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April 26, 2004 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Rights, Conservation, Action

You need to join up with the newest group at VUW. Whether you are a first-year student from Khandallah, a graduate student from way-away, or an international student from Asia, Africa or Europe, we are all studying here at Victoria University. From this month, all Vic students are invited to join the latest addition to the official student body on campus.

This week sees the affiliation of a brand new club to VUWSA, and this group has its goals – both ideas and actions – relevant to all of us living in this country this year. Everyone will want to join up because the actions and ideas are exciting and interesting, and give fresh meaning to life lived in this land, in this time.

This year marks an important era in the history of the country in a number of ways that are rapidly running together, and the new group also aims to unite students in an effort to make sense of it all. For example, the late Michael King’s last book on our shared history has become immensely popular at the same time as the government fumbling of the ‘foreshore and seabed’ issue, while other politicians have become popular by spreading misinformation and promoting attitudes informed by ignorance.

P.A.T. – the new group – aims to share information not typically seen in newspapers or classes in this country. The club has started only recently including the writing, publishing and handing out of pamphlets in the quad entitled ‘Our Secret History’, which lists a brief summary of the history of laws that did not treat all peoples ‘equally’. The pamphlet lists a page-and-a-half of only the most obvious legal inequalities as relevant to Maori citizens, for example the 1866 Oyster Fisheries Act, which prevented successful Maori commercial fishing companies from operating legally in their own country.

The fact that a single Maori man was entitled to only half the unemployment benefit given a non-Maori man during the depression of the 1930s is another example of obvious legal inequality. When it’s remembered and realised that this list of nearly 30 examples since 1840 until the present is only a summary of the worst cases, it becomes easier to understand why among the poorest 10% of New Zealand’s population, Maori are still statistically more likely to die nearly 10 years earlier than Pakeha.

P.A.T. stands for Positive Action for the Treaty of Waitangi. Generally, most members of the group believe that the treaty has continued relevance for New Zealand. Firstly, as some see, it is a binding contract, under which Maori were affirmed rights that have been violated by our government’s laws consistently since it was signed in 1840. Considering a binding contract to be irrelevant to New Zealand would be another blatantly racist move by our government, as this would again discriminate against Maori. Secondly, as also recognised by other members within the group, even though the treaty remains largely problematic, it still symbolizes both an international recognition of the rights of Maori as first nations peoples, and also the potential for a positive relationship between Maori and ‘new nations peoples’ (pakeha or Europeans, Asians and all others).

As the late Michael King commented in a recent TV1 television interview, he wrote the history of the country rather than teaching it in class, in order to help better inform a larger number of New Zealanders about their country. However, he also added at the end of his Penguin History of New Zealand: “…most New Zealanders, whatever their cultural backgrounds, are goodhearted, practical, commonsensical and tolerant.” In this spirit, P.A.T. aims to bring together New Zealand students of all ethnic backgrounds to contribute to the conversation by focusing on fair and valid facts, thus helping to develop an informed, facts-based discussion.

You can join in with P.A.T. in a number of ways: by reading the pamphlets and the web-site (soon online) and sharing the information with others outside university; by buying lunch at our fundraiser sausage sizzle on Friday May 14th; or by coming to listen and talk with invited guest speakers at the monthly series of discussions that will be starting soon.

Members and visitors to discussion sessions do not need to be experts, nor in favour of the Treaty of Waitangi. Yet by the positive action of merely listening and talking with and to each other and invited guest speakers, P.A.T. aims to create a fun and safe environment for all students to enjoy learning more about shared life – through history and into the future – in this beautiful land.


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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