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NZAF BOARD: Please! No quota of brown bums on seats

Mon 25 Jul 2005 In: HIV

4.00PM: NZAF kaumatua and Honorary Life Member of the Foundation Henare te Ua cautions against Maori gaining Board status by right under Treaty principles... If the architects and signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi ever envisaged the furores the Treaty would engender, I wonder if they would have had any truck with it? Perhaps a couple of hand shakes and a good shared feed (not puha and Pakeha!) would have sufficed. Sigh! Sigh! Perhaps we could have been he iwi kotahi, or one people, as hoped by William Hobson, Queen Victoria's representative. I've watched and been part of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation's struggles to be cognisant with the principles of the Treaty and to implement them within its governance. There were meetings in the Boardroom under Jonathan Smith's chairmanship some years ago when I tried to explain what that document signed in 1840 was all about. The Board and I met more than once. When Charles Chauvel was chair meetings of the Board and the Foundation's takatäpui section were held first on neutral territory at the lounge of All Saints Church in Ponsonby and later at the märae of Te Unga Waka in Epsom. Both hui were permeated with warm fuzzies and aroha. But I felt uncomfortable in that the takatäpui section although given a certain degree of the Foundation's governance, either intentionally or unintentionally, was seeking its own autonomy - to be a stand alone subsidiary of the Foundation rather than being part of its overall structure. The Executive Director of the Foundation at that time, Warren Lindberg, was well aware of Maori aspirations, of self governance and ‘doing things the Maori way.' His teaching experience at Otara's Hillary College and the influence of Garfield Johnson had immersed him in multiculturalism with understanding. His successor, Kevin Hague, I think saw the takatäpui section moving away from NZAF's mainstream programmes. Despite this, Kevin was a Treaty stalwart and unselfconsciously began his speeches in fluent Maori. He was versed in Maori tikanga and, as with Warren, I have respect for him. I applaud all organisations which have Treaty principles aboard because they want to, and not because of enshrined legislation - but here's the rub: there's a tendency, at least in public, to treat Maori as special cases to be given kid glove treatment with assured positions on a City Council or the Board of an organisation. This is when I could be accused of not being empathetically Maori. Hang on, I am Maori, I'm gay and make no secret of it. I was part of the historicity of the gay movement with the awful days of police entrapment and furtive activity. I've contributed to the bi-cultural mantle of the Foundation. I plead with any organisation, NZAF included, against Maori gaining Board status by right under Treaty principles, against having a quota of brown bums on seats. How we get around the principles need wiser heads than mine to determine. It's essential that any Board member, Maori or Pakeha has specialist expertise to contribute and if a Maori has this, then by all means offer that person Board membership but not because of ethnicity. HIV/AIDS does not respect ethnicity. The Foundation's work, including its brilliant research papers, is pan-people, as it should be. New Zealand is no longer made up of he iwi kotahi. The Treaty may have been the blueprint for our modern history but we must be bold enough to ensure the Treaty does not confine us within box-like parameters. We've all got to work at it. Kia kaha. Henare te Ua - 25th July 2005    

Credit: Henare te Ua

First published: Monday, 25th July 2005 - 12:00pm

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