Challenging homophobia is a collective responsibility

We really should not have been surprised when Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene wrote a post this week criticising Māori Television and the programming and stated there are “too many men running around in skirts and make-up”. Why? Because the Labour MP also voted against the Marriage Equality Bill in April 2013. ( )

Tirikatene had voted yes in the first two readings however when it came to the final reading he voted No, stating, “Primarily I didn’t see this as an equality issue. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman” (

So, what exactly prompted this new rise of ignorance from the Te Tai Tonga MP?

When I read the quote to a whanaunga travelling with me, she responded:

“What? Does he mean kapa haka? Is he saying piupiu are skirts and moko are makeup?”

Clearly she does not watch a lot of Māori Television other than kapa haka and Matatini, but the fundamental point she was making is that many Māori men today do wear piupiu and make up as a part of our cultural ways of being, and as such the ignorance of Tirikatene’s statement was even more pointed. The issue, however is that he was not referring to kapa haka, rather he was referring to those programmes on Māori Television such as ‘Queens of Pangaru’ and ‘The Ring Inz’ both of which include and affirm takatāpui.

For some the remark made by Rino Tirikatene may seem flippant or unthinking. However, in light of his voting against Marriage Equality it is clear that these views are firmly held. Statements such as this made by a Māori politician can not go unanswered. Such comments serve to validate the homophobia that is deeply embedded within Aotearoa and fails to recognise the pain that is inflicted upon those that identify as takatāpui or Māori LGTBQI as a consequence of those homophobic views.

The idea that Māori men should not wear skirts or makeup links directly to broader hetero-normative beliefs that were brought to Aotearoa by the colonial invaders.

Let’s be clear, all of our people wore piupiu or maro, as Awhina Tamarapa and Patricia Wallace write;
“Traditional Māori dress was both varied and complex. Māori wore a wide range of hairstyles and ornaments, skin colourings and oils, as well as facial or body tattoos. Clothing consisted of shoulder and waist garments, belts and sometimes sandals. People adorned themselves with a range of neck and ear pendants, and carried prized weapons in formal situations.Shoulder garments included capes and cloaks, ranging from practical rain capes to full-length cloaks with stitched or intertwined attachments, or with intricately woven tāniko borders. Waist garments comprised maro (frontal aprons) and a variety of kilt-like garments.While items of dress gave protection against physical elements, they could also hold spiritual significance. There was little difference between the clothing of men and women, aside from those of high status.”

The implantation of victorian colonial nuclear domesticated ideas of gender have had a destructive impact upon our people for over 200 years. Imposed colonial dress codes are a part of a wider embedding of patriarchal domination on Indigenous women and children. It was the coloniser that created the idea that only Māori women and girls wear skirts, it was the coloniser that worked to determine who was considered important enough to talk Treaty with, it was the coloniser that sought to elevate Māori men over Māori women in line with their worldview of the subjugation of women, it was the coloniser that instituted structures to domesticate our whānau into a tidy nuclear family structure that creates an environment which enables oppression and violence, it was the coloniser that has been systematic in the implanting of homophobic belief systems that deny the fluidity and multiple ways in which we express our selves and our sexuality.

The impact of colonisation has been immense in regards to gender, gender expression and sexuality. It has also had a significant impact on how many of our own whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations view and treat takatāpui. Where I have heard many stories of total acceptance of takatāpui within our communities I have also heard many painful and disturbing stories of violence, both psychologically and physically, against whānau members once they have ‘come out’. We are well aware of the high levels of self harm associated with the impact of violence and rejection of takatāpui amongst our people, including as a direct result of homophobic bullying and psychological abuse in organisations.

These acts of violence can not be tolerated by anyone. We are all collectively responsible for the wellbeing of all members of our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. We are all collectively responsible for challenging the colonial belief systems that create contexts of hatred and violence against members of our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. We are all collectively accountable for the perpetuation of any discourses or belief systems that contribute to the maintainance and reproduction of systems of oppression against our people. Homophobia and transphobia can never be tolerated within Aotearoa, and anyone that holds a position of power such as that held by Rino Tirikatene must be directly challenged for such views.

