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TEAC And Te Tiriti O Waitangi – Walking The Talk?

At yet another TEAC presentation yesterday in Wellington, several new questions arose from Maori participants concerned about autonomy and the future direction of Maori tertiary education. Te Mana Akonga (Inc.), the National Maori Students’ Association has also identified several issues pertaining to the continuous reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and wonders how much this new body will be prepared to “walk the talk”.

Danica Waiti, Kaituhono for Te Mana Akonga (Inc.), comments, “The second TEAC report is very different from the first in that there are several references to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. However, we believe that the proposals fail to give true justice to the Treaty and are in danger of paying mere lip service”.

An example of a Treaty reference is in recommendation 27 of the report under membership of the proposed Tertiary Education Commission. The Commission recommends that—

‘at least two members must be Maori’.

Earlier it is noted that a minimum of two members should be Maori, reflecting the importance of the Treaty and the needs of Maori.

“We believe that having Maori representation on TEC is crucial however, in order to reflect the true importance and the essence of Te Tiriti o Waitangi half of the membership of TEC should be Maori representatives”, says Miss Waiti, “Our ancestors signed the Treaty as a partnership between the Crown and Iwi and Hapu. These days the Treaty partnership approach is ignored and instead Maori are made to feel privileged to be part of the process. In actuality Maori have a right to participate as equal partners. This is a true reflection of the Treaty and what it means for Maori”.

Te Mana Akonga (Inc.) acknowledges the possibility to create advisory and reference groups to TEC for matters including Maori tertiary education, as outlined in the report. However, this could be seen in two ways. Firstly, as an effort to focus on the particular needs of Maori in tertiary education to a greater extent, or secondly, as a form of ghettoisation of Maori issues.

“Te Mana Akonga (Inc.) would be happy to establish some advisory or reference role with TEC to ensure that the particular needs of Maori University students are addressed”, says Miss Waiti, “However, equal representation for Maori on TEC is preferred. Issues for Maori tertiary education must be discussed and supported across the membership of TEC, not just placed on the shoulders of two Maori members who are expected to be the saving grace of Maori tertiary education”.

The report also acknowledges the problems with the current system claiming that it is not fulfilling Treaty obligations. It claims to increase ‘support for types of tertiary education providers who are capable of meeting the needs of Maori’.

“This word ‘capable’ is troubling in this context. Every tertiary institution is capable of meeting the needs of Maori. Whether they are committed to meeting the needs of Maori is another story. TEAC should be advocating for all tertiary institutions to recognize their Treaty responsibilities. The marginalisation of Maori tertiary education is wrong”, states Miss Waiti.

Talk from the Hui Taumata Matauranga last month signaled the establishment of a Maori Education Authority. Some discussion of a Maori TEC has also taken place.

“Te Mana Akonga (Inc.) is of the mind that we either have a separate TEC to focus specifically on Maori tertiary education or that we have a TEC which is equally representative of Maori and non-Maori. We will not welcome a similar system to what we already have which marginalizes Maori and transfers responsibility. We acknowledge the work and effort put into this report but we do not want to see another attempt to restructure the tertiary education system at the expense of Maori”, concludes Miss Waiti.

For further information contact:

Danica Waiti Ph. 04 498 2506 or 021 440 279
Te Mana Akonga (Inc).

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