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Letter to Helen Clark, WILPF (Aotearoa)

11 September 2000

The Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Parliament Buildings

Dear Helen

We are very concerned about the way Tariana Turia's speech to the Psychological Society has been dealt with by the politicians and the media. The importance of the message has been completely overshadowed by the reaction to the use of the word holocaust which has also been taken out of context.This word can be, and has been used, to describe many acts of genocide and colonisation and is not the exclusive property of the Jewish community, to describe their suffering Its use in other instances in no way diminishes what happened to them in the World War II.

The other thing that was taken out of all proportion was the issue of child abuse and that Mrs Turia was trying to excuse this. I have read her speech very carefully and in no way is she doing this. She has quoted Professor Mason Durie identifying the onset of colonisation with the health issues today for Maori, such as intergenerational systemic abuse. This is not excusing abuse but looking for the causes.

The way Mrs Turia has been treated over this incident seems to us like a continuation of the colonisation of Maori that is still going on. Unfortunately this has allowed an outburst of bigotry and racism again when we know that you and your government are trying to overcome the effects of colonisation.

Although there is some improvement in understanding in some sections of the community to these effects, there are still far too many of us who are defensive about any acknowledgement or criticism of the colonisers and what they have done to the indigenous people, not only in this country but in all countries which have been colonised.

Part of the problem for a lot of us is that we have never been given an impartial history of the events in this country and had the opportunity to acknowledge that the things that were done were fairly devastating for Maori and are having a long term effect. Acknowledging this and trying to make changes for the better, is more useful than feeling shame, guilt or anger.

Maybe the politicians and people working in the media could give a better lead to the population by becoming more informed on the issues. This would do far more to improve race relations than blaming Mrs Turia or Maori for what has happened.

There have been some quite thoughtful editorials and articles written amongst the condemnatory ones.

The Aotearoa Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is concerned to address injustices in our society and to improve understanding between cultures so that we can have a more harmonious and peaceful society. We hope you will consider our concerns.

Yours sincerely

Joan Macdonald
President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Aotearoa)

Index page on indigenous rights - Aotearoa

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