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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972

An Address to the Federation of Maori Students by Dr Rangi Walker of the Centre for Continuing Education, Auck Land University.......

An Address to the Federation of Maori Students by Dr Rangi Walker of the Centre for Continuing Education, Auck Land University........

The Maori in contemporary New Zealand society if he is evaluated by Pakeha criteria is a minority group that is at the bottom of the social ladder. Like minorities the world over Maoris experience social and economic disadvantages that confer on them inferior social status in relation to the dominant Pakeha majority. If the present trend continues, the tyranny of the majority will in a few short years have created a brown proletariat that will be New Zealand's social equivalent of the Negroes of America.

Tyranny of the Majority

You may well quarrel with my use of the phrase "tyranny of the majority" for this I make no apology. I regard man as a product of his total social field. In the case of the Maori, a large part of his social field (13 to 1) consists of Pakehas. Since the Pakeha controls the social and economic power and the decision making processes of this country he is in a large measure culpable for helping to make the Maori what he is today.

Critical Age

A survey of some of the vital statistics about the Maori minority illustrates the enormity of the problem that confronts New Zealand society. The Maori still has a high birthrate of 37.72 per thousand compared with the national rate of 22.02. This high birthrate together with the lowering infant mortality rate leads to a population with a youthful age structure. Sixty per cent of the Maori population is under the age of twenty. These figures have other implications as well that must be faced up to. For instance the overall Maori - Pakeha ratio is 1: 13. But in the critical school age bracket it is 1:9. If we were to go further to pre-school children the ratio is reduced to 1: 7. This fact alone is already putting enorstrain on our education system and other social services.

Second Best Health

In matters of health and life expectancy the Maori comes a poor second to the Pakeha. Maori infant mortality is nearly twice as high as that of the pakeha. Because of their poor home environment Maori babies are at a risk between the time they leave the hospital and the first year of life. Once past the hazards of infancy the Maori enjoys poorer health than the Pakeha. For instance the Maori death rate from tuberculosis is seven times higher than that of the Pakeha (14.8 against 2.6 per thousand.) This pattern is consistent for other illnesses and adds up to a life expectancy for the Maori, lower by 8½ years than the Pakeha counterpart. Perhaps one of the few advantages that the Maori has over the Pakeha is his attachment to life. The Pakeha suicide rate is three times higher than that of a Maori.

Maoritanga Eroded

The life chances of the Maori to attain the cultural goals of New Zealand society are consistent with their minority group status. The Maori is conscious of his identity as a Maori. His consciousness if identity is expressed through the concept of Maoritanga. Although much of the traditional culture of the Maori has been eroded by the assimilative pressures from the dominant Pakeha he has succeeded in maintaining a subculture and life-style that is distinctly Maori. But just as the Maori has had to pay the price of poor health and high mortality for the breakdown of much of his traditional culture, he also pays a price for the maintenance of his identity.

Educational Whitewash

The education system for instance has been used by the Pakeha majority as its most powerful instrument to assimilate the Maori and make him in his own image and likeness. The system denied a place in its curriculum for Maori language and culture and offered instead a monocultural programme derived from Euro-American culture. Worse still, the educational diet was and still limited to a narrow band of the social spectrum, the all powerful middle classes.

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The Maori in NZ Society banner

Because of the mono cultural nature of the education system, there is incongruity between the social aims, goals and aspirations of the Maori and those of his educators. These incongruities mean the education system is dysfunctional for Maori children This dysfunction becomes evident when we look at the failure rate. Only one in thirty three Maori children reach the sixth form compared with the Pakeha rate of one in seven. Taking School Certificate as an objective measure of achievement, 88.5% of Maori pupils leave school with an educational achievement below that. At University Maori representation in proportion to population is 1: 1541 compared to 1: 185 for the Pakeha.

The Maori because of his poorer education is generally limited to employment of an unskilled type. Typically, he finds work as a labourer or factory worker. In the two major cities of Auckland and Wellington for example 39% of the Maori work force is to be found in manufacturing industries compared with 29.5% of the Pakeha population. At the 1966 census, the median income for Maori males was $1871 per annum compared with $2191 for the Pakeha.

