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Flavell - Maori Teachers' Conference 2006

PPTA 12th NZ Annual Hui; Maori Teachers' Conference 2006

Te Ururoa Flavell; Education Spokesperson for the Maori Party Devon Hotel, New Plymouth, Taranaki Monday 3 July 2006

Tena koutou katoa. Firstly I want to acknowledge you all for the hui last year in Taupo. I really enjoyed my involvement in our role-play and thank you for the invitation to be one of the key speakers at this your national hui today.

One year ago, I, with all of our candidates was on the election trail to go to Parliament. Today some fourteen months on, I return as one of four representatives of the mighty Maori Party. The other three to eight Members are on their way and will all be "in the house" in two and a half years time.

Thanks to those of you who provided the support needed to get our truly independent Maori voice in the Parliament of this land.

To keep us focused, we have two main thrusts: - To defend Maori rights - To advance Maori interests in the best interests of the nation

It is so liberating to able to speak on any issue on behalf of our people and we hope that you can be proud of what we have done so far and the things we are yet to achieve. We continue to learn all there is to know about how Parliament and law making works while stamping our mark on the political landscape of the country.

E hoa ma, I need to tell that in the week just gone I did maybe twelve speeches in Parliament. But for some reason, this particular occasion and this particular speech has been on my mind for some weeks. The topic given was "the Constitutional future of the Treaty of Waitangi - the implications for Maori and for Maori education".

I recognise that Te Huarahi has workshop-ed this take for a number of years now so I don't wish to do a detailed analysis. I do want to however reflect on my own path in education and provide a view for the future and in particular your part in that as Maori educators.

I have been trying to work out why I feel so anxious about this korero. Two things might explain it. Firstly whenever I attend these hui I immediately think of those Maori icons in education that I ever had the privilege to sit with and learn from. John Tapiata, Whare Te Moana, Taru Rankin, Te Aopehi Kara, Mona Riini, Te Hiko Riini, Mira Szasy, Toby Rikihana, Hohua Tutengaehe, Erana Coulter and many many others. It is all of them that I think of whenever I attend your hui.

Secondly, it seems to be that the discussion topics are the same as those that we had over the years which might suggest that little has changed. What then could I possibly offer if we have been there and done that? Well I do bring to you today a thought which I hope will prompt some thinking.

In the first induction training session of the 48th Parliament, as the new Members gathered to meet together, our co-leader, Dr Sharples, rose to his feet. In his korero, he spoke of the significance of the moment.

At the end of the session, a new MP from another Party, asked him, how did he know that it was the right time to speak? And how did he know what to say without speech notes?

The question of timing is central to being Maori. The art of timelessness - knowing that when things happen, it is the right time for them to happen.

And today, I think back to a meeting myself and Ken Mair had in this hotel with Human Rights Commissioners when we hit the headlines with the Waitara High School inquiry done by the Tino Rangatiratanga Education Authority headed by myself and Ken Mair. "Waitara High School labelled racist by Maori Authority" was the headline. That event set the scene for highlighting once again that institutionalised racism was alive and well in schools throughout the country. So there is something there about timing.

My contribution to this hui is to say that, now is the time for a different strategy. It is a time for change; for action and all of us here, gathered today, are the ones that will make that change possible.

For the timing of Matariki urges us to set a new direction.

Just three or four days ago, we had the extra-ordinary decision in Geneva of the United Nations Human Rights Council to recommend that the General Assembly that they should endorse the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous people This is an event that indigenous people the world over have been waiting for, for twenty one years.

Yet our Government was part of a consortium of Australia, Canada and the US, that voted against this phenomenal vote.

The announcement, right on the brink of Matariki, is extremely significant for us all here. Central to our self-determination must be the knowledge that this requires our own leadership and initiative.

For at this crucial turning point in the history of indigenous peoples, it is to the shame of the current Government, that one of the two votes opposing at the United Nations Forum (out of 47 members) was the vote put forward by Canada, which represented the position of New Zealand, Australia and America.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples challenges states to ensure indigenous peoples have the right to be free from discrimination, to exercise their rights, and to have the right of self-determination.

A statement reported by the Government had a host of colourful adjectives crammed into one sentence of rationale, justifying that they found the text confusing. The statement talked about how "separatist or minority groups" could "exploit this declaration" to claim "exclusive control."

Such a strong statement is particularly disappointing when we consider the collective voice of over one thousand New Zealanders who signed a petition at the beginning of this year, responding to New Zealand's approach to the Draft Declaration.

Such a statement is hardly surprising however, when we remember the Government ignored both those thousand people - and the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur earlier this year which outlined the "underlying institutional and structural discrimination that Maori have long suffered".