Waitara & the struggle for the return of the Pekapeka Block.

E kore e pouri tonu, Waitara e mamae nei i te wa i mua rā.

At the end of May the Māori Select Committee will report back on the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill.

The title of the Bill is itself a misnomer. It really should be titled “The final confiscation of the Pekapeka Block and other Waitara Lands Bill”, which is a much more appropriate and truthful title for the Bill.

I have written before about the Bill and the fundamental objective which is to enable the NPDC to sell the final vestiges (780 properties) of Manukorihi and Otaraua Lands that were illegally confiscated in 1865 and were ‘gifted’ by the colonial government to the Waitara Harbour Board and Raleigh Town Board which later became the Waitara Borough Council. ( )

The Waitangi Tribunal clearly evidenced the illegal actions of the colonial government and successive acts of contemporary colonial governments (

The Bill provides a very limited and unsatisfactorily introduction to these issues before moving on to referring to the Pekapeka block as ‘Waitara Endowment Lands’ and advocating for processes of the freeholding of those lands.

Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū and Te Ātiawa iwi have strongly opposed this Bill through the Māori Select Committee process and called for the return of the Pekapeka block. Many other organisations stood with the hapū and iwi throughout this process and advocated for the return of the lands. (

The most recent release regarding the Pekapeka block and other stolen Waitara lands provides an overview of information regarding the NPDC and the “millions of dollars it has earned from land stolen from Waitara hapu in the 1860s”. (’s-earnings-from-waitara-land-bone-of-contention )

An Official Information Act application by Carl Chenery on behalf of Tāmaki Treaty Workers provides an analysis of the already huge benefits to the respective councils over the past 150 years. According to the material gained the group found that “the council had pocketed between $95m and $140m, excluding interest and any money from land sales”. (Tāmaki Treaty Workers Supplementary Submission with estimates of lease payments:

Within the submission process it is clear that the hapū, iwi and many other social service organisations see the return of the Pekapeka block as essential to the healing of the historical trauma experienced within Waitara. The continued economic gain by both the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council over the past 150 years has been raised by hapū and iwi for many years.

The free-holding and sale of lands on the Pekapeka block and other stolen Waitara lands constitutes more Treaty breaches and calls into question yet again the ways in which successive governments have operated in relationship to their obligations in regards to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Māori lawyer Moana Jackson has consistently stated that “Treaties are not made to be settled, treaties are made to be honoured”. That is a critical point at the centre of this issue, that is the lack of honour on the part of the Crown and its agencies, the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council. Whilst hapū and iwi continue to act in respectful, peaceful, dignified ways in regards to land issues in Waitara, the colonial institutions continue their deceitful, dishonest and dishonourable practices.

As the hapū and iwi await the report of the Māori select committee there are many questions that remain unanswered in regards to the Pekapeka block, including how the respective councils have managed to secretly sell sections of land and not provide any documentation or explanation to our communities. There is no doubt in our minds that the Crown, the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional council have benefited many times from the theft of the lands in Waitara, including the Pekapeka block. There is also no doubt that the whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara have never been prioritised in regards to resourcing and support from the $140million that has already been taken as profits from those lands.

This can not continue. The process of raupatu, the beating of our people hundreds of time over can not be allowed to continue in this generation or upon generations of our whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara. As the Waitangi tribunal clearly stated ‘If war is the absence of peace, the war has never ended in Taranaki.

Challenging sexual violence imposed upon & within Māori communities.