The educational, social and economic disadvantages of the Maori are reflected in their higher crime rate compared to the Pakeha. The conviction rate for Maori males for instance is five times higher than that of the Pakeha. One Maori boy in four has a court appearance, these young offenders 90% left school before the fifth form. In 1966 29% of male and 42% of female prison and borstal inmates were Maoris.

Thus it is clear that when the Maori is evaluated in Pakeha terms he is not only an ethnic minority group, but constitutes a substantial sector of the socio-economically depressed class of New Zealand society as well.

A New Migration

In the years prior to the urban migration when 90% of the Maoris lived in the rural communities in their tribal hinterlands, the socio-economic disparities between Maoris and Pakeha were less evident. Those who were failed by the education system were absorbed by the tribal hinterland. It did not matter too much that Maoris were failing to achieve equality with the Pakeha because they still had the marae, their land and their kinship ties as an alternative value system to that provided by the dominant Pakeha society. But the rapid increase of the Maori population from 40,000 at the turn of the century to over 100,000 by 1945 put increased pressure on the diminishing land resources of the Maori. The Maori was impelled to migrate to towns and cities in search of what Metge has called the "big three" factors of work, money and pleasure.

In migrating to the city the Maori has had to make certain adjustments to urban life in order to fit in as a functioning member of urban industrial society. He has had to abandon his extended family pattern of existance, to become more individualistic and self-reliant. The security and controlling influence of the kinship unit was thus weakened. Kinsmen were left behind at the home marae, dispersed to different towns and cities or scattered across the various suburbs of a metropolis such as Auckland. In the initial stages of an urban migration when young people are freed from the constraints of their elders, their kinsmen and community, it is no wonder that young Maoris are filling our penal institutions.

Today, the Maori has adopted the Pakeha norm of a house based on the conjugal family unit. Over 70% of a hundred households surveyed in Otara were of this type The other 30% had in addition to the conjugal family relatives of one spouse or the other, but this was usually a temporary arrangement for out of town visitors or newly arrived migrants in search of work or accommodation of their own. The extended kinship family pattern of the Maori has given way to the conjugal family unit because the latter is more suited to the demands of the urban industrial system. The conjugal family is independent, can set up neo-local residence and go in search of work and economic advantages offered by industry.

Maori design

Minorities Must Adjust

Having taken advantage of the employment opportunities of the industrial system, migrant Maoris have had to adjust to a pattern of regular employment the year round because of a complex commitment to mortgages, rates and hire purchase lock the Maori migrant into the industrial system. Adjustment to independent family life, the cash nexus, regular employment in industry and an adjustment to an urban concept of time are the immutable demands of industrial society. All minorities and social classes the world over must accept these conditions of urban existence. They comprise the common culture of industrial society that transcend class and minoritygroup boundaries.

No Brown Pakeha

Although there is common core of industrial society shared by Maori and Pakeha, we must not be deluded into thinking that the Maori has been assimilated, that he has become a brown Pakeha. On the contrary within this general framework the Maori has succeeded in maintaining his own social and cultural institutions. Maori voluntary associations such as family clubs, (for bereavement purposes), marae societies, Maori welfare committees, Maori Women's Welfare Leagues, Maori culture clubs and Maori sports clubs all testify to the existence of what I have chosen to call the minor system of Maori social organisation within the framework of the major system of New Zealand society. Primarily, the minor system exists to give expression and continuity to Maori identity, values, goals and cultural aspirations. In a suburb such as Otara for example there were in 1970 twenty known Maori associations of the kind enumerated above. Kinship ties, overlapping membership, intermarriage and the common bond of neighbourhood and minority group status all helped to develop a sense of community and Pan-Maori identity across the former tribal divisions. This kind of minor system of social organisation has been duplicated in other urban areas, for example the Western Districts of Auckland, Orakei and Porirua. These are the areas where there are concentrations of Maori population the areas that Pakehas fear as the ghettos of New Zealand society.


