Ardern to miss Ratana to attend Davos

I’m not sure what the big deal about politicians attending the January Ratana Church event – they don’t give this attention to any other religion – but the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will miss it this year to attend the he World Economic Forum in Davos.

RNZ:  Prime Minister won’t attend Ratana celebrations

Jacinda Ardern will be in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum and deputy PM Winston Peters will take her place. On her return from Davos, the prime minister – along with ministers and Maori MPs – will make the trek to Northland to attend Waitangi commemorations.

RNZ: Labour Māori MPs face demands for action as PM misses Rātana celebrations

Last year, the freshly-minted Prime Minister kicked off the political year at Rātana and Waitangi with warm welcomes and celebration at the news she was expecting her first child.

In two weeks Jacinda Ardern was expected to return to Rātana – a Labour stronghold – but international travel to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum means her deputy Winston Peters will instead take her place.

And from there Ardern will attend Waitangi Day celebrations. She made a big impression last year, going top Waitangi for five days, but she will struggle to match that performance.

On her return from Davos she, along with a strong contingent of ministers and Māori MPs, will make the trek to Northland where her attendance at Waitangi commemorations is locked in, but she’s yet to commit to attending the annual Iwi Chairs Forum on 1 February.

In a statement Ms Ardern said her schedule for Waitangi was still being worked through and a decision about whether to attend the Iwi Chairs Forum hadn’t yet been made.

While some say Ms Ardern’s absence from the forum would be viewed as a snub, others say Māori have moved on from waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to deliver a speech of promises and instead just want to get on with business.

Mr Paraone said they can expect to receive some criticism at Waitangi as well as some free advice on what to do better.

“There will be some of my relatives who over the past twelve months have been quite critical of the Māori members, particularly those from the north, and then there will be others who will continue to be quite supportive of them but by the same token be whispering in their ears saying, hey we expect a bit more.”

But Rangitane Marsden, the chief executive of Ngāi Takoto – the iwi hosting the forum this year – said many Māori had moved away from expecting the government to provide for them, and, rather, the focus this year was on iwi economic development and building a strong business relationship with the Crown.

“I think this is the year where we want to sit down and do business, so that’s probably the theme of what we’d be after with government: it’s ‘let’s not keep talking about things, let’s not have anymore rhetoric speeches, let’s actually make something happen and be real about what we do’.”

“I think there’s a new opportunity to build a stronger relationship so we can move forward. In the past … there’s been a lot of energy put into the relationship with National and now that we have a new government it’s probably a switch of tack.”

Iwi leaders are hoping Ms Ardern will attend the forum but at the same time Mr Marsden said they’ve reached a point where they don’t need the prime minister repeating herself in order to get things done.

“So while every year at the election or Waitangi we’d wait with bated breath for a particular prime minister to describe what they’re going to do to make a difference for us – those days are fast disappearing,” he said.

I would expect Labour to deliver on something to Māori now theyt hold all seven Māori  electorates

Using te reo is good, unless someone is offended

Last month during Māori language week there was widespread encouragement of increasing the use of te reo, but it seems that some want to limit it’s use to things they find acceptable.

Lizzie Marvelly (15 September): The language of the land is being spoken

We are in the middle of another Māori renaissance at the moment. Te reo classes are jam-packed, with long waiting lists for those hoping to jump aboard the language waka. The language of the land is being spoken more and more on the airwaves. Macron use is becoming increasingly common in major publications. It’s an exciting time for people who love Te Ao Māori. Kōrengarenga ana te whatumanawa i te manahau. My heart is overflowing with joy.

This week – this special, sacred week; a celebration of a language that has arisen from the ashes – has been full of reminders of the importance of our reo fight. I have loved seeing the many innovations unveiled to encourage use of the reo.

There’s no doubt that the recent history of te reo Māori has been a difficult one, but what has struck me most this week is the excitement of thousands of New Zealanders trying out new te reo words for the first time. In years to come, I like to imagine a future in which te reo Māori is spoken by most New Zealanders, having been taught at school. There is no downside. Bilingualism is great for your brain, te reo is fun to learn, and understanding Te Ao Māori strengthens our cultural partnership.

The future is Māori. Haumi ē! Hui ē! Tāiki ē!

But there appears to be a but.

In the time since, in the replies to that tweet, I’ve been accused of being “outraged”, told to lighten up, told that I was doing a disservice to te reo Māori, been called a “perpetually outraged radical feminist who hates men esp white men”…

old to “get off [my] fucking high horse”, told to get a life, called a boring snowflake etc. etc.

The response was fascinating. How do you go from someone pointing out that a phrase seems surprising and out of place, to instant hysteria? What happens in people’s minds to make them respond so vehemently?

