Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2 1975
I'm not an expert on Law but I am certainly an expert on how my people, the Maori people of Aotearoa, are oppressed by British Colonial Laws.
British colonialism is a reality in Aotearoa, and I speak for a minority group from Aotearoa, reminding you again that a lot of you people are the majority in your island groups, and therefore possibly don't understand things that are affecting us, the Maori people of Aotearoa.
We've been called for years to come together as one people but it's always been like this – on someone else's
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terms. Colonialism is something that is defined as the broad laws that is encroached upon a people by someone else. As I listened to the different delegates speaking from the island groups, I realised that you are now only beginning to realise and appreciate what is happening to yourselves. We have gone through this system and we're still being affected by it and we're trying desperately hard to find our feet in Aotearoa.
This is what is happening. This is why we marched* – for Land Retention, to hold on to the rest of our land which amounts to a measly 2,000,000 acres. You read about, today, how the Government has given back Kaupuri Mt., Mt. Egmont – big deal. Those are volcanic mountains, you can't live on them. This is why we're marching – for our identity.
This is how the law – the British law – has been administered upon my people through the years, since Captain Cook arrived; since he said: “You are now one people”, since my people signed the ‘Treaty of Waitangi’. We kept our part of the bargain, but the white man never kept his. This is what the Treaty of Waitangi is all about, and today it is not worth the paper it's written on. Because when they set that Treaty up, they had one thing in their minds – to do these people out of their land, out of their culture and out of their identity. Language class is a foreign thing in our country because it was banned through legislation. We were not allowed to speak our language in the schools. My parents were strapped for speaking Maori in the playground or speaking Maori at school. It was totally banned, so that we have almost a whole generation of Maoris who are not able to speak our own language. It is really bad, and as I look at the delegates today – this is what is happening to you.
* Te Roopu Ote Matakite, the Maori land march from the North of New Zealand to Wellington in September – October 1975, to present the Maoris; demand that not one more acre of their land be taken Unsatisfied with the government reply, many of the marchers camped outside Parliament refusing to leave. Editor.
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Why are you concerned about the system of education? Why are you concerned about the legal system? Because the systems that are being imposed on you that are breaking your family life-style, the same way as they have destroyed our Maori life-style – that we've been forced to come into the urban situation; that urban young Maori to day is a totally different Maori from the Maori when my mother was young. They are totally different Maori and yet legislation has not changed to include that different urban Maori.
The education system still has nothing in it that a Maori child can identify with. That we, even today, can learn more about Captain Cook, Henry VIII, than about my ancestors. You'd think that my ancestors in Aotearoa grew up under a stone. There is nothing that is acceptable that has been written by white people about my people. We are the experts on us and yet time and time again we are trying desperately today to pressure to be allowed to be part of the regulations, to be part of the laws that affect us, before they are implemented. We are playing an ambulance service to the system twenty-four hours a day – legal service, legal aid, social welfare, the lot – for playing the ambulance service at the bottom of a cliff, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not goo enough. And this is why we're sitting on Parliament steps. Two hundred of my people are sitting there and are still there because we're fed up.
We're trying to be a part of the system that take no recognition – no, it does not recognise our culture. But if it's bringing in the mighty dollar, then the Maoris are terrific. That's what we're us ed for – as tourist attractions. The few of our people who make it to the top are again left out. Overseas people are brought in to be our bosses – people from England, people from Holland, the Dutch people and the Poms, they're brought in to be our executives; they are brought in to be our teachers; they are brought in to be the top people. But we have the expertise here, we have them, but we don't have the training programmes so that our people are trained from top to bottom.
We have the Maori Affairs - big deal. It's all headed by Europeans. We've got nine Maori Affairs districts in
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Aotearoa but not one Maori at the top. Yet we have the expertise… There is no way that the system is allowing our people to get to the top and I want to say these things to you people because this is how it is at Aotearoa, for our people. That is the struggle - that we have the expertise and we are not being allowed to come through.
But when the island people - your people - come to Aotearoa, and I was pleased about Ms Kingstone's report*, this morning, because it was a good picture that she painted, for that is really what is happening when your people come to Aotearoa. For the first time, possibly, you're being made a minority in a country. You've come from a country where you're the majority, you come to Aotearoa and for the first time you're being made a minority in that country. And our laws, let's face it, the British Laws, have no respect for you or for us, the Maoris.
The British law that is being used in Aotearoa is Victorian and is totally irrelevant to us, the Maori People, and our particular make-up. Time and time again, I have said to the Minister of Justice: “Why don't we throw it out and rewrite our laws for New Zealand? Re-write them to include not only the Maori people but also the ethnic groups that we have here. Why do we have to continually implement old Victorian British laws? Why is it necessary?
Within the prisons themselves – our people are the majority in the prisons. Our people make up 10% of the population and yet within those prisons there, 75% are Maori women and over 50% men in the prison. Why? Because the whole system – from the education system right through – is totally irrelevant to my people. We're always trying desperately to fit in, to fit in. And today, thank goodness, our younger people have a better education, are more politically aware of what is going on around them, and they are not afraid.