This blog is first and foremost an acknowledgement. It is an acknowledgement to all Indigenous women who are at the frontline of challenging the increasing perpetuation of sexual violence against Indigenous Peoples, in particular women and children. It is an acknowledgement of the Indigenous men who stand alongside their sister relations in calling abusers to account and speaking out against abuse of all forms. It is an acknowledgement of those seeking justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It is an acknowledge of all who stand in solidarity against all forms of violence, sexual violence against Indigenous Peoples and our lands and all that live upon this sacred earth, that our ancestors call Papatūānuku.

This week I sat here on Turtle Island and watched a Marae programme where Chanz Mikaere (Te Arawa) stood, in all of her whakapapa sacredness, and laid challenge to all that enable abusers to continue to be privileged by their whānau, hapū and iwi upon our marae.

In doing so, Chanz re-ignited a wero, a challenge to all of Māori society. I use the term ‘re-ignited’ intentionally as I have seen, over many years, Māori women lay this challenge to our people. Māori women formed Te Kākano o te whānau in the 1980s as a direct response to the exponential growth of lateral violence, domestic violence and sexual abuse within our communities. There are far too many of our women to name who were a part of that movement but they know who they are, and many of those Māori women continue at the forefront of seeking healing pathways for our whānau that experience violence perpetuated both within our own communities and upon our whānau, hapu, iwi and communities by the State.

This blog, Chanz Mikaere, is an acknowledgement of you and all Indigenous women who stand against violence within and upon our Indigenous women and children.

The enabling of known Māori male abusers to take a privileged role within pōwhiri has been actively challenged by many of those that were a part of Te Kākano o Te Whānau and those now working as part of organisations such as Ngā Kaitiaki Māuri, Tū Tama Wahine, Tū Wāhine, Te Puna Oranga and many others. I have seen Māori women stand within pōwhiri and upon marae at significant occasions and challenge directly known perpetuators of violence.

The state of whānau violence within Māori communities has been described as being at epidemic proportions (Kruger 2004). Both whānau violence and sexual violence is perpetrated laterally within our whānau and upon whānau through the violent actions of successive colonial governments. Colonisation has distorted Māori notions of whakapapa, tikanga, wairua, tapu, mauri and mana, and in doing so have disrupted the fundamental cultural templates through which healthy relationships were nurtured and sustained within our whānau, hapū and iwi.
The social position that Māori find ourselves in today is an outcome of both the internalisation of practices of colonial violence and the ongoing violence of the colonial state against our people (Balzer et al., 2007). Colonial invasion is one of violence. Violence against Indigenous Peoples and violence against Papatūānuku (Earth). Duran (2006) speaks of sexual violence within the acts of invasion and colonisation of Turtle Island stating that “the colonial process experienced by these people can be described as a collective raping process of the psyche/soul of both the land and the people” (p.21).

Colonisation creates a context whereby Indigenous cultural structures and relationships are actively targeted for destruction. This is well documented in Aotearoa. The theft of lands, the confiscations of our lands through colonial imposed governmental systems is referred to directly by our people as raupatu, which translates not solely as confiscation but as the experiencing of ‘hundreds (rau) of beatings (patu)’. The intense pain of that concept gives us a much more realistic and deep understanding of the trauma experienced by our ancestors as they were ripped from them lands, and as they watched (and we continue to watch) the colonial forces rape our lands and violently abuse our women and children.

Colonial systems of Mission schools, Native schools and legislative impositions, relative to our lands and rights as Indigenous nations, deliberately and systematically removed our relationships to our lands and reconstituted our relationships to ourselves. The domestication of whānau through the ideologies and practices of the colonial heterosexual nuclear family unit was instrumental in breaking down the collective relationships that sustained our responsibilities, accountabilities, obligations and fundamental care of each other as whānau, hapū and iwi. Violence against each other is not only enabled in this context but is actively supported through the disconnection of our relationships to each other that provided cultural prevention and intervention mechanisms to ensure collective wellbeing. That includes the denial of Māori knowledge, practices, values and behaviours through which our ancestors saw any form of violence within whānau as an act against the entire collective that required swift and immediate response. Higgins and Meredith (2013) state that rape and incest were abhorrent to traditional Māori values. Tikanga Māori did not tolerate sexual violence and the collective dealt directly with these transgressions (Balzer 1997).