Such a statement is again not unexpected when we remember the Education Amendment Bill the Government passed in May. The Maori Party put forward a range of amendments to improve the Bill to advance the rights of Maori. One by one, the Government voted against the changes put up by Dr Sharples.

Changes such as: - Maori owners who gave their land for education purposes last century -and which land is no longer required by the Minister- should be offered back to the Maori owners. OPPOSE - An amendment proposed by Te Runanganui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori for all kura kaupapa Maori to retain Maori control of their special character. OPPOSED - An Amendment endorsed by the Early Childhood Council recommending that instead of the Ministry of Education being allowed to prescribe the criteria by which early childhood standards are assessed, the advice should be in the form of guidelines. OPPOSED

We went into the process for that Bill, guided by some basic questions, such as: - Is there sufficient protection given to kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Maori? - Is Mätauranga Mäori included in these changes; - Will the participation and achievement profile of tangatawhenua be improved by the proposed amendments?

The answer was a resounding NO. Timing is everything.

It is timely to be discussing revolution and resistance in Taranaki.

As I thought back over the twenty one years of debate and petition that has taken place over the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples; I found myself tracing the same whakapapa that has characterized the progress of Maori education.

A history of Maori pride and renaissance, of resistance to racism, in the pursuit of tino rangatiratanga.

A history connected to the Native Schools and the impact of the Education Ordinance Act 1847, section 3, which stipulated that English language was to be a necessary part of the school system. This was to be rapidly achieved, and rigorously tested, to ensure the urgent progress of the native race.

In Te Kerepehi Native School in 1902, the inspector noted the strategies to encourage English speaking included raps, knocks, cane and strap. Twenty years later, in the debate on the Native Schools Act 1867, Hugh Carleton, an Auckland schools inspector stated that:

"Things had now come to pass that it was necessary either to exterminate the natives or civilize them".

And so in 1871, an Amendment was passed, stipulating that instruction in Native Schools had to be in English. It is useful to think of the context of that time - a time when Maori comprised the majority of the total population in Aotearoa, indeed in the North Island as a whole, with 53,000 Maori to 34,000 non-Maori, pakeha were a distinct minority.

Sixteen years later the situation was very different with nearly 300,000 non-Maori inhabitants, and the Maori population had reduced to 48,000.

Not only did hapu now become a minority in their own land, but the so-called process of civilization was actively seeking to assimilate - or was it exterminate - the unique culture of tangata whenua.

Following the request in 1899 for a school at Parawera, the former residence of King Tawhiao, Pope, the Inspector of Native schools from 1880-1903, was said to exclaim, "hakas, poi dancing and feasting never yet saved the souls alive of any tribe or nation and never will".

The key mechanism to promote assimilation, was the native school, growing from 57 in 1879 to 166 in 1955.

However there was little enthusiasm for native schools in Waikato, King Country and Taranaki. Indeed Pope noted the long standing resistance of Taranaki Maori to resist any attempt by Government to have a school in their region. In fact there was only ever one native school opened, Puniho, outside of Parihaka, between 1903 and 1908.

That spirit of resistance has emerged over and over again as we chart the history of Maori Education.

In 1908, at the Maori Congress, Hone Heke MP argued for the teaching of the Maori tongue in native primary schools. The same congress argued for Maori to be a matriculation University Entrance subject. Although Government flatly rejected any thoughts to support Maori language at primary school, there was agreement that it could be an optional course at secondary or university level.

Over sixty years later, a series of petitions presented to Parliament repeated the same call of the earlier leaders.

In 1967 Dr Pat Hohepa and 1101 others, called for te reo Maori to be part of our national heritage; followed by P Makene and 1309 others.

In 1972; Hana Te Hemara Jackson on behalf of the Nga Tamatoa council and 30,000 others presented a petition to Parliament to Matiu Rata repeating the same call. Her submission spoke of the psychological and cultural annihilation of a people since the 1871 Amendment Act:

"For us to be able to speak Maori is the truest expression of our Maoritanga. It is our link with our past and all its glories and tragedies. It is our link with our tipuna".

Nine years later in 1981, Te Huinga Rangatahi and 2500 others revised the call, again, including an urgent recommendation for MPs to pronounce Maori properly.

And finally, in 1985, Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru, chairman of Nga Kaiwhakapumau i te reo championed a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal to protect the preservation of te reo as a taonga, with guaranteed active protection by the Crown.

The rest is history - the 1987 Maori Language Act enshrined te reo Maori as an official language of Aotearoa. And that should have been that.

But as we all know, the path of Maori education has never been straight sailing.

In 1929, Te Rangihiroa Buck, of Ngati Mutunga of Taranaki, stated that the preservation of the language was essential to retain the racial integrity of the Maori.