* Ms Kingstone, outlined some of the cultural and social difficulties Polynesian women face when they go to New Zealand. Editor.
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They are not afraid, and I am not afraid to stand up and fight today. And I really mean to stand up and fight. We have to.
People talk about violence – I don't mean violence where one person is hitting another – when I talk about violence in our society (and we live in a violent society), it is racism, the institutional racism, that is imposed upon us, that is used on our people against one another. It is the old British-designed divide-and-rule system used continuously.
Through the whole length of the march, it wasn't the Europeans or the Island people who were against us. It was our own people. They have been so brain-washed into believing that they had such a good deal. A lot of people say and we are told continuously: “But you are better off than those people; you're better off than the South African blacks; you're better off than the Aborigines; you're better educated”. And a lot of our people believe it! This is the old system of divide and rule: “Don't let the coloured people - the non-white people – come together. Keep them apart as much as you can”. This is the playing of one against the other, and this is why I welcome this sort of conference. Because the power comes from the women. Logical thinking will come from the women.
We could not do any work with the system that we live in, being run by the men for too long, and I've believed in this for a long, long time and so I welcome this conference. But don't get carried away, ladies, and think that you're better off than the other guys, because slowly it is happening here. Slowly, it is happening everywhere. Tourism is moving in, colonialism is here: it's here. Whoever is administering it is beside the point. Recognise it. Recognise it within Fiji itself. Tourism is moving in and your contribution or your benefits from tourism will be to wash the linen, set the table, and wait on those tourists. New Zealand and Australia, we benefit from tourism here in Fiji. We own those hotels and motels.
This is what our Land March is about. To stop the tourists from coming in and taking our coastal areas. This
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year, alone, $33,000,000 worth of coastal areas is designated for tourists. It is happening today. It happened in 1875 when the Taranaki people lost all their land when their mountain was taken. They used passive resistance, and what happened? The people were killed and they were locked up. And today we are doing exactly the same thing again. Marching for our land, using passive resistance.
But is the Government going to take any notice? Is there any justice for the non-white people throughout the world? The only justice for us is when we get up and fight and pressure for it. That is the only time, I believe, that we're going to bring about real justice for our people. The way the French people are testing in the Pacific – you can't divorce that from women's problems, from the racism, because I believe that if the Pacific was populated by white people, they wouldn't do the testing here. I believe that. Why can't they test somewhere else? You cannot divorce these things – they all interact with one another. As women we have one thousand and one things to do, we really have. We've got to be on watch the whole time, twenty-four hours of the day, not only for our own immediate family, how they react within the education system, how they are housed… My People, a whole lot of them, are not only landless, they are homeless.
In Auckland where we have the urban renewal system, where my people live in the city area, the Government comes up with a big renewal programme to ship them all out to the suburb so that you have one huge problem out in the suburban areas and the city itself becomes something for the businessman. But once they built the townhouses, and things in those city-areas where my people live, the prices are so high that those people cannot move back into it again.
These are the things that are happening in Aotearoa and if people tell you that the race-relationship out there is good and everything is fine, I'm here to tell you that that's a load of rubbish. There is no justice unless we fight for it. In the prisons themselves, there is no rehabilitation for our prisoners, none at all. They go in that door, they are stripped naked, they are given a number, they're marched
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into their cells and when they're ready to come out, they're marched out again. This is what is happening. More English people are coming in as wardens, more white South Africans as wardens, and what do you think they are coming in with? What sort of attitude do you think the white South Africans are coming in with to our prisons?
So many of our people who have made it to the top have gone through this foreign system that I hear you people have been talking about today. They become so far-removed from the people because there is nothing in that system to identify them. They are not able to come back readily to the grass-roots level. They 've spent years and years and years in a foreign system and it's time they came back again just as Maoris, just to talk at our level.
The legal system if you have looked at what I've been saying about the education system, is it any wonder that in the legal system we have few Maoris to make it to the top to try and make any change within that system? But as I said before, when they do get to the top they are so committed to the system they don't want to rock the boat either.
The majority of our people today are under twenty-five. This is a beautiful thing and this is why I love working with young people because the majority of Maoridom are under twenty-five. And if we're going to affect a change for our people, then it must come from the young ones; from those people who have been frowned upon, told that they're lazy, dirty Maoris; from the young ones who have been through the prison system and are so political - they're beautiful - and who know what it is. They know what the score is, they know that they must stand up to fight for an identity. And they're beautiful to work with. This is how our young people are today - turning their backs completely on everything that is supposed to make you a “nice” person. And of the 200 who are camped on Parliament ground, the majority belong to the gang that our young people get into or form themselves into to form an identity.
“Youth problems” - I don't call it “youth problems” - I call it “the system problem”.
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I would ask all the delegates here if they would support our people who are camped on Parliament grounds by sending perhaps a telegram of support, of encouragement, because, to me, this is the best thing that has happened to Maoridom, the best thing that has happened to Aotearoa, for us to get together 2,000 in number, and to arrive on Paliament grounds to try to determine a course to include us, rather than an identity that we have to continuously try to fight to be part of.