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Mâori treated like ‘second-class’ citizens

Press release 8 April 2008

Mâori treated like ‘second-class’ citizens – but feel ‘first-class’, study finds

Mâori have much more negative views of citizenship than other New Zealanders but are also more likely to feel like ‘first-class’ citizens. This is one of the early findings of a new study on citizenship in New Zealand, led by Dr Louise Humpage, a sociologist at the University of Auckland.

“Mâori who took part in our focus groups provided many examples of Mâori being treated as ‘second-class’, including the differential treatment of Mâori returned servicemen after World War II and more recently the ‘terror raids’ in Tuhoe territory” says Dr Humpage. “They also associated citizenship with Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi, where equal treatment is emphasised. This sits in tension with Article Two which recognises the rights of Mâori to self-determination over all things Mâori”.

But although reporting they were treated as ‘second-class’, Mâori participants were also more likely than other New Zealanders to say they felt ‘first-class’ and that’s because of their rights as the ‘first peoples’ of New Zealand. They also felt respected in their whânau, hapû and iwi, which were more important to them than any national identity for a sense of belonging. “This shows the importance both of recognition of rights and of family to what it means to be Mâori”.

The study found few ethnic differences when participants were asked to define a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ citizen but Mâori and Pasifika were more likely to name the responsibilities rather than the rights of citizenship. “This might be because most of these participants were benefit recipients very familiar with the obligations placed upon beneficiaries to find work and participate in job-search activities”, says Dr Humpage. “The Mâori and Pasifika participants were also mostly under 30 years old, with youth already known to limit knowledge of citizenship. But it is worrying that ethnicity seems to be a factor too because this might mean some Maori and Pasifika peoples are missing out on accessing basic citizenship rights”.

Interviews to be conducted this year will test these focus group findings, shedding light on the different ways New Zealanders think about and understand citizenship.


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