The percentage of Maori children able to speak Maori in 1913 was ninety percent. In 1975 it was five percent. But the ability to regain the precious taonga that was almost extinguished would not be possible through Western school structures.

Indeed the Hunn Report, 1960, revealed the failure of the Educational Department to provide equal educational opportunity for Maori; and the Currie Report of 1962 urged the dismantling of the native schools.

In 1985, the Waitangi Tribunal Te Reo Maori report concluded:

"The record to date is quite un-mixed. It is a dismal failure and no amount of delicate phrasing can mask that fact". There was a desperate and urgent need for revolution. And our people came forward with just that in mind.

The Matawaia Declaration of January 1988 called for the establishment of an independent Maori education authority - a fully autonomous statutory body to achieve Maori control over Maori philosophies and practices in education.

We had the PPTA hui at Ngaruawahia and Huntly. We had Hui Rangatiratanga at Rotorua and the establishment of the Tino Rangatiratanga Education Authority.

The call continued over the next decade, culminating in the Hui Taumata Matauranga, called by Tuwharetoa paramount chief, Tumu te Heuheu in 2001. Our colleague, Dr Pita Sharples, was instrumental in bringing together proposals for a separate tino rangatiratanga Maori education authority including a new Maori Education Act and a Minister of Maori Education.

The proposal was a structural response to kawanatanga, and advocated for whanau, hapu and iwi plans and policies. It demanded that the authority be representative of and controlled by Maori - and would be a co-ordinated way to unite Maori around a strategy to improve educational achievement for all Maori.

Over the decades there have been amazing leaders and leadership from within our people. We will each have names and people that come to mind who have inspired us to do more.

In Te Arawa - I just have to think of the late John Tapiata and the motivation he left as a teacher, an advisor, a lecturer, a writer and his example in many spheres of excellence including Maori language teaching or sport, fitness and leisure.

There's Mona Riini of Tuhoe, who went from her first teaching post at Tarewa school in Ruatoki to be a prominent member of the Maori Council, a Maori Education Advisor, a leader in many areas.

And of course this year, we are all mourning the loss of Te Aopehi Kara and Hapimana Toby Rikihana - and the challenges they so forcefully and so passionately shared with us. Toby used to say to me 'Every child must learn te reo!' - I can hear him now.

I have taken some time to chart over some of our history - and some of our people who have influenced Maori education - and I have been fortunate to sit by them and benefit - as I believe that in order to create new ideas and strategies we must build on the foundation that has emerged through a century and more-for an affirmation of tino rangatiratanga.

What is needed is boldness, and the courage to be change agents.

The late Hohua Tutangaehe once said:

'Having to be reactive all the time is one of the hardest things for our people. It often limits how well we can address an issue because we are always rushing to meet someone else's timeframe or someone else's ideas about what is important".

I think the most important challenge for all of us now is to use the opportunity provided by the fact that indigenous issues are now firmly and squarely on the global agenda.

We must work with our young people to actively encourage the process of decolonization. The Hirangi working party on decolonization described this as:

"The stripping away of all the unwanted layers of another people's culture, accumulated over generations, to expose and rediscover the vivid colours of one's own cultural heritage and the political power and sovereignty which can give expression to that heritage".

Part of that process of discovery and rediscovery is our ability to participate in all aspects of our social, cultural and political life - and it is for that reason that the Maori Party has been talking to all our people about the Maori electoral option. We need to be out there, making the stand, taking our whanau to be enrolled, to take charge of our destiny. Do you know that if every Maori person enrolled on the Maori roll we could have thirteen seats in Parliament and our tino rangatiratanga firmly within our reach?

But this campaign is hard going, e hoa ma, because our people seem to have lost the belief. It is such a contradictory concept that through all of the marches, the campaigns, the protests - our people still stay on the General roll!

It is this reaction and the drive to decolonization programmes over the years that has lead me to the belief that we move our energy towards our rangatahi and it is where you come in.

Over the years, some in the system have dared to step out and engage their communities in the revolution. And in terms of timing now is the time when you need to step up. Our people look to you as key people, as leaders, within our communities to lead and provide information and advice. But I wish that many would open up the door to korero on political kaupapa. Our rangatahi are just hanging out for this sort of korero and in our state, it needs to happen.

We must open the door to allow the political korero to be had. I say that because in the last couple of weeks, over the wananga we have had, when we tell our people about the political climate, it is our rangatahi who grasp it. I urge you not to lock them out of the information. Talking about it is one thing, doing is quite another. We have to take off the comfortable hat - 'I won't talk about it'.

You are the change agents that will make it happen. Open up the door to allow the korero to happen.

ENDS


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