Understanding the ways in which our tupuna viewed sexual violences is critical (Pihama 2016). Denise Wilson (n.d.) indicates that sexual violence is a “violation of te whare tangata (that is the house of the people)” (p. 5), which has not only physical and psychological impacts but also causes cultural and spiritual distress. Such abuse is considered, in Māori terms, to be a violation of not only the woman herself but also of past and future generations. This aligns with the concepts discussed by Norman (1992) who highlighted the sanctity of ‘te whare tangata’ and the prioritising of the protection of the life force and spiritual essence the womb of Māori women.

Mereana Pitman (1996) provides a Māori view of abuse that provides one of the few clearly Kaupapa Māori definitions:
“Māori saw rape and especially incest as transgressing the mana, the status, the dignity and the future birth right of not only the victim but also the abuser and his people. Shame was seen, lain, address, actioned and put in its place. People still remember today, in tikanga, the transgressions of sexual violence dating back 1,200 years.” (1996, p. 45)

Sexual violence is not only a transgression against the individual person but is an attack on the persons entire being and mana (Sykes 1996). For Māori women this includes an attack on Māori Wahine as passed down to us from Hine Ahuone. Furthermore, Sykes (1996) makes the following point in regards to Hineahuone and the relationship of her legacy to the position of Māori women:
“She is depicted in our stories of creation with all the obligations of nurturing the health of human kind: Te Whare Tangata; of having the primary responsibility for ensuring the survival of her whakatipuranga, her uri, her descendants, of possessing both power over life and over death as well as being vulnerable to abuse by evil forces and being powerless to protect her eldest daughter from the most evil of those forces, sexual violence, sexual abuse. From her comes the ethos that women are to be protected at all costs.” (p. 64)

Takirirangi Smith (2015) highlights that notions of tapu and mana are central to understanding the impact of sexual violence.
“Both male and female genitalia were considered sacred and perceived of as organs that could influence life and death. The ritual use of genitalia and references in incantations and chants highlight the degree of sanctity attached to sexual organs. Sexual violence, or any other type of physical or psychological assault where a powerful individual violated and/or humiliated a less powerful or powerless victim, was initially responded to with whakamā.” (p. 256-257)

If we are to ensure the wellbeing of our people we must ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Māori women and children. In the regeneration of our relationships we must work to decolonise those misogynist colonial beliefs systems both within Māori society and more broadly that deny the trauma and pain of sexual violence against Māori women and children. That means dealing directly to the ongoing state condoned violence that is perpetuated upon our people daily through the racist colonial heteronomative society that operates upon our lands that consider our women and children as inherently rapable, in the same way that white supremacy considers our lands and people as commodities for sale and trade within their capitalist systems. That includes challenging and decolonising those ideologies and oppressive behaviours that are internalised by our own. It must also include looking to those tikanga and traditional knowledge forms that provide guidance and templates for prevention of violence within our whānau. This is a critical project in the wider regeneration of Māori knowledge, language and culture.

Erana Cooper (2008) has clearly stated the need for us to work take on this issue directly and to take responsibility for addressing violence.
“There is no mistaking that whanau violence is a critical issue for Maori, and there is often a strong deficit approach to the topic. I think it is critical that we are able to determine and describe the positive things we already do and can do in the future, as Maori, taking responsibility for addressing this issue.” (p.130)

What we know is that our tikanga provides us with ancestral knowledge and practices about our relationships. Those understandings within whānau in traditional times were based within collective accountabilities, obligations and responsibilities. Tikanga provides us with parameters of engagement and behaviour. The challenge is about how it is enacted, what it might look like, and figuring out how to maintain critical aspects of tikanga.