The accusations around te reo were the most frustrating. Just because a te reo word is in a phrase doesn’t nullify the implications of the phrase as a whole. The phrase “less hui, more do-ey” plays into negative stereotypes about Māori. It has always had negative connotations.

So anything that someone thinks has negative connotations should not be said? Haven’t Māori used the term themselves?

And I’m aware that it was aimed at the Government, rather than at Māori, but it uses a racial stereotype to derive its meaning. So I was surprised to see it in that article, especially when Air NZ has done some good stuff to support te ao Māori.

I don’t think it uses a racial stereotype to derive it’s meaning. The meaning goes back a long way. It is simply a variation on the term ‘less talk, more action’ with a Māori flavour.

Hui are an important means of Māori consultation and discussion, but like any meetings, especially series of meetings, they can become dominated with talk at the expense of taking meaningful action.

Talking things over is usually a good thing, but interminably talking can be a form of procrastination.

Duff was being critical of Māori inaction.

But they look like white men so shouldn’t have joined this korero.

But I don’t think Deborah Coddington is Māori.

Leonie Hayden:

I’ve found it amusing in the past when I first heard it used (by Māori) but I don’t love it when it’s used by non-Māori, especially when you can tell it’s the only time they use the word ‘hui’.

Non-Māori teo users are discouraged, and could well be discouraged from using te reo if there is tolo much preciousness over how it is used.

Leonie Pihama:

Even the use by our own I find insulting. It is based on the hegemonic idea that talking, giving depth reflection and resolving ways of doing things is not “doing anything”.

I don’t think it is based on that at all. It doesn’t imply action without talking, without reflecting, without trying to resolve things through discussion. All it suggests is that sometimes there can be too much talk and not enough action. Māori are not immune from that, and they shouldn’t be immune from criticism if they don’t take enough action after talking things through.

I joined the twitter discussion –  If you want a living language, especially co-existing with another language, there will always be the chance that people will use it in ways we may not like. There’s a lot of English usage I’m not fussed on. But trying to dictate usage, especially based on race, seems crazy to me.

It also moved to a discussion on pronunciation.

More from Wairangi Jones:

Dialect variances don’t stack up as an argument. Regardless of dialect Te Reo has been mispronounced. The root cause of mispronounced Te Reo is racism because of colonisation, something the English language has never experienced.

The English language was and is not mispronounced in NZ. Te Reo is. Colonization is the cause.

English is pronounced differently eg Sth Africa and Oz like Te Reo dialects. I am talking about NZ and nowhere else. English pronunciation with the NZ twang is normal. Mispronunciation of Te Reo isn’t.

This is nonsense. there are quite a variety of English pronunciations in New Zealand. There is no normal ‘NZ twang’ – there are regional and racial variations her, and English pronunciation here has kept evolving for two centuries, as it has elsewhere. There has been a distinct Māori  on local pronunciation of English. That’s what happens with language.

If people like Marvelly and Jones try to insist that no te reo that may offend someone be used by non-Māori , and if they demand purity of pronunciation, they will deter people from using te reo and even from using Māori words.

If New Zealand had not been colonised, if there had been no foreign language exposure at all, if UK and US and Australian television had never been seen here, then Māori language spoken now would have evolved from how it was spoken 200 years ago. It is likely regional dialects would have become more pronounced. That’s what happens with languages.

Demanding purity now is likely to deter wider use.

Getting precious over the use of Māori words by anyone deemed not Māori  enough to use them is likely to deter wider use.

I don’t think Lizzie Marvelly, who seems to prefer her Māori  side and forgets like most she also has ‘coloniser’ ancestry, has not been condemned for using a non-pure non-Māori name. Lizzie as opposed to Irihāpeti is not exactly kātuarehe, but who cares?

I think use of te reo should be encouraged, and those who integrate Māori  words into English phrases should not be ostracised.

Māori will struggle to be a living language let alone widely used if it is stifled through preciousness and demanded perfection.

 

Bracken – from god-laden anthem to racist poem

Thomas Bracken wrote the words that have become the lyrics of New Zealand’s second national anthem, which is laden with references to God and Lord’.

“Our anthem is so focused on religion it’s not funny! Get away from all the god talk and start talking about something that actually means something to everyone in this country. Make it even easier, have it in our native tongue – Te Reo Māori!”

– Hemi Ruru, Papakura

Bracken also wrote a racist poem – it was about Chinese people. If he was found to have written something racist about Māori the maybe there would be an outcry and calls to condemn everything he wrote, like the religist anthem.

Michael Tull: Anthem writer Thomas Bracken’s anti-Chinese rhetoric ‘racist to modern eyes’.

There’s a danger in elevating historical figures to demigod status.

Last week’s editorial ‘Our anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’ is a radically subversive challenge to tradition’ veered close to elevating New Zealand national anthem writer Thomas Bracken to a similar inviolate status.

