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Parallel Treaty Workshops

A paper by Robert Consedine

1.0 Introduction
1.1. Since the inception of Treaty education in 1986, there has been continued debate about the process of providing parallel Treaty workshops for Māori and Pakeha. This debate has ranged across all cultural lines as we continually struggle with radically different ideas about dealing with issues emerging from our colonial history. The writer has been part of the evolution of this process and has led every conceivable combination of workshop during the past eight years. From this experience, and in constant dialogue with Kai Tahu, a policy of providing parallel Treaty workshops for Pakeha and Māori emerged.
1.2. This is a dynamic process that is constantly being reviewed. To date the overwhelming feedback, from people who experience the Treaty workshop process, would confirm the value of providing parallel workshops for the two cultures to do this particular work. The primary difficulty is, that until people have experienced the workshop, they tend not to appreciate the need for the parallel process.
1.3. This paper will briefly set out the reasons why we provide parallel workshops for Māori and Pakeha to do the Stage One Treaty workshop. It is important to note that we are talking about the Stage One process only and that subsequent gatherings can be combined once the basic groundwork has been completed.
1.4. The issues being struggled with in this area relate to cultural diversity and were central themes at an international conference on teacher education held in Thailand during July 1995. Colin Knight, the Principal of the Christchurch College of Education (Te Whare Whai Matauraka ki Otautahi) who attended the conference, noted in his report back that the acceptance of diversity was a situation to be encouraged and nurtured. (1)
1.5. In a paper delivered at the same conference Dr. Dolores A Escobar noted that in spite of the reality diversity is here to stay (or may be because of it) it has been a struggle to convince educators that diversity can be enriching instead of a problem to be remediated....."Y plurus unum"(from many, one) consistently has been interpreted by many educators and members of the public to mean the iradication of differences. .... Escobar underlines her plea to have diversity centrally placed in the context of education reform.(2)
1.6. n a further paper delivered by Toh Swee-Hin called Teachers of Compassion, Teachers of Hope: Towards Teacher Education for Empowerment it is noted that cultural hegemony favouring the dominant groups in making certain minorities invisible or voiceless ensure that differences are suppressed and "others" pushed towards conformity/ assimilation and labelling as "self "failures. (3)
1.7. New Zealand as a nation is in a process of radically changing the relationship between Māori and Pakeha that has existed throughout our colonial history since the Treaty was signed in 1840. One way of describing the change taking place is in the move from policies of assimilation, i.e. of assimilating Māori people into the Pakeha system to a policy of recognising and valuing cultural diversity. One of the outcomes of assimilation is a strong belief permeating the country that there is no cultural difference between Māori and Pakeha people. Policies of assimilation, particularly in education, were predicated on that belief as successive generations of Māori people were forced into a Pakeha system. Cultural diversity has not yet been explicitly or formally recognised.
1.8. In that recognition, it is necessary for Māori people to have the opportunity to disconnect themselves from the majority Pakeha culture and to explore issues pertaining to them in an appropriate environment with competent Māori leadership.
1.9. Because of the radical change that is taking place in New Zealand society between Māori and the majority culture that we call Pakeha, we need to seek new ways of approaching the issue of our colonial history. Once the Treaty is being honoured and Māori are able to exercise Tino Rangatiratanga the issues surrounding how these matters will be attended to will be much clearer.
1.10. The challenge for us now is this. How to critically empower all people to be confident and full participants in a society that is confronting its colonial history and radically changing the traditional relationship between the colonisers and the colonised. It is not about giving participants the answers. It is about giving them tools to find their own answers.
1.11. With this background I have set out seven key issues underpinning the emergence of a policy relating to parallel Treaty workshop processes for Māori and Pakeha.

2.0 Different Perspective
2.1. A Pakeha Treaty workshop explores our colonial history from the perspective of the European settlers who have come during the last 155 years. It also deepens understanding of the Pakeha cultural journey and the nature of evolving Pakeha culture. Similarly a separate Māori workshop provides the opportunity for Māori to explore their reality, their own cultural journey and the effect that colonisation has had on successive generations of Māori people. This process enables Māori to explore what it means to be Māori today and to explore the significance of their Māori ancestry in contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand. It therefore follows, that a Māori workshop be lead by a skilled Māori workshop leader and a Pakeha workshop lead by a skilled Pakeha workshop leader.

