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Alan Duff on Maori – The Crisis And the Challenge



Maori Television harks back to the early 1990s as acclaimed, no-nonsense Maori author Alan Duff bears his hard-hitting take on the challenges facing Maori in HE RARANGA KORERO, screening this Tuesday May 24 at 9.30 PM.

HE RARANGA KORERO is a unique series that re-visits Maori archival documentaries in the new millennium. Well-known presenter Tainui Stephens fronts the programme and revisits the inspirational, controversial and influential people that were involved in the original documentaries.

On this week’s 1994 documentary Maori : The Crisis and the Challenge, Havelock North Maori author Alan Duff shares his no-holds-barred perspective on the perceived crisis facing Maori, spurred by the tragic and sensless death of Dannevirke youngster Craig Manukau at the hands of his father. ”If we don’t start acting now, if we don’t start facing the truth, then Maori are going to become a race of losers. We have to act now to stop the failure before it can’t be stopped.”

Duff rattles off a host of negative statistics – Maori and abuse, Maori and diabetes, Maori and gambling – and if there is anyone that can speak about the brutality of growing up ‘troubled’, it’s him. A frequent visitor to institutions the likes of the Hamilton Boy’s Home and Waikeria Prison, Duff overcame all oppressive odds to become the force behind hit novels including Once Were Warriors, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, One Night Out Stealing and several contributions in the media.

In Maori : The Crisis and the Challenge, Duff places the blame for Maori under-performance squarely back on Maori. His views have been described as ill-founded, controversial and conservative – yet there is no doubt that Duff speaks with conviction.

The documentary also includes interviews with key Maori leaders, including Te Puni Kokiri chief executive officer Wira Gardiner, that back-up Duff’s ethos. “I think it’s often too easy for Maori people to blame everyone else for the position that we presently exist in. I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s a psychological contribution from the deprivation of land and the issue of the Treaty of Waitangi. I don’t think there’s any doubt that when there’s a dominant cultural group in charge of a situation then other ethnic minority groups might not be able to cope with the situation as much. But – for every negative, there’s a positive as well. I have a very strong view that no-one can take your self-respect from you and only you can give it away.”

Duff initiated the Books in Homes scheme as a backlash to alarming statistics that showed students from lower decile schools were substantially less likely to read due to the socio-economic constraints of their parents. Simply – the scheme was initiated to break the cycle of ‘booklessness’ through a sponsorship scheme to literally ‘reward’ good children with a book to take home. Coupled with roving role models – or ambassadors – the scheme was a relatively novel affair in 1994. In 2005, the 10-year-old project is thriving and reaching into more and more homes and individuals’ lives through dozens of schools across the country.

Says Duff : “This is what we have to do. Start at an early age and get books into their lives. Here, books are changing the kids’ attitudes.”

At the end of the documentary, presenter Tainui Stephens and publisher, consultant and pro-Maori advocate Pita Rikys revisit some of the statements made to compare them against today’s socio-economic, education, health and abuse statistics. Has the tide changed for Maori?

Find out on HE RARANGA KORERO – Maori : The Crisis and the Challenge, this Tuesday May 24 at 9.30 PM.


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