For Māori, the marae is a space that we control in terms of how roles and responsibilities and community obligations are fulfilled. It is one of those few spaces where we as whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori determine how things play out within ritual and who takes on critical roles for our people.

Chanz Mikaere is a new generation of young Māori women who is taking on that role of speaking out against the perpetuation of violence within our own spaces. The marae, she is clear, provides us all as Māori one of those last bastions where we must be empowered to practice our tikanga without the fear of abuse and violence. This includes having marae as spaces where those that have survived violence and their whānau, to not experience re-traumatisation through seeing the perpetuator of that abuse sit honoured and privileged within our ceremonies. What Chanz is saying to us all is that for many of our people the marae as a safe, affirming and validating space becomes nullified through not ensuring the wellbeing and safety of all, in particular our women and children. It is a stark reminder that even within our cultural spaces misogyny and abuse often goes unchallenged and that those that reproduce those forms of violence often do so through a manipulated definition of kawa or tikanga.

We need to be clear that abuse is not traditional.

We need to be clear that sexual violence is not and was never acceptable within Māori society.

We need to be clear that the sexist and misogynist manipulations that we hear within our own cultural spaces is not Māori, it is not tikanga, it is not and was never acceptable.

We need to be clear that in giving privileged positions on our marae to those who have perpetuated violence against their own whānau, against our women and children reproduces the trauma for our people, and embeds fear within many.

We need to be clear that any forms of abuse within whānau and hapū are considered a transgression of mana, tapu and whakapapa and was not tolerated by our tupuna and it must not be tolerated by us ever.


Cooper, E. (2008) Mokopuna Rising: Developing a Best Practice for Early Intervention in Whanau Violence, Levy, M., Nikora, L.W., Masters‐Awatere, B., Rua, M.R., Waitoki, W. (2008). Claiming Spaces: Proceedings of the 2007 National Maori and Pacific Psychologies Symposium, 23‐24 November, Hamilton. Hamilton: Maori and Psychology Research Unit. (pp48-51)

Duran, E. (2006). Healing the soul wound: Counseling with American Indians and other Native peoples. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Higgins, R. & Meredith, P. (2013). Ngā tamariki: Māori childhoods: Māori childhood changes. Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Available from:āori-childhoods/page-4

Kruger, T., Pitman, M., Grennel, D., McDonald, T., Mariu, D., Pomare, A., Mita, T., Matahaere, M. & Lawson-Te Aho, K. (2004). Transforming whānau violence: A conceptual framework: An updated version of the report from the former Second Māori taskforce on Whānau Violence, 2nd Edition.

Norman, W, (1992) He Aha Te Mea Nui in Smith, L.T. (ed) Te Pua, Vol. 1. No. 1, The Journal of Te Puawaitanga, Auckland: University of Auckland, pp1-9

Pihama, L., Te Nana, R., Cameron, N., Smith, C., Reid, J., Southey, K. (2016) ‘Māori cultural definitions of sexual violence. Cultural and Indigenous Issues In Sex Abuse Practice and Research: Sexual Abuse in Australia and New Zealand: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Pitman, M. (1996). ‘The Māori Experience’. In J. Broadmore, C. Shand, T. J. Warburton & Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (N.Z.) (Eds.), The proceedings of rape : ten years’ progress? : an interdisciplinary conference (pp. 301 p.). Wellington, New Zealand: DSAC.

Sykes, A. (1996). ‘Getting The Case to Trial: Me Aro Koe Ki Te Haa o Hineahuone’. In J. Broadmore, C. Shand, T. J. Warburton & Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (N.Z.) (Eds.), The proceedings of rape : ten years’ progress? : an interdisciplinary conference Wellington, New Zealand: DSAC.

Wilson, D. (n/d) Family Violence Intervention Guidelines: Māori and Family Violence, On behalf of Māori Advisory Committee, Ministry of Health, Family Violence Project, School of Health Studies, Wellington: Massey University