Te Tiriti: Two perspectives

15 Mar, 2022
Te Tiriti: Two perspectives
L-R: Eridani Baker, Heather Came.

Q+A with ‘Te Tiriti-based futures + Anti-racism 2022’ event organisers – Heather Came (Pākehā activist-scholar) and Eridani Baker (Māori student-activist).

Associate Professor Heather Came – AUT Head of Department, Public Health, co-chair of STIR: Stop Institutional Racism, and PHA Public Health Champion 2021 – is a Pākehā activist-scholar with a commitment to applied research that disrupts institutional racism and strengthens the application of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

She is also a co-founder of the biennial event, Te Tiriti-based futures + Anti-racism, which will have its highly anticipated second-outing in a matter of days. From March 19-28, more than 75 speakers from around the globe will share their insights on te Tiriti and anti-racism in 37 free webinars.

Māori student-activist, Eridani Baker, is currently studying psychotherapy at AUT. She is passionate about decolonisation and making mental health services more accessible to Māori, and has worked alongside Came as an event organiser this year.

Here, they share their perspectives on the event and Te Tiriti in higher education, as a Pākehā academic and Māori student respectively.

Q: Te Tiriti-based futures + Anti-racism 2022 starts this weekend. What do you want people to take away from this event?

Eridani (Māori student-activist):

The realisation that Te Tiriti needs to be lived and reconciled, not settled. Colonisation is the lived experience of Māori.

Reconciliation processes are long and require understanding of what’s being reconciled. Through watching the settlement process from a distance, Pākehā often think that Te Tiriti has a dollar value, but what must be reconciled is trauma. We need you to see that, so that together we can heal.

Heather (Pākehā activist-scholar):

For tauiwi, a clear commitment to learn more and be more active on challenging racism and upholding Te Tiriti.

Q: How well is te Tiriti being upheld in higher education?

Heather (Pākehā activist-scholar):

That is a question for Māori colleagues and students in the sector about what they see, hear and feel that celebrates their culture. It is about how we share power and resources.

Eridani (Māori student-activist):

I’ve had lecturers who refuse invitations to attend Te Tiriti workshops, mispronounce te reo in a way that feels like stubborn resistance, and cite Eastern esoteric practice to compensate for their slack attitude – “I can’t be racist, I have a meditation cushion”.

I’ve also had lecturers who truly engage with Te Tiriti, who really try to ‘feel the issue’. However, the issue is racism. Feeling doesn’t change racism, action does. Those lecturers don’t last very long in any environment that is too Eurocentric. It’s a shame though, because they are the ones with hearts strong enough to make a difference.

I’ve been lucky enough to have Māori lecturers who see Māori students circling the drain and pick them up. They manaaki you and help harness your distress and anger, so you can use it as fuel – so you don’t end-up getting spit out.

Q: How can we assess ‘where we are at’ with te Tiriti?

Eridani (Māori student-activist):

A Treaty has to be lived. Policy documents that talk about diversity don’t address racism itself. Being anti-racist is a verb, not a feeling or an existential crisis. It isn’t always comfortable, but the more you do it the better you get at it.

Just like a first aid certificate, you should update your Te Tiriti learning. I’ve renewed a few first aid certificates, but I’m still not confident that I could save a life.

Heather (Pākehā activist-scholar):

I think it is important to keep looking closely within the tertiary education sector. Who holds senior leadership positions? Do we have equitable educational outcomes for Māori students? Do we have a curriculum that reflects Māori knowledge domains, or are we teaching all-white courses?

Is tikanga upheld? Do you hear te reo outside of the marae? What is our relationship with mana whenua? What do Māori colleagues say in their exit interviews? Do they even do exit interviews?

In short, I think many people have worked hard on this kaupapa for many years, but it still remains an area of development – especially if we are serious about implementing Kia Hikitia (the Māori education strategy) and fulfilling our role as the critic and conscience of society.

As an activist-scholar and a Tiriti worker, I am always hopeful we can do better in the short, medium and long term. We are trying hard in the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences here at AUT. The answer doesn’t lie in our intentions, but in the hard data and feedback from Māori.

Q: What is the most meaningful action you can take, as someone who is tauiwi (non-Māori), to support te Tiriti in our workplace?

Eridani (Māori student-activist):

Whakarongo mai (listen to me), my ancestors have something to say.

Heather (Pākehā activist-scholar):

Take responsibility for what happens in your sphere of influence. For academics, this is what happens in your classroom – ensuring your curriculum is not all-white, that students hear well pronounced te reo, you engage in whanaungatanga, you create room for wairuatanga, and there are equitable educational outcomes.

In research projects, ensure that your work advances Māori aspirations and consider working with Te Ara Tika (a Māori ethics framework).

As a tauiwi (non-Māori) colleague, make sure the campus, classroom, and staffroom are free of all forms of racism. Tautoko (support) Māori colleagues.

Q: Describe yourself in three words (early in your te Tiriti and anti-racism journey) …

Eridani (Māori student-activist): Precocious, stubborn, rageful.

Heather (Pākehā activist-scholar): Awkward, naïve, passionate.

Q: Describe yourself in three words (today) …

Eridani (Māori student-activist): Precocious, stubborn, rageful.

Heather (Pākehā activist-scholar): Relentless, passionate, resourceful.

Te Tiriti-based futures + Anti-racism 2022

This year’s event will open with a one-day hui hosted by Te Rau Ora in Tāmaki Makaurau on Saturday 19 March 2022, and run online for 10 days. It will close with Kei te mura o te ahi, an epic PechaKucha marathon for racial justice featuring short interactive talks from tertiary students and recent graduates who are pushing the boundaries of anti-racism in Aotearoa and beyond.

AUT is a proud sponsor of Te Tiriti-based futures + Anti-racism 2022. So far, there are more than 24,000 registrations. Register now to join critical discussions about Aotearoa's journey towards a future free of racism.