Its staunch defence of his lyrics was, in part, a response to a discussion I started earlier this month on social media about whether it’s appropriate to have an undisguised Christian prayer as our anthem.

What I proposed was a revision of the lyrics, in order to address the religious elephant in the room.

Removing 13 direct references to ‘God’ and ‘Lord’, plus a further eight indirect references (such as ‘thee’ and ‘thy’) would underline the separation between church and state which is fundamental in a modern democracy.

While the anthem is often criticised there is no apparent drive to deem it as inappropriate and dump it.

Revising the lyrics might also make the anthem more relatable to, and reflective of, the increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith mix of people who make up our country.

Bracken wrote at a very different time.

It would need more than ‘revising the lyrics’ – it would have to amount to a major re-write.

But Bracken, while a good man by most accounts, was no paragon of virtue, and his works are not time-proof.

Another of his published poems, Chinee Johnny, is so racist to modern eyes that strict limits were set on which bits can be quoted here.

Written in a mock Chinese accent, it includes lines like “cook him puppy in him pan”, “steal him fowley nighty come”, and “Chinaman no wifey bling/ No good women, all same ting/ Play on tom-tom, ching, ching, ching!”

Okay, let’s be kind and say perhaps this was “of its time”.  But even by the kindest interpretation, it still reads like the worst Benny Hill sketch ever.

More viscerally, Bracken’s poem sits mightily uneasy in the modern world.

Couldn’t the same thing be said about baking a prayer into the song through which we express our national pride?

If Bracken had written something that was as racist against Māori as is his his poem against Chinese then it would lead a modern movement to have a relevant anthem.

 

Massey, free speech, racism and Māori issues

The Massey University free speech debate flared up after politician (ex Leader of the Opposition) and activist on a number of issues Don Brash was prevented from speaking about his experience as a politician.

The person who cancelled the event that Brash was due to speak at, vice-chancellor, cited security issues, but it is clear she didn’t want Brash to speak due to what she claims is his ‘racism’.

17 July Jan Thomas (NZH): Free speech is welcome at universities, hate speech is not

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.

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.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

It should be countered with better arguments, not banning.

8 August (edited from an interview on Newstalk ZB): Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas tries to explain Brash ban

What I have said was that ah there was an event held in ah the Manawatu here on our campus, ah from ah Hobson’s Pledge ah which ah was particularly offensive for ah particularly our Maori staff, and ah that is not the sort of thing that I would like to see at a university campus. Um that wasn’t ah Dr Brash speaking, um it was around ah Hobson’s Pledge that particular time.

So those sorts of events are events ah where the discussion um moves from being one ah of talking about ah the issues and evidence based ah good rational debate where people are able to speak about um their perspectives on a whole range of different things.

I also am quite happy to stand behind my comments that hate speech is not welcome on campus, and the way I would consider hate speech is ah when hate speech might demean or humiliate or silence groups of people based on a common trait, whether it be sexuality or religion or race or whatever, um because ah that is essentially ah the same as bullying of a larger group of people, and we don’t tolerate  bullying in the playground do we…

In emails (from Kiwiblog Massey lying over cancellation of Brash speech):

So I sum, I really want to find a way to indicate that Brash is not welcome on campus unless he agrees to abide by our values and the laws against hate speech.

The notion of exploring ideas and free speech on campus should be providing that it does not cause harm to others and does not break the laws. Hate speech had no place on our campus and as a te Tiriti led university our values need to be respected too. I feel a great deal of responsibility around the WHS responsibilities to our Māori staff and students.

I think these are quite common type views where there are valid concerns over biased and racist attacks on Māori (and other minority races in New Zealand, which most people have some connection to).

But it can also be used to shut down valid different opinions on Māori issues. Don Brash has become a major figure in these discussions since he became infamous for his NATIONHOOD – Don Brash Speech Orewa Rotary Club in 2004.

His more recent association with Hobson’s Pledge “He iwi tahi tatou: We are now one people.” has kept the attacks on him coming – and this played a part in Thomas’ ban. Like:

And:

The problem is that Brash just needs to open his mouth now to be called racist.

There are alternative views:

There are important issues facing Māori  in Aotearoa, and they should speak up on them, as many do. Of course there are a wide range of Māori views, and they should all feel free to speak up.

Non-Māori people should not be excluded from these debates – Māori  issues affect every New Zealander.

‘Hating’ someone else’s view does not mean there is hate speech.

I think it is important to, if anything, err towards allowing and enabling challenging views and debate, not shutting it down because someone claims that they are or may be offended.

People like Don Brash have as much right to speak as anyone – and Brash is very well aware of the scrutiny anything he says will get, and will be careful he sticks to carefully expressing his views on  contentious issues .

