Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Pitfalls in Oz for Maori: report

More Maori are moving to Australia than ever before - but many don't realise they are giving up many of the rights they get in New Zealand.

A report released by Paul Hamer, Victoria University of Wellington migrant researcher, said there had been 38.2 per cent growth in the population of Maori living in Australia in the 2011 census, from 92,912 to 128,434.

He said Maori left New Zealand in search of higher wages and better opportunities in spite of being ineligible for many rights in Australia.

"Those who have arrived since 2001 are overwhelmingly disadvantaged in terms of their access to many basic welfare benefits and to tertiary education, and they are heavily disenfranchised in terms of voting in both New Zealand [largely by choice] and Australia [by law]."

Mr Hamer also said Maori in Australia had maintained a strong cultural identity.

"Maori in Australia maintain a strong Maori cultural identity, with increasing numbers of New Zealand and Australian-born Maori using te reo Maori within the home."

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said it was harder for Maori to keep their culture strong in foreign countries such as Australia.

"In Australia, you're breaking the law just by sleeping on the floor in a public space, you have to be a certain level off the ground, so a marae is basically out. When having cultural practices, you can't just put mattresses on the ground for everybody, when you consider there are about 40 people in a kapa haka team, it is hard to carry out cultural practices. I don't know about them losing their culture though."

Mr Flavell said through experience in his electoral office, Maori weren't aware of the hardships they could face in a foreign country.

"We've had inquiries about dealing with things like the Queensland floods a few years ago where family members had lost their homes and other things, and didn't realise they weren't up for compensation or relief for their house or property because they're not Australian citizens."

Another thing they were dealing with more often was bringing a body back home after a death in the family. Mr Flavell said although there were cultural implications for burying a body in Australia, it might be a cost some families could not meet.

"I think people just think of the money and need a job, but don't think of the consequences if there's a problem, namely to do with the death of a family member."

Ex-Rotorua man Jordan Te Pairi is now working in the mines in Western Australia as a service attendant.

"There are so many Maori here now, there's communities of Maori who live together. In the mines, there are a lot of Kiwis, you don't hear them speaking Maori but they do say the random basic words like kia ora. I don't think there's a problem with Maori losing their culture."

Mr Te Pairi said he was aware Maori and New Zealanders didn't have the same rights as back home, but said any of his Kiwi friends who wanted tertiary study simply came home then left again.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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