On Waitangi Day, February 6, Treaty educator, Robert Consedine, addressed two gatherings in which he looked forward to a hope-filled future.
‘The gains for Māori in the last 30 years have been significant. However, it is worth remembering that every gain has been achieved only through struggle and with courage. The words of the slave abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, remain as true as when he uttered them in the 19th century: “Power cedes nothing without a demand—it never did and it never will”.
‘Just as men could not envisage a world where women voted, so our society struggles to imagine power being successfully shared as anticipated in the Treaty.
‘The Treaty is about relationships. Those who signed it saw Māori and Pakeha living peacefully together sharing power and resources. This vision has not changed.
‘Despite the ongoing struggle, there is much to be hopeful about.
In the recent election, the Māori Party has entered into an historic relationship with the National-led government. One aspect of the agreement is to establish, by no later than 2010, a group to consider constitutional issues, including Māori representation.
‘We need to move away from the paralysis which currently imprisons the Treaty relationship and, whatever constitutional arrangements are decided, in the end every New Zealander needs to carry the Treaty relationship in their hearts. Why? The wisdom of Sister Pauline O’Regan has the answer. “Legislation for justice is one thing, forming a spirit of justice in our hearts is quite another.”
‘Everywhere I go in Aotearoa I meet Māori and Pakeha working together in a variety of creative ways. It is individual and communal relationships which hold society together and create the basis for political solutions. There is beauty and the sacred in every life which transcends how people look, behave and respond to the world. It is especially in the prisoners, the victims, the people who fail, the marginalised, the poor, the vulnerable. I am convinced the only way to live on this planet is to put aroha—love—at the centre of our lives—to see the divine spark in every human being and to treat them accordingly.’
Image: The choirmaster at St Mary of the Angels, Robert Oliver, and Maisie King of Te Ngakau Tapu hongi during the Waitangi Day Mass.