Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lucia Powhiri in Government show we have a primary state religion, and it's not Anglicanism

We have two state religions operating here in New Zealand. The first is the Anglican religion, which by virtue of the Queen being our Head of State, is the State Religion of New Zealand. Not that it is really taken that much notice of. The official welcoming ceremony at the conference referred to below, was not an Anglican service presided over by an Anglican clergyman (or woman), but instead it was a Maori religious ceremony, performed under the guise of being a cultural welcoming ceremony.

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

8 comment(s):

Liberty Scott said...

Some years ago when I worked at MoT, one staff member objected to celebrating Christmas, because not everyone who worked there did so (he was Jewish). So Christmas got sanitised, and there was no Santa Claus or Christmas Carols allowed whilst he was at the annual Christmas Party. The Secretary of Transport approved this. I and many others objected. I objected on the grounds that it is a public holiday, so the celebration of Christmas is endorsed by law, besides its celebration was not intended to exclude anyone or to require prayer or religious observance. Indeed, attendance at any Christmas celebrations was always voluntary.

However, there was not a peep of concern that official welcomes always contained a waiata and a Maori prayer.

It was never clear to me why Maori spiritualism was to be tolerated, on occasions everyone was expected to attend, but not any others, on occasions that are state holidays and voluntary to attend.

Fletch said...

I'm totally over all the Maori welcomes, greetings, hakas etc. At America's Cup, Olympics, Rugby, at a Beyonce concert backstage, to a Martin Luther King anniversary, it is performed at the drop of a hat. It seems an imperative that is be performed at any ceremony deemed noteworthy or important enough at which New Zealand takes part.

I'm not saying that it never be done, but people overseas must have a slanted view of who New Zealand is as a country. I wouldn't be surprised if they lumped us in with island countries like Tonga or Fiji: that is much of the impression we give the rest of the world.

Lucia Maria said...


What, no Santa Claus, either? Wow, that's extreme. I can kind of understand not wanting Christmas carols, but Santa surely must be pretty benign to non-believers, I would have thought! And it's not like it was a Mass or anything.

Lucia Maria said...

They make the kids do them at school as well, so I doubt the haka is going away anytime soon.

Liberty Scott said...

Well Santa Claus came out when said gentleman left the Christmas dinner. I was Santa, and although I wasn't prepared to cause a scene, I refused to let his impressions of what it was about sanitise it all. The Social Club had fundraised for everyone to buy each other cheap fun presents, and no one could accuse me of making it religious.

I found the presence of Maori animist religion to be disconcerting though, because it was not respectful of those with other beliefs. Unsure why one so ultra-sensitive about Christmas wouldn't be so about that, beyond the obvious point we all know that questioning of Maori animism is automatically deemed as racist, but Christianity is always fair game.

jonno1 said...

But you've got to admire the sub-editor's achievement in packing three languages into a six-word heading. Now if he'd just prefaced it with "Mein Gott!..."

Lucia Maria said...

Jonno, LOL!

It quite often amazes me what people notice that totally escapes me!

jonno1 said...

I could have mentioned the rugby reference too...
And you're absolutely on the ball [see what I did there?] in pointing out the inconsistency involved. I sometimes wonder if those parents who insist on withdrawing their children from Bible in School programmes (or worse, try to shut them down), adopt the same approach to Maori religious ceremonies. Maybe they do, but I've never seen it reported.

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