Jan Thomas:

What I do object to is where um speech that demeans or humiliates or silences groups of people based on a common trait. Ah in other words playing the man and not the ball, ah is ah is something that we don’t accept on a university campus, that everyone should feel that they can express their views in a way that is not um going to be subject to being demeaned or humiliated.

I think that Brash more than most plays the ball and not the man or woman.

Thomas banned the man and dropped the free speech ball. She has demeaned and humiliated herself.

People who try to stop speech they disagree with, whether they call it hate speech, racist or demeaning, end up demeaning their own arguments.

But this debate looks to be far from over, From a statement by the Tertiary Education Union President:

Minister criticises two Cabinet colleagues over lack of interest in Whānau Ora

Peeni henare, Minister of Whānau Ora, has criticised Cabinet Ministers David Clark (Health) and Chris Hipkins (Education) for their lack of interest in progressing the Whānau Ora programme.

Maori Television:  Ministers’ lack of interest a barrier for Whānau Ora

Minister of Whānau Ora Peeni Henare says a lack of invested interest from the ministers of health and education is proving to be a barrier and he’s making their inclusion a priority.

Auckland was flooded today with Whānau Ora specialists.  However the minister says, the lack of investment from some is a barrier to the progression of the program.

Henare says, ‘I’ve been to a lot of hui to speak about Whānau Ora and the ones who aren’t at the table are the health and education ministers.”

That’s significant criticism of fellow Ministers.

Ex Labour party MP and Maori Party minister Tariana Turia calls it racism.

Dame Tariana Turia says, “We haven’t had all the government agencies see Whānau Ora as the way forward.  In actual fact, they keep coming up with new ideas, new programmes, new opportunities and essentially it’s to put Whānau Ora on the side.”

Turia says a lot of those attitudes stem from racism.

“We have huge institutional racism in this country, that’s the reality and [will be] until non-Māori see Māori as the answer to the issues impacting on them that have been caused by others.”

Ex Labour MP John Tamihere agrees:

“Out of all the money voted out of parliament every year, 98.8 percent of it goes to Pākehā, for Māori by Pākehā, that just can’t continue.”

Despite now holding all the Māori seats now Labour are struggling to deliver for them – or they just aren’t interested.

Kelvin Davis on over-representation of Māori in the (prison) system

An often quoted disparity – Māori make up about 15% of the New Zealand population, but make up 52% of the prison population. This is a sign of a number of problems, including poverty and deprivation, unemployment, lack of education, a culture of violence, Māori gangs, and probably policing and justice systems stacked again either or both poorer people and Māori.

Kelvin Davis has been disappointing as deputy Prime Minister, but as Minister of Corrections and Minister for Crown/Māori Relations he may still be able make a significant contribution to the Government (and to Māori and to New Zealand society) if he can work out how to find some solutions and improve on some of this.

 

His speech to the Justice Summit:


Criminal Justice Summit: Plenary discussion on over-representation of Māori in the system

“I had never been hit or abused, until the day the men came to take me away.  I still don’t even know why.”

That’s how Sam began to tell me his story at a marae in Whangarei.

Sam is now 60. The gang patches on his face still vivid.

His life has been spent in and out of prison. But now, he has had enough.

Enough of the violence. Enough of the P. Enough of ‘The Life.’

Sam was just 10 years-old when strangers arrived at his house in Mangere and took him away. His only crime was that he was born into a whānau of 16 children.

They took him away from his home, away from his family, and put him on a train to a boys’ home in Levin.

He had never known abuse or violence in his life until he walked through their doors.

Four years later – and Sam was put on another train and sent back to Auckland.

He told me that when he stepped off the train in Auckland he had changed so much as a person that it no longer felt like home. He felt like he no longer belonged there.

Within two weeks he had joined a gang – a new home, a new family he would remain with for the next 48 years.

When Sam told me his story – in fact when Māori across the country doing time tell me their stories – I can’t help but ask the question:

Why didn’t we do something? As a government, as Māori: Why didn’t we help?

Why are Māori up and down the country more likely to visit the pad than the marae?

And why are whole whānau turning to crime to feed their kids rather than turning to the government for support?

We took that 10 year-old boy – scared and confused – we took him, we threw him into the system and it spat out a broken young man with nowhere to turn but a life in the gang.

Why did we let that happen to Sam? And why do we still refuse to be bold and brave and do something to help people like Sam today?

We take pride in New Zealand as a country that leads the world in many ways.

Whether it’s our sporting achievements, our science and tech innovation, or our film industry. And we should be proud of these things.

But there is an ugly reality in this country. We are a world leader when it comes to putting people in prison.

We can’t seem to get enough of it.

We have the second highest incarceration rate in the world – and a level of imprisonment that is simply devastating our Māori whānau and communities.

You have all seen the statistics.

Roughly 16 per cent of our country’s population are Māori, yet we make up 51 per cent of all people in prison.

