four members hope all editors will reflect on this case and recognise that gratuitous racial offence is unworthy of responsible journalism.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and Tracy Watkins.

In my view the Press Council gave far too much credibility to the assertion by both Jones and the NBR that the column was satire. I have written previously about this issue.

It seems that the ‘it is satire’ position taken by both the NBR and Jones provided a useful post-publication response to the rapid and significant reaction to the article as yet another Bob Jones racist demeaning rant.

As a result of the high profile of the petition, Jones was quick to threaten Renae Maihi, and by his own admission to TV1 News he would find it “very enjoyable” to take her to court for defamation. In a show of pure arrogance Jones states: “I won’t sue her for a lot because that would seem like I’m bullying her.”

In true narcissistic form Jones turns the issue on its head stating “”You have to be sick to not see (what he wrote) was a p*sstake,

Just to clarify the use of the term narcissistic in relation to Jones behaviour, the general indicators include the following:
• Exaggerates own importance
• Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance
• Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
• Requires constant attention and admiration from others
• Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
• Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
• Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
• Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her
• Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes

So it is not difficult to see how Bob Jones may fit well into this definition, with the current court proceedings of defamation against Renae Maihi being just one example of the indicators noted above.

And even with over 72,000 signatures on the petition he continues to be of the misguided view that Renae Maihi stands alone. What is that? Stupidity? Arrogance? Racism? Or just straight our white male privilege spouting off? There is ample evidence that gestures to all of these attributes.
1. Evidence of Stupidity: Comments by Jones in response to the NZ Herald asking about the filing of the defamation writ, NZ Herald June 18, 2018:
“That’s a tough one,” he said.
“So no I haven’t [filed papers]. I lied on Whale Oil and the judiciary are trying to wind you up and are lying as well, the bastards. So keep your guard up son. You can’t trust anyone and certainly not the judiciary.”

2. Evidence of Arrogant White Privilege: Comments taken from Jones colum Bob Jones’ full NBR column.
I have in mind a public holiday where maori bring us breakfast in bed or weed our gardens, wash and polish our cars and so on, out of gratitude for existing. And if any maori tries arguing that if he/she didn’t have a slight infection of Irish blood or whatever, they might be the better for it, the answer is no sunshine.

3. Evidence of Racism: Comments taken from Jones colum Bob Jones’ full NBR column. “As there are no full-blooded maoris in existence it indisputably follows that had it not been for migrants, mainly Brits, not a single maori alive today, including Professor William Temaru [sic], would have existed. So excluding individuals who may be miserably suicidal, and instead like 99.999% of us, actually like being alive, it’s long overdue for some appreciation… Maori Appreciation Day in which maori tangibly express their gratitude for existing thanks to European immigration, by a day’s voluntarily labour for non-maori folk, would be an excellent initiative for the new government.

I would put my bet on all of the above. Why? Because each of those characteristics align with both the definition of narcissism and with the position of white male privilege that he asserts.

He is also clearly showing that his thinking and opinions are, to borrow a phrase from Taika Waititi ‘Racist As Fuck’.