3.0 Censor/Edit
3.1. Much of the Treaty debate today is conducted in an environment where there is considerable fear. When Māori and Pakeha gather to have initial exploration of Treaty issues either, out of fear or cultural sensitivity, both parties tend to edit what they are saying. While creating an environment where our colonial history can be explored and issues emerging debated, it is exceptionally difficult to get people to say what they really think. The process of self censorship impacts negatively on the possibility of any realistic movement in people's understanding of these issues.

4.0 Painful
4.1. A significant amount of our colonial history and many of the deeds of our ancestors are very painfilled. It is also very painful for many Māori to sit and listen to Pakeha people talking about these issues from a Pakeha perspective. One of the outcomes of colonialism is, that most New Zealanders have grown up in a monocultural/racist/colonial society and absorbed many of the stereotypes that come out of that environment. These stereotypes need to be worked through in a very culturally safe environment if we are going to understand, confront and let them go.

5.0 Māori as Authority
5.1. What happens to Māori people regularly when they are present in a group of predominantly Pakeha is, that Pakeha people then tend to treat the Māori people present as though they are an authority on all things Māori and also, responsible for all that is happening in the Māori world. This is an unconscious process that frequently places the Māori presence in an impossible situation.
5.2. There are three key issues here:
  1. No one Māori person is able to speak for the whole Māori world
  2. People with Māori ancestry may know very little about being Māori and about the issues that face Māoridom
  3. The effect of this is that some of the group become intimidated, marginalized and afraid to speak
Like many Pakeha much of this information has been excluded from them during our colonial history and however this happens it is embarrassing for Māori people to be put, often unintentionally, in this situation.

6.0 Unique Opportunity
6.1. The provision of parallel Māori workshops is one opportunity for people with Māori ancestry to explore this aspect of their heritage. All other training is done together in a totally Pakeha environment, structure, programme.

7.0 Action Research
7.1. During the last six years a policy of doing parallel workshops has been worked out and regularly evaluated between Waitangi Associates and Kai Tahu. After many experiments and nearly 700 workshops with up to 15,000 people, the policy of having parallel workshops for Māori and Pakeha remains firmly in place. It is a process that is supported by both experienced Māori and Pakeha. Combined workshops have been tried during an earlier period (and occasionally since) and the feedback and evidence strongly suggest they do not work. It is not uncommon for Māori people to decide to leave a combined workshop after listening to Pakeha for as little as half a day.
7.2 It needs to be emphasised that we are talking about the stage one process only and that subsequent gatherings can be combined once the basic groundwork has been thoroughly attended to.

8.0 The Stories
8.1. While this policy has been in place for more than twelve years, Māori people continue to attend Pakeha workshops either, because they have been told to or, in the belief that none of these issues will affect them. Each time that this has occurred they have often shared with me, that the workshop was not safe or enjoyable for them and they wished they had opted to go to a separate workshop where they would have been culturally safe to explore the issues that concerned them. Although there are occasionally individual exceptions, the policy of separating Māori and Pakeha for a Stage One Treaty Workshop remains firm.

Robert Consedine
Waitangi Associates
10 August 1995 - revised 26 March 2003

This paper was prepared in consultation with Irihapeti Ramsden (1946 -2003)
Ngai Tahu/Rangatane


C.L. Knight, Newsletter to Staff and Council, Christchurch College of Education, (Te Whare Matauraka Ki Otautahi), No 6, 19 July 1995.

D.A. Escobar, The Role of Colleges and Schools of Teacher Education in Education Reform: Today and the Challenge Ahead. Conference on Teacher Education, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, 11-14 July 1995.

Toh Swee-Hin , Teachers of Compassion, Teachers of Hope: Towards Teacher Education for Empowerment. Conference on Teacher Education, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, 11-14 July 1995.

1 October 1995 University(Canterbury) based research conducted in 1995 by Ruth Miller with Year One Primary Teacher Trainees at the Christchurch College of Education firmly underpins the above policy.

Prior to their experience of a Treaty workshop: 16% favoured separate workshops, 72% said no and 12% did not know

Following their experience of attending a Treaty workshop: 90% favoured separate workshops, 2% said no and 8% did not know.

There were 49 students in the sample.

Note: I would appreciate any feedback on your experience and views of the issues raised in this paper. Please send your comments to: Robert Consedine Waitangi Associates PO Box 35 089 Otautahi/Christchurch

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