It is worse for our women and our young people.

Wāhine Māori make up around 60 per cent of the female prison population and the figure is similar for the number of young Māori offenders doing time on the inside.

It’s not just imprisonment rates.

Our people are over-represented at every stage of the criminal justice system:

In Oranga Tamariki care; in Youth Justice; criminal convictions; in dealings with the Police, and as victims of crime.

It’s not a new problem.

Successive governments have failed to overcome this challenge, let alone accept it as one that we can and must overcome.

This is personal for me.

I look around this room and I see Māori – professionals, public servants, whānau, leaders and iwi representatives – and I know you feel this too.

These are our people I’m talking about. Over half of all prisoners are Māori and about half of these are from my iwi of Ngāpuhi.

In fact, my tribe of Ngāpuhi are probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world per head of population.

I’ve had whānau in prison. I grew up in a street where a number of people living there went to prison. These guys were my mates: I used to build huts with them; swim in the floods with them; we would play in the paddocks together.

That’s not to excuse the offences these people have committed – but something has to be done to reduce the scale of this problem and the sheer waste of human potential.

So, this is very much a personal issue.

And as the Minister of Corrections: I want answers.

There is only so much you can learn from reports and international evidence, patterns, rates and projections.

I wanted to talk to prisoners.

So I have gone up and down the country, brought together groups of Māori inmates and asked them the simple question:

What do we need to do to help you so that when you leave prison you never come back?

And when I talk about ‘We’ – I mean the Government and Māori together.

I don’t know what I expected – but what I didn’t expect was the openness of each man and woman who spoke.

A woman at Wiri told me she had spent her life in and out of prison.

She had violent outbursts and the scars on her wrists told the story of those days when it all got too much.

Then she talked about an anger management course she had just finished.

She said it had changed her life: She can now communicate with her family, regulate her emotions and control her outbursts.

She then asked me: ‘Why couldn’t I have done this course when I was 15? Gee, my life would have been so different’.

I heard similar stories from the men I sat down with in the Special Treatment Unit at Rimutaka.

One of these men told me the rehabilitation programme they were on had taught him he actually had options when he became angry– options other than expressing that anger and frustration as violence.

Another said he had never even thought about or considered his inner feelings and emotions until he was on this programme – because the way he was raised, talking about feelings or showing vulnerability was not acceptable. It was unthinkable.

And all of them told me the same thing: They don’t want this life for their kids.

Then there’s the young Māori man who told me that when he was released from prison all he wanted to do was go home and see his Mum and Dad – but because he had a Non Association Order and his whole family were in a gang – he couldn’t go home.

He said: ‘I get that they take my freedom away because of the crimes I committed. But they took my whānau too’.

Men in prison tell me how much they benefit from Tikanga Māori courses – that it changes their lives when they learn haka, waiata and karakia.

But when that man goes home changed and wanting to live a new life – before he sits down to eat with his whānau he starts to say karakia and his wife and kids look at him like he’s a stranger.

Just last week, an articulate and polite young Māori man – only 18 years-old – had a tattoo scribbled across his face that read: ‘Trust No One’.

I asked him why he got that tattoo and he replied: ‘No one has done nothing for me, and everyone has let me down. My whānau, my friends and the system’.

Those disappointments and failures are now etched on his face as a constant reminder.

And why would he believe any different?

The system is broken.

It’s not working. And our whānau are hurting the most.

If we genuinely want to see fewer Māori caught in the system as both perpetrators and victims of crime, then we need to fundamentally change our approach to criminal justice.

This summit marks the start of this change.

It’s time as a government, it’s time as Māori that we work together to help our people.

In our communities, in our prisons and when they come out.

There had to be dozens of points in Sam’s life when someone could have stepped in.

And in Sam’s case, the one time we did step in, our intervention sent him down the path that ultimately turned him into a gang member – and not just him, but his whānau, and their whānau too.

In the end, we punished a child whose only crime was being born into a family of 16 children, then we sentenced him to a life of crime.

And we need to own that.

It’s our fault he spent nearly half a century in a gang.

If you think Sam is the exception to the rule – you are wrong.

There are 5000 Sams in our prisons. And they include his children, and his grandchildren.

We need to do something together to create a different future for Māori and for their whanau.

We need to break the cycle, connect them to their people, help them, and have hope for them.

And if we accept that there is a need for change – then we must all be part of that.

We – all of us – need to change the system. But we also need to change.

As a government we need to make sure the system helps and does not hurt Māori further.

We need to make sure those who have found their way into the system leave as better people – not broken people.

And when I visit our prisons full of our Māori men and women, I know that – if we are 51 per cent of the problem – then it must be up to us to lead the solution.

But we can only do it with the support of every person in this room.

As Māori we need to take care of our own, rather than closing our doors. We need to face up to and free ourselves from the violence that many of our people, our whānau struggle with.

