After my trip to Brisbane, I am increasingly proud and also saddened. Proud of how far our Māori people have come and also saddened at how far the Aboriginal people still have to go.
I was in Brisbane for the Australian Educator's Union's 'New Educators Network Conference as part of the delegates for the PPTA Network of Establishing Teachers. We had an amazing time. I met some fantastic teachers and was blown away by how intense and powerful their campaigning was. They have such a strong positive image as a Teacher's union in the community and as such are well respected (well I assume so because that passion was awesome!). Unfortunately their government still has a lot to learn (as does ours) in terms of not messing with education.
This post though is because my thoughts continue to swirl about the lack of Aborignal culture, lack of a significant wairua (spirit) and that I couldn't make a connection with the whenua (land) when I was there. I made connections with new friends - but - it's easy to explain to Kiwi's - but hard to explain without sounding offensive to Australians.
I understand why the beginning statement from the AEU sounded token now - because the fact that we were, to say it in Gail's words from 'The Sapphires' - "standing on black fella country.." was obvious to me. I was pre-warned about the statement - that they acknowledged that the land would always be the land of the Aboriginals and that they honoured them by being able to use it. (Obviously paraphrased).
Brisbane is a stunning place - but sad too because where were the paintings, the visual culture, the historical sites and the people... I saw two paintings in the Queensland Teachers Union building - beautiful ones too but my phone was always flat when trying to take a picture - though wasn't sure whether that was tapu anyway.. coz I'd never take a pic of Goldie's works either.. I heard about one girl and her story - and it breaks my heart.
What's the more twisting part in my belly and my heart is that I get why there has been such slow movement to where Australia is now in reclaiming their identity. The Stolen Generations, the White Australia policies, the mission schools and the need to associate with the quotient of blood you had rather than what you felt in your heart and who you were and what made you - you. It saddens me that there was no visible sign of the Aboriginal culture while I was in Brisbane. Maybe I just didn't know what to look for.
Maybe my expectations are too high - where we have Māori place names and road signs that most people try to say properly... where we learn te reo Māori from a young age and where it's becoming normal to hear te reo Māori on tv - even if just on Māori tv - the fact we even have an entire television station dedicated to promote te reo Māori and kaupapa Māori. A plethora of radio stations and strong kiwi artists singing in te reo Māori. Using Māori greetings as the norm and having culturally appropriate welcomes onto the Marae. We have strong whakapapa (ancestry and genealogy) and we give our mihi and pepeha to connect with others while on the paepae at the marae. We have visible culture here - like the carvings in concrete on the highways in Auckland or the pou at Waikato University or the many carvings ... everywhere.
Maybe my view isn't the normal view of an average New Zealander. I keep hearing from my more (seemingly ignorant) friends that Kiwi's don't think like I do. Sure there is still a hell of a lot of entrenched and institutionalised racism... but we are moving from that right?
The thought - I am who I am - continues to permeate my being. Yet - I can be proud of who I am and acknowledge my many backgrounds and that I am hearty Māori and yet my fair Aborignal sisters and brothers cannot be proud or accepting of themselves? The stigma is still too difficult to navigate. And that's just talking about the ma Aboriginals... let alone the Aboriginals who continue to be picked out for their colour and brutalised by police and continue to search for themselves and who don't have the ability to break the cycle... yet.
The fact that Lois Peeler (one of the original Sapphires) brought some of her girls from her school to NZ to show them our Māori culture is absolutely wonderful. I'm proud of where we are. But to hear that girl say how cool it is to hear little kids speaking te reo Māori... makes me think I take what we have here for granted. The fact that she said her language is dying out makes me incredibly sad. Watch the interview here on Te Karere (our Māori news show).
The Australian Educator's Union Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos spoke at the beginning of the conference about Tony Spurr and this article - Not only is this article absolutely abhorrent but to see Angelo be so incredibly disgusted by it and that the Australian Educator's I spoke with were as disgusted as Angelo was - gives me hope. That the Australian govt believes that they can do and say these things... far out.
Is it not time for an Aboriginal Renaissance? I think so. They've been through enough.
A new friend, when asked about the opening statement, explained that something like that isn't token at all for them because it wouldn't have happened five years ago.
For him, I write this post.
Here are some beautiful and saddening links to histories of NZ. I hope this helps in your endeavour to help our Māori kids in Sydney, e hoa ma (my friend).
My blog post on Maori as Achievers -
And irregardless of this entire post - I have never lived that history or reality of the Aboriginal peoples - what I do know is how our situation in NZ is different - certainly not as bad - but we all have our own way of connecting and trying to understand. This is mine.