A senior Australian politician has brushed off her minor breach of Maori protocol at the opening of a conference at Parliament, where she was placed in a male-only section.
Women do not usually sit in the paepae (front row) for Maori ceremonies. But at the opening of the Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth yesterday, Australian Speaker of the House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop was accidentally placed among the men at the front during the powhiri.
The senior politician in Tony Abbott's Liberal Party said she was not bothered by the faux pas.
"I am a member of the Standing Committee and I was told that that was where I was to sit and I did. I'll simply say that I was a good guest and sat where I was told."
Ms Bishop was not moved from her seat.
Last year, Labour MPs Annette King and Maryan Street were asked to move from the paepae during a powhiri, an incident that prompted Speaker David Carter to call for a review and more modern kawa (protocols).
Mr Carter's review has proved divisive, with Wellington iwi Te Atiawa and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia staunchly opposing a change.
Others believed that the protocols undermined women's rights and needed to be modernised.
The whole argument around where women sit during these things is irrelevant in my mind. What is more important, I think, that they be called what they are - religious ceremonies. Religious ceremonies that are even in the school system, that are incredibly difficult to those of a different religious persuasion, to extricate their son or daughter from because of cultural sensitivity. That it be important that women sit in particular locations during the ceremony shows that there is a religious component to them, otherwise it would be no big deal.
Related link: Front row faux pas at powhiri ~ NZ Herald