Contrary to the widely held view that Maori social organisations are separatist and a form of apartheid, they promote greater harmony and social integration than would otherwise be the case without them. They give the Maori a sense of personal worth and satisfaction with his identity that would be denied him were he to be judged solely on the Pakeha criteria that were discussed at the beginning of this paper. For the urban Maori, the minor system of social organisation provides him with an alternative value system to that of the dominant Pakeha group, that is so ready to relegate him to an inferior social position. A Maori may be a humble labourer or even an ex-prison inmate but among his own people he has a sense of personal worth that restores his self esteem

Brown and White

In addition to the integrative function for the individual the minor system also has an integrative function for the society as a whole. Maori associations are not exclusive to Maoris. Most Maori associations have Pakeha members by right of inter-marriage, friendship or merely the wish to be there. Furthermore, there are points within the social system where Maori and Pakeha organisations interest with each other for their mutual advantage. For instance maori associations such as the Maori Women's Welfare League promote the pre-school movement among the Maori mothers. Maori welfare committees cooperate with schools and state departments, Maori wardens deal with minors in hotels, Maori culture clubs are in demand to meet tourist ships or visiting celebrities at the airport. The importance of the voting power of Maoris in voluntary associations is not lost on Pakeha aspirants to office in local bodies, pakeha candidates for local body elections have appeared before Maori organisations to put their case. Thus the minor and major systems of Maori and Pakeha social organisations are not mutually exclusive, they interlock and interact to form the greater whole that is New Zealand society.

........Into Counterculture?

Unfortunately the picture that I have painted of the neo-urban Maori society is the ideal that occurs only under ideal conditions. The most important of these conditions is that there be a sufficient density of Maori people in particular suburbs to form strong voluntary associations. But when Maoris don't join Maori organisations or are unable to do so because they are too thinly spread on the ground then the children of such families have a reduced chance of being socialised in their social identity as Maoris. It is the first and second generation city born Maoris who are being deprived of their heritage under these circumstances. The situation for them as Maoris and by an educational system that refuses to accept this responsibility.

Emerging Brown Proletariat

At school Maori children are subjected to a monocultural middleclass system of education. This is particularly marked in what I term the 10% suburbs of Mt. Roskill Avondale, Kelston and others. In such schools the Maori minority is small and its needs are disregarded. The children are treated as equal, as brown pakehas. Because their identity as Maoris is not valued and not fostered they become alienated and experience feelings of inadequacy and low morale. Their feelings of alienation are reflected in the fact that 75% of Maori children in these schools have police records. They drop out of school to form gangs to give expression to their identity as Maoris and to meet their needs for fellowship, security and the pursuit of leisure activities. It is during this interstitial period of sub-adulthood that the first and second generation city-born Maoris experience problems with delinquency and the law. They are the emerging brown proletariat who bestow upon themselves exotic names such as Storm troopers, Niggs, Kelston Sharks, Mongrels, Polynesian Panthers and so on.

Gang War Coming

The names of the gangs symbolise the group and the disvalued position they hold in society. At present, they take out their frustrations on each other by fighting occasionally over territory. But I think that society should take heed before the gangs become politicised and in the manner of the Black Panthers of America, turn on the society that has failed them.

Ingredients of Racism

Gangs have a potential for violence that may yet involve this community in racial strife. The Easter battle between the Bikies and the Mongrels at Palmerston North had overtones of racism as well as gang rivalry that we should heed as a portent of danger for the future. When deprived Pakehas express their need for status in terms of their superiority over Maoris because they own bikes and the Mongrels do not, we have in New Zealand the ingredients of racism.

However, I do not wish to conclude on a pessimistic note. There is yet time and hope for the future. There is no communication between gangs and society. But between the gangs and society there are conservative, liberal activist and radical Maori groups that are filling the role as sounding boards for the needs of the minority. There are Maori Councils, Maori Women's Welfare Leagues, Nga Tamatoa, and the Maori Organisation on Human Rights. If wise men are not forthcoming from the Pakeha majority to solve the problems that I have outlined in this paper, then the Pakeha had better listen to the wise men from these groups. It is they, not the Pakeha who have the knowledge and advantage of living in two cultures.

Photo of Rangi Walker

Rangi Walker addressing the conference.

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Photo of men

Photo of police sitting

Photo of a crowded stairwell

Photo of people on stairs

Photo of a stairwell sit-in

Photo of protesters and conference attendees

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Photo of protesters

Photo of people leaving

Photo of men in suits

Photo of men in suits outside