Story: Biculturalism

Page 2. Biculturalism in the state sector

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The Māori renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s brought about important changes in the way New Zealand saw itself, and the way the public sector delivered services to New Zealanders. The public sector began to talk about bicultural New Zealand, and describe the Treaty of Waitangi as the country’s founding document. Government departments began to adopt the idea that the languages, cultures and traditions of both Pākehā and Māori should be officially recognised by the state.

Becoming bicultural

In his 1992 book Becoming bicultural, educational psychologist James Ritchie described biculturalism as ‘a fact of contemporary social life so profound that everything we do, everything we are, must be considered and reconsidered in terms of it. My world is divided not just into Māori and Pākehā but into those who think biculturally and those who do not’.1 Writer and academic Ranginui Walker has said, ‘To survive in the political economy, Māori are impelled to learn and to function in two cultures. Therefore Māori are, by definition, bicultural.’2

1987 royal commission report

In the late 1980s reports emerged from the public sector that broke away from the assimilation policies of the past and reflected a new, more bicultural New Zealand. Many of these reports proposed changes to government departments to make them more appropriate and effective for Māori.

Perhaps the most significant example of the bicultural vision adopted by the public sector was the report of the Royal Commission on Social Policy in 1987. The report stated that ‘the Maori dimension is basic to New Zealand society and this must have profound implications for all social policy.’3 It also included an extensive discussion of the Treaty of Waitangi and its implications and objectives for social policy. Most significantly, some chapters in the report were translated into Māori, reflecting the fact that Māori had been made an official language of New Zealand in 1987.

Other policy reports

A 1988 government policy paper on Māori affairs, He tirohanga rangapu – partnership perspectives, called for major changes to the delivery of Māori-affairs services to give a meaningful role to Māori. The Labour government’s response, Te urupare rangapu: partnership response, instead proposed a more modest restructuring of the Department of Māori Affairs.

In 1986 Puao-te-ata-tu: daybreak provided a Māori perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. As with the other reports, its bilingual title reflected the desire to consider Māori–government relations in a new, bicultural, way. The 1990 National government continued the idea of biculturalism to some extent. Ka awatea: a new day set out the government’s blueprint for Māori development, which focused on education as the key to Māori achievement.

Reforming the state sector

One effect of the state-sector reforms of the 1980s was to change the outward appearance of the sector, and the way it responded to Māori, in a more bicultural direction. As a result, by 2011 most New Zealand government departments had a Māori name. Traditional Māori ceremonies such as mihi (welcomes) and poroporoaki (farewells) were often performed at official functions, and tangi (bereavement) leave was provided. Māori words, symbols and concepts were commonplace inside and outside the government and public sector.

Reforming other institutions

Although bicultural policy developed within the public sector in particular, other sections of New Zealand society also grappled with the ideas associated with biculturalism. In 1986 the bicultural commission of the Anglican Church released the report Te kaupapa tikanga rua: bi-cultural development. This recommended changing the constitution of the church to reflect and entrench partnership and biculturalism. The church adopted almost all of the commission’s recommendations, and in 2011 its structure still reflected the changes made in the 1980s.

Footnotes:
  1. James Ritchie, Becoming bicultural. Wellington: Huia; Daphne Brasell Associates, 1992, p. 6. Back
  2. Ranginui Walker, Ka whawhai tonu mātou: struggle without end. Rev. ed. Auckland: Penguin, 2004, p. 389. Back
  3. The April report: report of the Royal Commission on Social Policy: Te Komihana a te Karauna mo nga Ahuatanga-A-Iwi. Vol 2. Wellington: Royal Commission on Social Policy, 1988, p. 3. Back
How to cite this page:

Janine Hayward, 'Biculturalism - Biculturalism in the state sector', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biculturalism/page-2 (accessed 22 November 2017)

Story by Janine Hayward, published 20 Jun 2012