Kotahitanga

A Guest post by Zoe Holly – Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Pākehā – Final year Bachelor of Social Practice student – Unitec.

I have read through the comments left underneath several recent news articles with a heavy heart – particularly in relation to Anjum Rahman’s call for inclusivity of Muslim communities in Aotearoa, Oranga Tamariki listing Māori children on TRADEME/Seek for foster care and the Christchurch gunman pleading not guilty to the murder of 51 innocent people.

The overwhelming sentiment held by a majority of those commenting on these articles is that the people who are targeted need to ‘get over it’, ‘blend in’, ‘assimilate’ and change themselves to fit “New Zealand’s culture”. You’d think they’d never thought for themselves. Does the word colonisation mean anything to them? You think when British settlers came to New Zealand they ‘assimilated’? You think settlers tried to ‘blend in’ even remotely? You think New Zealand Pākehā have more of a right to be here than any other immigrant?

If I took one thing from my kaiako this semester, it’s that it is not the job of those who are vulnerable and marginalised to advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised. Therefore, it is not the exclusive job of Muslims to advocate for Muslims, or immigrants to advocate for immigrants, or Māori to advocate for Māori. They have been doing so for years. They are tired.

As allies, advocacy is our obligation too. As both tangata Tiriti and tangata whenua, it is MY role and MY responsibility to assure as many people as I can that they are welcome here: that they have just as much right to be here as I do; to assure them that I do not agree with the repressive statements made by other New Zealanders. That I believe they should have the freedom to practice their religion, their culture, their customs and that which makes them who they are.

Since I don’t spend much time with people who are racist and discriminatory, or those who perpetuate marginalising rhetoric, it is easy for me to pretend that those kinds of attitudes don’t exist. Unfortunately, all it takes is a trip to Stuff or the NZ Herald to see that these discourses are still alive and well. I will not, however, partake in anything that leads people to believe that these ideas are okay. And I ask that you don’t either. It’s not about shaming people for being ignorant. It is about standing up for what is right and standing in solidarity with those who are singled out by the majority and made to feel “othered”, whether that be Māori, Muslims, immigrants, or low-income earners.

If you see something going on and it doesn’t sit right with you, then stand up and say something. Be resolute in what you believe in. Kia niwha te ngākau ki te whakaū i ngā mahi atawhai ❤️🖤

I also want to acknowledge the fact that I am very lucky to be in a position where, even as a low earning student, I am still able to access resources which allow me to live relatively comfortably in central Auckland, in a beautiful warm home, with flatmates; friends and family who love and support me.

After I post this, I can go home, lie on the couch, watch mindless TV and forget about the atrocity of the comments I’ve read today – that is my privilege.

I will never experience the levels of discrimination, exclusion and hurt that those effected by these comments have endured, and will continue to endure. It takes only a short time out of my day to say something or do something to address discrimination and inequality and then I can go back to my world where things like this don’t personally impact me. I can and will do more.

This post is for those who don’t have the luxury.

Image credit: Scott Sanders

2 thoughts on “Kotahitanga

  1. As a practicing social worker for years, my heart is gladden to read your post Zoe Holly. So many times it was tempting to give up this tough but rewarding profession, but what makes social workers kept me going. Exactly what you have stunning written with your words
    There is so much hope if your generation that follows us can be motivated like you are
    You will be one fabulous social worker and keep this post as in the real world, you will be challenged time and time again
    You are very right, I am very tired and worn out mentally and emotionally as ours is a giving profession. Well done Zoe Holly

    1. Tēnā koe Toalepai, thank you so much for your kōrero. I really appreciate your kind words, your tautoko and your encouragement. It is a very difficult career path, and I can only imagine the strain felt after years in the profession. However, reassurance can be found in knowing that we are all in it together, and that we are fighting for the same thing.
      Thank you for the work that you do!!

      Zoë

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