Tuesday 9th December 2008
We are invited to what I believe is a tea-party for James - an opportunity to celebrate his achievement and meet his family from the North Island. Polly and James have been friends practically since she began her degree at Otago and he has helped us out from time to time with stolid good sense and humour. I don't usually attend social functions for reasons I don't care to share here. Special friends get different treatment and it would have been a churlish act on my part not to lend support when it was often given with no reciprocity looked for or required.
We turned up in good time at the Hutton Room, Otago Museum and discovered it wasn't just James' do. All Maori graduands from Otago had been invited with their whanau and friends to celebrate their achievements and give thanks to their family who had supported them on a difficult journey. Apparently while overly represented in the prison population, Maori find it difficult to get through the doors of our tertiary institutions. Why this should be I do not know. I will not debate the issues here. I came from a country that seemed to be overtly sectarian and exclusive and know full well the complexities of trying to unravel, solve, treat, cure or identify conflict.
When I first came here and learned of Te Tiriti I was thrilled. A partnership, says I. One set of people is not privileged over another. Way to go Kiwis! I learned to pronounce Kia Ora and was astounded to learn it was a Maori greeting. When I was a boy in the Saturday matinees of yore Kia-ora was the soft drink you bought in the interval - if you remember, they used to show a big picture and a wee picture
We met a friend of Polly's in Akaroa and proudly I exclaimed "Kia Ora!" She gave a look of shock, horror and distaste muttering: "No need to use that here. I think they get enough already."
As I say I have known and experienced prejudice at first hand and I fear I no longer have time for it.
We had a wonderful if deafening time as an enthusiastic brother or two let great yells out of them. As the spokesperson said you won't get the opportunity for loud roaring as you tramp across the stage of the Town Hall tomorrow!