Here’s where we can learn something from Sam:

When he heard the boys’ home in Levin had closed, he and his wife jumped in the car and drove back to the place where it all started.

He told me it was something he just had to do.

And it was when he was standing outside the gates that he finally broke down and offered his forgiveness.

He forgave the men who took him away; the boys’ home that broke his spirit; the government and the people who turned their backs on him.

He forgave us.

As a gang member you would expect Sam to be hard – to be strong. But one of the strongest things he’s ever done is to forgive us for the life we gave him, his kids, and his grandkids.

I’ll probably never know why Sam trusted me with his story. I was a stranger to him.

What I do know, is that I feel the weight of carrying his story, telling his story and sharing it with all of you.

And I know that we need to write a new story for our people.

So: What are we going to do? That is my question to all of you here today.

Together, how are we going to take up the challenge that others have been too timid, or too hardened or too short-sighted to accept?

What are we going to do to deserve Sam’s forgiveness?

Ngāpuhi ‘is probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world’

The Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says that Māori make up over 50% of the population, and the Northland tribe Ngāpuhi “is probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world”.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis at the announcement.

Kelvin Davis (RNZ): ‘Ngāpuhi [probably] ‘most incarcerated tribe in the world’

Mr Davis said Māori make up over 50 percent of the prison population, and he wants that number reduced.

“Of that 50 percent, half again, are from Ngāpuhi, my own tribe, so this is personal.

“My tribe of Ngāpuhi is probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world, per head of population, so we really have to look at what we’re going to do differently as a country, to turn these figures around.”

Mr Davis said Māori must be included in the conversation, and is pleased half of the justice advisory group, set up by the Justice Minister Andrew Little and headed by the former National MP Chester Burrows, are Māori.

“If Māori make up more than 50 percent of the prison population, we should actually be talking to Māori about what the solutions are too.”

More than talking. Māori need to be prominent in implementing solutions.

“The question then becomes, ‘so, what do we do about it?’

“Because if it’s not unconscious bias, well then it’s conscious bias and we’ve got to make changes to make sure that Māori aren’t particularly picked on, or seen as the ones that are committing all the crime.”

Is it policing bias and judicial disadvantage for Māori? Or are Māori  proportionally more inclined to commit crimes. Probably some of all of those things.

He points to an instance in the last year near his home up north, where people were incredibly upset about the imbalance of justice.

“A couple of families who could afford justice, actually got a form of justice. Whereas people who couldn’t afford justice, for lesser offences, actually got a prison sentence. And that sort of stuff is not right.”

The cost of ‘justice’, of defending oneself in the court system, is a major issue. If you can afford a good lawyer your chances of being found not guilty or of a reduced sentence will be greater.

Mr Davis said they were looking at all aspects of the system to make sure it was fair for everybody.

He said the justice summit this week is an opportunity for people from all parts of the system to have their say.

“We’re expecting a lot of thought and a lot of ideas to come out of this, and we’ve got to sift through and see which ones are the best ones that can make a short term difference, medium and long term differences,” he said.

It isn’t going to be easy turning poor crime and imprisonment statistics around for Māori, but different approaches have to be tried, by the police, by the judicial system, and probably most importantly, by Māori communities and iwi.

Davis can play a significant role in finding social and judicial solutions for Ngāpuhi in particular.

And there are wider issues that probably contribute to the problems up north. RNZ: Little meets with Auckland-based Ngāpuhi members

The Treaty Negotiations Minister, Andrew Little, has met with hundreds of Ngāpuhi members based in Auckland this weekend to discuss the contentious claim.

Ngāpuhi have been quite divided on their treaty claim.

“Whiteness”, decolonisation and dumping capitalism

Max Harris writes about Racism and White Defensiveness in Aotearoa: A Pākehā Perspective

More accurately that should be ‘one Pākehā’s perspective’.

I want to talk about an aspect of whiteness in Aotearoa New Zealand. And when I say “whiteness”, I’m not just talking about skin colour. I’m talking about the power, privilege, and patterns of thinking associated with white people.

I think that there are a wide variety of ‘patterns of thinking associated with white people’ – whatever ‘white people’ means.

Whiteness is connected to economic power and class — and is probably least understood by those it privileges. Most white people seem blind to its existence, while most non-white people are not.

Sweeping generalisations. Harris speaks for himself, fair enough, but not for ‘white people’. He doesn’t back up his ‘most white people’ and ‘most non-white people’ claims.

I think for those of us who identify as Pākehā, or grew up in Pākehā-dominant spaces, there’s a special responsibility to strive to be aware of our own advantages in Aotearoa New Zealand.

While I have no problems with the term Pākehā I don’t identify as Pākehā. I identify as a New Zealander. I don’t think I have any special responsibilities based on someone else’s pigeon holing of me.

