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Brash would drive kids away from native tongues

15 September 2005

Brash would drive Kiwi kids away from their native tongues

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is horrified that Don Brash is insisting that all Maori kids learn English before te reo.

Dr Brash said in the Press on Saturday that while he was comfortable with Maori learning te reo, he would insist they learn English first.

"This exposes the assimilationist agenda driving National's race policies," Ms Fitzsimons says. "Dr Brash wants to turn all Kiwis, no matter their cultural heritage, into Europeans whose mother tongue is English.

"All children learn their first linguistic skills from their parents. Dr Brash's desire that all Kiwi kids learn English first would practically require all parents - whether Asian, New Zealand European, Maori, or African - to desist from speaking their mother tongue at home until their kids can speak English.

"This is a scary and explosive idea that all reasonable New Zealanders would be horrified by. It is the right of all New Zealanders to express and celebrate their cultural heritage, whether Maori, European, Asian or something else. Don Brash seems enthusiastic to blithely deny this fundamental human right.

"Dr Brash's statement seems even stranger given that Maori speak English perfectly adequately already."

Ms Fitzsimons says the National Leader's desire that all kids learn English first would spell the end of Maori-medium education in New Zealand.

"As of last year, almost 20,000 Kiwi kids were being taught at school either exclusively or primarily in Maori. Dr Brash's stated desire that Kiwis learn English before Maori would mean that all these kids would have to be removed from the Maori-medium education system. There is no other word for this approach to race relations than assimilation.

"If Kiwis were to elect a National-led government on Saturday, we would face a desperately divisive future, with Maori pitted against Pakeha and Pakeha against Pakeha. It is a future of the 'White Australia' policies practised across the Tasman, which seeks to deny the unique cultural heritage of our indigenous people. This path leads only to divisiveness, upheaval and misery.

"I'm confident that this isn't the future that Kiwis want. We're a proud, tolerant, diverse nation, and the Greens look forward to working with Labour as part of the next government to move New Zealand forward as a united, cohesive, and culturally respectful society."


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