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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, August 13, 2007

Little Children are Sacred report defiled

Hone Harawira is putting his support behind the authors of a controversial report on abuse against Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.

Tai Tokerau MP took an unauthorised side trip to Alice Springs last week to hear from Aboriginal leaders about the response to the Little Children are Sacred report.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard used the report to justify a range of interventions, including taking over Aboriginal communities in the Territory for five years, banning alcohol and pornography and testing children for signs of abuse.

But Mr Harawira says those moves weren't among the 97 recommendations in the report by Aboriginal leader Pat Anderson and lawyer Rex Wild QC.

“They recommended ‘John, this is what the situation is, we’ve got to go 100 miles an hour to the left.’ John Howard’s picked it up and thought ‘Wow, here’s an election opportunity. Guys, hard out, we’re going right.’ He never gave one second’s consideration to the actual recommendations in the report,” he says.

Mr Harawira says the Howard government has soiled the credibility of the report's authors, who on Friday told Australian senators they were not consulted about the response package.


A scheme to boost the achievement of Maori students seems to be helping their classmates as well.

A study of NCEA marks in 12 schools piloting Te Kotahitanga found overall pass rates were two and a half percentage points higher than other schools in the same decile range.

Russell Bishop, the director of the programme, says the results should make it easier to sell Te Kotahitanga to teachers, who can be resistant to change.

“What we focused on was helping those teachers to reach Maori students and as teachers become more au fait with the programme and as we were able to support teachers in their classrooms to support the learning relationships with Maori students, then Maori students, their results take off,” Professor Bishop says.

Te Kotahitanga isn't a quick fix to the problems of Maori educational disparity, but results so far are promising.


A Ngati Kahungunu dancer is excited about his next venture on the fringes of fashion.

Taane Mete is developing a dance piece for next month's Wearable Art extravaganza in Wellington.

It builds on the success of his recent Auckland production, Renu O Te Ra: The Edge of the Sun, which involved young dancers and choreographers.

He says the collaborative approach to making both pieces gives him a thrill.

“You do get to see the whole process of things coming together, rehearsals being choreographed, dancers being choreographed, costumes being made on site, and when you’re amongst that kind of high level of output and people creating in the same atmosphere, it’s pretty intoxicating in a way,” Mr Mete says.


Ngati Kahungunu is trying a new approach to family violence.

Co ordinator Mereana Pitman says the Violence Free Iwi strategy will ask Maori how they have dealt with family violence in the past, and what they want to do in future.

Unlike government programmes which deal with individuals, it will focus on the family as a whole.

“The strategy is around encouraging Ngati Kahungunu hapu and whanau to take some sort of responsibility and ownership around the violence, but not only the violence, for caring and for looking after our people in our own communities and our own back door,” Ms Pitman says.

The strategy will be launched at Ruahapia marae in Hastings later this month, before it's rolled out at a series of roadshows around the rest of the rohe.


Meanwhile, New Zealand First's justice spokesperson says the Family Group Conference system isn't working.

The system is held up as an example of restorative justice in action, and a way tikanga Maori is incorporated into the mainstream system.

But Ron Mark says they are not effective for serious offenders.

He says claims of an 85 percent success rate don't take into account the number of kids in minor trouble who would have sorted themselves out regardless of the conference system... and it ignores the problems caused by repeat offenders.

“I mean when a young person is on their firth appearance in the Youth Court, any sane, intelligent, educated person would have to say something didn't work,” Mr Mark says.

While New Zealand First wants to see Family Group Conferences remain as an option for Youth Court judges, it wants to seem some alternatives for repeat offenders.


Ngai Tuhoe have enlisted the help of scientists to restore their forests to their former glory.

Landcare Research and Tuawhenua Trust are investigating why some large tree species in and around Urewera National Park are not regenerating as they should.

The trust manages 10,000 hectares in the region.

Chairperson James Doherty says factors could include climate change, competition from other plants, the effect of predators and the dramatic decline in populations of kereru or native pigeons, which traditionally disperse seed.

He says Tuhoe regard their forests as a taonga to be handed down to future generations, but sometimes that trust has been compromised.

“In the early 50s, late 40s, early 50s, that taonga was damaged, and it was damaged by way of logging the podocarps. So my generation is trying to find ways of restoring that,” Mr Doherty says.

Podocarps like rimu, matai, and totara can live for hundreds of years, and without help regeneration could be slow.


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