White advantage is maintained in many ways: through intergenerational wealth, discretionary decision-making, and everyday racism.

Some people may take advantage of racial privileges – and not just ‘white people’.

One aspect of how racism is talked about in Aotearoa is white defensiveness in response to discussions of racism. By white defensiveness, I mean an anxiety, closing-down, and insecurity among white people and white-dominated institutions when racism is raised.

Perhaps some people feel some of those things. I don’t.

I see at least four types of white defensiveness.

First, there’s Denial: kneejerk responses that attempt to deny that there is racism, rather than taking claims seriously or considering its roots.

The second type of white defensiveness is Diversion. This is where, in instances in which facts about racism or colonisation are raised, the conversation is derailed through a claim that Māori themselves are guilty of some other wrong.

A third form of defensiveness is Detriment-centring. That’s where there’s a focus on the disadvantages faced by Māori, but without any acknowledgment of the advantages or protective factors which flow from being Pākehā.

The fourth form of defensiveness is the demand to Move on. This is where defensive demands are made for discussions about racism to end.

Let’s move on this discussion.

This discussion isn’t meant to demonise white people, or Pākehā, either. It’s about being honest and open about our advantages — and thinking about how to dismantle the system that produces them.

Dismantle the system?

Pākehā people can, and should, remain proud of our heritage and roots. But we also need to be aware of the injustices of the past and present, and how we may have contributed to them.

One very valid question is how all this relates to class and New Zealand’s system of capitalism.

Dismantle the system of capitalism?

We need to talk more about class in this country — to speak back to another lamentable and longstanding myth that we are somehow class-free. Fortunately, a new generation of activists in New Zealand is breathing fresh life into that conversation.

I think that class in a new Zealand perspective is a largely different different thing – I wouldn’t call it an issue.

There’s a need to support Māori-led efforts at decolonisation: the process of understanding and undoing the negative effects of colonisation, and recentring indigenous views.

Decolonisation? Harris doesn’t explain what that might entail.

We all must also push for a different economic order, given the way that the twin forces of capitalism and colonisation have amplified the power of whiteness.

He associates capitalism with whiteness – it is not just white people around the world who have benefited substantially from capitalism, and who continue to benefit from it, despite it’s shortcomings.

Harris seems to be suggesting dismantling ‘colonisation’ and capitalism.

Dismantling systems of oppression, including those based on race and class, is important for the powerful as well as the powerless.

While this is an interesting discussion there is a major omission.

Dismantling colonisation, capitalism and systems of oppression are a big deal.

But Harris makes no attempt to explain how this dismantling would happen, who would decide what is dismantled and how, nor what would take their place.

Many things in our world and our country are imperfect, but dismantling your house, or dismantling your country, must be retrograde steps unless you have somewhere else you can live.

It’s all very well to pile on ‘white people’ guilt, and to condemn colonisation and capitalism, but without any attempt at viable alternatives it seems to be a half cocked argument.

Like our form of democracy both colonisation and capitalism have some crap aspects, but they remain worse than everything but all the alternatives – unless perhaps Harris can suggest something better.

Harmony and Māori words

As Māori is used more the debate over how much it should be taught in schools and spoken on radio grows.

Māori words have always been used, as many place names are Māori. However the language was deliberately suppressed in an ill advised education system.

The language is making a bit of a revival, with some enthusiastic supporters and promoters, but some colonial traditionalists are trying to dig their white toes in.

Kate Fryberg: Harmony and the case for Māori wards

And the voice which most needs to be heard, the key note of our harmony here in Aotearoa New Zealand, is the voice of Māori. Why? To extend the metaphor, the first human voices in this land were those of Tangata Whenua.

It is Māori heritage and culture which makes this country unique – as many of us Pākehā travellers have discovered when asked to “sing a song from your country” and we find ourselves limping through a half-remembered version of Pōkarekare Ana.

Singing that a bit is one of my few memories of Māori at school.

More importantly, it is thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi that we non-Māori have the opportunity to live here. We have been invited to add our voices to the original songs.

We non-Māori, including we Pākehā.

The term Pākehā has had some bad vibes for some, but when I investigated i found that the term refereed to “the soft and loud sounds of the language of Captain Cook and his sailors” load see The soft and loud of “Pākehā”.

I am quite comfortable with being referred to as Pākehā, even though I do more soft than loud.

I have no problem with more Māori being taught in schools – in my time it was disgracefully ignored, along with important New Zealand history.

I don’t mind some use of Māori  in media, but i think that some of it is overdone. Good on RNZ for using the native language more, but for me it is sometimes overdone and I switch off.

It is probably near impossible to get the right balance for everyone. Younger people in particular who have had the opportunity to learn some Māori will benefit from it’s wider use. It’s not about me and my history, it’s about the future of New Zealand, of Aotearoa (a name I would be happy to use if it became official).

