Alan Duff: Time to break silence on Maori violence

Meanwhile, our tribal leaders trumpet their business triumphs while staying culpably silent on child abuse. Photo / iStock
Meanwhile, our tribal leaders trumpet their business triumphs while staying culpably silent on child abuse. Photo / iStock

Back in NZ - and only Auckland - last week it seems as if I never left France.

Except for one major difference, the negative first: a young Maori couple from Taupo convicted of torturing then killing a child under their care. And not one Maori leader stood up and said anything.

There's an awful pattern here and if we keep staying silent then the pattern will keep repeating itself. Maoris are more in need of learning parenting skills than are non-Maoris and that applies to a lot of Pacific Island parents too.

No, it's not racist. It's a fact. Don't go into the whys and wherefores. Just look at the kids murdered, beaten up, sexually abused.

Last time I was back I read Samoan UFC fighter Mark Hunt's ghost-written autobiography. Actually, it was a recall of a childhood nightmare.

A lot of kids in our beautiful country grow up like this and the vast majority are brown like me. Meanwhile, our tribal leaders trumpet their business triumphs while staying culpably silent on child abuse.

So what are your millions doing for them, Maori leaders? Nothing. Less than nothing with your platitudes and "heartfelt sympathies" falsely expressed, if you say anything at all.

You'd all better call an urgent hui at which you should be discussing do-ies. No ceremonial palaver, no lengthy speechifying, no floor-strutting, tokotoko-waving posturing. Just find solutions. Take it by the horns before another crop of innocent kids are lost forever.

Now, the positive side. Jason Witehira, New World supermarket owner, Ngapuhi, gets Outstanding Maori Business Person of the Year. He's also the chair of the New World group, the boy who left school at 15 and grew up in Rotorua, my home town.

I have a mate who sold out of a supermarket a couple of years ago, also part-Maori. He did well. He was also an All Black great. I know of two other ex-All Blacks with their own supermarket, both Maori.

A few weeks back, I mentioned a "larger-than-life" Maori TV producer I met at the MIPTV conference in Cannes. We met again at his Auckland office and he, Bailey, impressed even more with his busy, indeed frenetic work life with 28 people on his team and his sage advice.

Maoridom needs people like him. Ian Taylor, world-class animator, is another example.

Ian Taylor, a world-class animator, is among the Maori success stories. Photo / Dean Purcell
Ian Taylor, a world-class animator, is among the Maori success stories. Photo / Dean Purcell

Mr Witehira said in his acceptance speech, "It's not about who you are, but what you are. It's about attitude and being an individual and having belief in yourself."

You can bet those hideous child-killer monsters were never exposed to any positive, can-do attitude. No. They grew up on a diet of abuse.

They fell between the cracks at an early age and here our police hold a certain responsibility, though in no way the blame.

The cops have put too much emphasis on road safety and hardly any on safety in the home.

I have visited schools over the years and had certain noticeably serious-looking primary school girl students pointed out to me as suffering regular sexual abuse.

The poor teachers are their surrogate mothers, big sisters, yet unable to help.

The cops should be confronting the abusers and warning them their dues are coming and keep the pressure on them till they slip up.

Instead the cops sit in low-income neighbourhoods to catch car speedsters, pulling over a teacher or three for forgetting to fasten her/his seatbelt. As yet another child endures unimaginable sexual trauma.

More than 20 years ago, Trish Stratford made a documentary on Maori living in Australia. She originally intended to focus on musicians and sports stars.

Instead she found a heap of very successful Maori business people. From a former solo mum foreign exchange dealer for a big bank to the second-largest owner of funeral homes in Australia. And so on and so on.

Jason Witehira, New World supermarket owner, Ngapuhi, gets Outstanding Maori Business Person of the Year. Photo / Supplied
Jason Witehira, New World supermarket owner, Ngapuhi, gets Outstanding Maori Business Person of the Year. Photo / Supplied

I went to a ceremony on the day of my arrival, celebrating a Maori graduate with a degree in law. I went with my barrister son and lawyer grandson and was told afterwards that of the six young people at the table, five were fluent Maori speakers and every one had a university degree.

Mr Witehira said that in the past 10 to 15 years, we are seeing more and more Maori success stories like his.

If we can get rid of our terrible record on child abuse by Maori tribal leaders issuing books on Best Parenting Skills free to every household, and parenting classes held in every neighbourhood, I would reverse my criticism of the majority of Maori leaders and become their biggest advocate.

- NZ Herald

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Alan Duff

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