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Māori academic on why Judith Collins' Waitangi speaking ban is justified

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 5 Feb 2021, 6:41PM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Māori academic on why Judith Collins' Waitangi speaking ban is justified

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 5 Feb 2021, 6:41PM

A Maori academic says it's not sexist that National's Judith Collins isn't allowed to speak at Waitangi.

National leader Collins spoke out about not being given the opportunity to speak during yesterday's politicians' powhiri at Waitangi.

Māori studies academic and political commentator Dr Rawiri Taonui has written extensively on the topic, and says the Pākehā assumption that women sitting behind men at pōwhiri was discriminatory and sexist was wrong - as were decisions about who spoke.

"For Māori, the roles are equal: women in front for the karanga, men in front for whaikōrero, side-by-side for waiata."

After those formal ceremonies, during which political discussion was not allowed, Taonui said the floor should be open for both women and men to speak.

Collins arguing her being denied the chance to speak during the formal part of the ceremony was unequal was based on a "monocultural lens of equality", Taonui said.

"I grew up watching my aunties on marae doing the kāranga, and uncles the whaikōrero, then they would meet and discuss, and that was all driven by my auntie.

"So the problem with Judith is she is very monocultural in how she thinks about it and is applying that to a customary ceremonial situation, and that is changing tikanga.

"My preferred option would be to stick to tikanga."

That would also mean the Prime Minister needed to wait until after the ceremony to speak.

Taonui also said it was important those who were allowed to speak did so proficiently in te reo Māori.

"It is a misconception all Māori males get to speak - it is only the top speakers. To do otherwise is to change tikanga. It is not to say people cannot speak, just not during that formal part of the ceremony."

An exception was Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little last year, who widely impressed speaking solely in te reo Māori without notes.

"That was probably the best delivery from any Pākehā politician I have ever seen, and he earned the place to do that."

However, decisions about who could speak, particularly when politics was involved, has long been challenged by wahine Māori, he said.

The late Whaea McClutchie was a noted female speaker from the East Coast tribe of Ngāti Porou, famous for upsetting men from tribes which didn't let women speak.

If they entered her domain or marae, she would stand up and speak, as her female ancestors had.

She said no one had the right to dispute her mana as a speaker, because she had been given that right by her people and no other authority counted.

But Taonui agreed with Davidson, that debate was to be had within Māoridom.

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