Bits of Māori speech in Parliament is lost on me but it’s probably no worse than the vast vapid verbiage used there.

I cringe when listening to our God laced dirge of a national anthem, but it is far more tolerable listening to the Māori  version.

We have a unique history which has a strong Māori flavour, and that should be a part of our identity, and it should be something we can be proud of.

Māori can certainly be a harmonious language when at it’s best (it’s use in hakas is not at it’s best). The world won’t end, the sky won’t fall in, and the long white cloud won’t evaporate if we hear some more of it.

We can live in harmony as a multi-lingual society if we try.

 

Waikeria prison decision deferred again

Some work has started on a controversial new prison at Waikeria, but no announcement has yet been made on what is being built.

On 29 March (Stuff) Andrew Little confirms decision on Waikeria within two weeks

Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed a decision will be made regarding the future of Waikeria prison within two weeks.

The Government originally promised to make the decision by the end of March but are pushing the deadline to mid-April.

Mr Little has previously said on Newshub Nation he wants to shift justice policy towards rehabilitation in order to lower prison numbers, saying what he saw when visiting Waikeria Prison “horrified him”.

“You have to ask yourself whether this is a place where someone can go from being bad to being good.”

Mr Little said he remained open to the idea of amending bail laws, which Labour previously supported tightening, but says there was no specific plan in place to change them

The Minister said within two or three months there would be a “high profile summit on criminal justice issues to get public debate going”.

Prison populations are projected to soar to over 12,000 by 2022.

Nearly four weeks later still no announcement but some work has started: Otorohanga still hoping for Waikeria prison expansion

Preparatory work has begun at the Waikeria prison site in the King Country, even though the Government has still not decided if it will go ahead with the expansion.

The Department of Corrections said that despite putting the expansion decision on ice, the Government agreed for Corrections to continue some preparatory work at Waikeria while options were considered.

Last Wednesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little said a decision on the “mega prison” would be made public within the next few weeks.

Another few weeks. The prison poses a dilemma for the Government, who have pledged to slash prison numbers but that will take time, and they are currently faced with having to deal with a growing prison population.

There are important legal considerations, as well as finding the money from a budget under pressure to deliver on election pledges.

Waatea News earlier this month: Waikeria decision sparks letter campaign

Campaign group Action Station says 1300 supporters have written letters to Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis urging them to stop the new billion-dollar prison in Waikeria.

Action Station director Laura O’Connell Rapira says the community are passionate about supporting efforts to build a more compassionate justice system which prioritises prevention, restoration and rehabilitation, and an end to the over-incarceration of Maori people.

She says while the Government is concerned about the state of prisons and wants to end double-bunking, a new prison will inevitably fail in terms of reducing crime.

But in the short term growing numbers have to be housed.

There may be no real choice but to build a prison at Waikeria, but if plans are to substantially reduce the prison population this would be a good opportunity to take a radical new approach to prisons, especially in relation to the disproportionate number of Māori prisoners.

If it doesn’t work, then it can be scrapped as numbers are reduced, and if it does work well then older traditional prison space can be scrapped.

But there is an indication a different approach is not being considered.

RNZ: Govt yet to pursue idea of separate Māori prison

The Corrections Minister has not looked to advance an idea he pushed while in opposition, to establish a separate Māori prison.

And a decision on whether to build a new $1 billion prison at Waikeria in rural Waikato is still pending – a month after Kelvin Davis said a final decision would be made.

As Labour’s opposition spokesperson, Mr Davis argued prisoner numbers could be reduced through rehabilitation programmes in a prison run on a kaupapa Māori based approach.

In February this year, he said he was not ruling anything in or out, when asked whether he’d be progressing any units or prisons based on a Māori-only model.

Last week, in a response to an official information request, Mr Davis said while he had been looking at strategies to reduce Māori offending, he had received no advice about a separate Māori prison.

He said he was committed to reducing the prison population by 30 percent over the next 15 years and “addressing the issue of Māori over representation” in prisons.

“I am working with staff, non-government and Māori organisations and communities to meet this challenge and make a meaningful change for all prisoners, including Māori,” Mr Davis said in a letter to RNZ.

It seems odd that Davis hasn’t been looking at Māori-only model, or a Māori-focussed model, while a decision is being made about the Waikeria prison expansion.

It could be something to do with this:

Mr Davis floated the idea of a separate Māori prison last year, as a way of reducing the prison population, a proposal shut down by the party’s leader at the time, Andrew Little.

Davis may have ditched his proposal, or it may have been ditched for him.

The Government can’t keep pushing out a new prison decision for ‘a few weeks’. They will probably have to commit funds in the budget in three weeks. We may find out then whether a Waikeria will be just more of the same, or something bold and different.