Tommy Kapai: Lost culture in sunny land of plenty

By Tommy Kapai


We all know that butter butters better, but when it costs less than half the price here in Ngati Skippyland as it does back home in the land of milk, honey and good goal kickers - then questions need to be asked in the house.

Butter was one of the big finds of my digital detox days off here on the Gold Coast and it started me on a hikoi of looking for what else was worthwhile crossing the ditch for.

As it is with all good light eaters on holiday who start eating as soon as it gets light, it was the kai that caught my eye and sent signals to my puku.

When I went across the road to Woolies on my first day here to fill up my fridge, it was like walking into a hospice hokohoko shop in Tauranga and finding everything you need, including the best designer brands, for a fraction of the "usual" price.

Except this was all new and puku friendly.

There is a lot to celebrate about Ngati Skippyland besides their ability to kick crucial goals that matter most in footy matches, but I won't focus on putting the slipper in - or the one that slipped away courtesy of Kurtley Beale's boot.

They include being able to buy fresh prawns straight off the back of a trawler, a week's worth of warm cloudless days and a "she'll be right" attitude that goes hand in hand with the best performing economy in the developed world.

I also found a cell phone silence that took me by surprise. Everyone over here has an ear piece and a set of thumbs that do the talking for them. On planes trains and buses I have not heard one ringing cellphone or conversations held at a noise level that everyone else is forced to listen to.

Also pleasing to the ear is the lack of cross-cultural criticism.

The absence of race-related, them and us, Maori/Pakeha pirau korero is a sorbet for the soul, even though there are almost as many of both living here as there are back home.

I guess it's because they have a more positive kaupapa to focus on, such as fresh prawns and cheap butter.

Politically, their Prime Minster (who I have to say looks like a character out of Toy Story) should be looking for untapped voters such as the Kiwi ex-pats to help save her sinking ship, or else just like Kurtly she too could be gone in a week.

But the big one is the cost of kai, especially butter that's home grown in the land of the long green paddock, yet sells here for half the price.

On the other-side-of-the-ditch-crossing comparisons I have been conducting, the obvious but unspoken one that sticks out like their Prime Minster's nose is the cultural content of the country.

Or should I say lack of it.

Where are the Aboriginals and their culture in Australia? Have they gone walkabout to the Never Never? Try as I have, I can't find a single one anywhere on the Gold Coast.

The only place you hear or see about Abos over here are in headlines. "Abos - on the dole and on the drink".

I asked at my hotel desk and at nearby information kiosks, and got the same blank stare that many of the people I am looking for have have been wearing on their faces for 300 years, after having their culture of 40,000 years turned from dreamtime to nightmare.

There are no Aboriginal apps to down load, or brochures to inform, or pamphlets to promote. There are no big flash billboards about them anywhere.

Just poorly pronounced place names and no one I spoke to could tell me what they meant, and tacky tea towels with tracker jack labels telling stories of going walkabout to nowhere.

Not one on a bus, in a bar or a deli could tell me where I could meet a true blue, ridgy didge Aboriginal and, so far, I have not seen a single one.

Except on the label of a $2 tea towel. How could it be in the best-performing economy in the world, where a thousand languages can be heard, the original one from 40,000 years ago is silent?

Surely what stands this great Gondwana land apart from any other, including our own, isn't the fresh prawns off the back of the boat or cheap butter. It isn't watching whales or catching crocs with Mick Dundee. Surely it should be entering the dream time of the oldest living culture on the planet?

I found it somewhat sad that I couldn't find what I was really looking for when I came on my digital detox holiday.

Maybe all that glitters isn't gold in "good on ya" land and perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the growing understanding we Kiwis have of our own indigenous culture in its 300-year-old infancy?

If that means some short-term suffering by those who find that growing up and growing together can be a little uncomfortable, so be it.

There is always cheap butter and a lost culture to be found across the ditch.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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