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State of the Pakeha Nation Annual Essay

Press release 31 January 2013

Network Waitangi Whangarei

The third Joan Cook Memorial Waitangi Day Essay is now posted on the Treaty Resource Centre website:

Thoughts Around the State of the Pakeha Nation

February 2013

“How is it our minds are not satisfied? … What means this whispering in the bottom of our hearts?”

So ended a public lecture in 1842 by prominent Sydney barrister, Richard Windeyer. The lecture was meant to be a reasoned demolition of the rights of Australia’s original inhabitants. But it ended with a question, acknowledgement of a troubled conscience. I recently read these words on the back cover of This Whispering in our Hearts, the 1998 work of Henry Reynolds, Australian historian. I felt the expression “troubled conscience” would resonate, consciously or unconsciously, with people in New Zealand. The words provided a theme for my thinking about the state of the Pakeha nation.

The original “State of the Nation” addresses were not on this theme. They were an annual summer event, instituted by Robert Muldoon, leader of New Zealand’s National Party. His intention was to gain media attention for his party’s policies. After his defeat as Prime Minister in 1984, the event was discontinued until revived by a new National Party leader, Don Brash. In 2004, Brash used a cleverly crafted reflection on New Zealand’s history and the Treaty of Waitangi to suggest that Maori were unduly privileged. Brash and the National Party were immediately rewarded with a surge in the polls. The fact that most social statistics for Maori were decidedly worse than those for the general population meant little or nothing to the many New Zealanders who were delighted by Brash’s statement.

For Pakeha who had spent much time and energy in promoting the Treaty relationship, this turn of events in 2004 was disturbing. It made us realise just how profound in our communities was the prejudice against Maori and their rights. One constructive counter to Brash’s speech was initiated by Network Waitangi Whangarei. From 2006 to 2009 they hosted an annual panel of speakers on “The State of the Pakeha Nation”, and from 2010 have been publishing essays on the same subject. These panels and essays are intended to continue the legacy of Joan Cook, staunch and inspirational supporter of Pakeha commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Thank you, Joan, for being an ongoing inspiration to us. May you rest in peace!

Each contributor has brought to these panels and essays their personal insight as one who has reflected long and hard on the history of this country and our identity as Pakeha New Zealanders. So, I begin by giving some of my background and interests in coming to this topic. I will then acknowledge how I have been helped with this essay by a meeting round a kitchen table, and expand on the ideas nurtured at that table.This year’s essay is written by Dr Susan Healy who is one of the authors of Ngapuhi Speaks, the newly published independent report on the Ngapuhi Waitangi Tribunal claims on the Declaration of Independence and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.[…] Click here to read read further


Information on the report can be found at Dr Healy is a Pākehā of Irish, British and Cornish ancestry. She has a PhD in Māori Studies from the University of Auckland, her dissertation being The nature of the relationship of the Crown in New Zealand with Iwi Māori (2006). A former Dominican Sister, Susan has been a member of the Pakeha Treaty Workers network for several decades.


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