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New Zealand Handles Its National Day Better Than Australia

New Zealand Handles Its National Day Better Than Australia, UC Expert Says

February 5, 2013

New Zealand handles Waitangi Day far better than Australia handles its national day, a University of Canterbury (UC) expert said today.

UC Professor Patrick McAllister has recently published a book on the issue: National Days and the politics of indigenous and local identities in Australia and New Zealand.

He says Waitangi Day is organised in an egalitarian manner, in which both treaty partners have a say. The script is a negotiated one, not one imposed by the state unlike in Australia.

``Issues of concern to Maori can be foregrounded, by Maori themselves, especially at Waitangi’s Te Tii marae, when government ministers and others are formally welcomed there. This year one would expect the question of asset sales and water rights, in particular, to be strongly voiced and debated.

``The organisation and nature of Waitangi Day as it plays out annually at Waitangi reflects the nature of the Treaty partnership as one that needs to be constantly negotiated and which is continually in process, rather than a settled, final agreement.

``Outside of Waitangi itself, local communities are free to organise Waitangi Day activities as they see fit, often with financial support from the state. Local commemorations of Waitangi Day such as the one at Okains Bay near Christchurch, which has been going for over 30 years, are designed by and reflect the interests of local groups and may contrast with the often confrontational nature of events at Waitangi itself.

``This all contrasts strongly with Australia Day, which most indigenous Australians reject as a day worth celebrating. They refer to it as Day of Mourning, Invasion Day or Survival Day, to mark their survival against the odds. The script is designed by the federally-funded Australia Day Council, which has a strong influence on how the day is celebrated both in major cities and in smaller towns and shires.’’

Professor McAllister said there were usually protests by Maori at Waitangi but this was in accordance with the nature of the treaty as something that was continually being negotiated.


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