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Wednesday, 20 March 2019 08:54 am

Cynicism high among Māori youth voters, but there is hope

Sep 12th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features, News, Student Features

Ati Aue Tuhoe has been disillusioned by the political system since he was 15

Ati Aue Tuhoe shared the stage with the person who inspired him to activism almost 20 years ago – Moana Jackson – to discuss the country’s disenfranchised youth.

Five speakers from political activist backgrounds addressed the issue of 250,000 young people in New Zealand yet to enrol for this year’s general election

At the “Here We Go Again” forum the feeling of scepticism was high as speakers discussed a flawed system rather than political parties, especially for Māori and Pacifika.

Tuhoe told the young crowd of about 100 at the Mt Victoria community gardens that he was a long time non-voter, but was not politically apathetic.

“Being politically aware doesn’t mean you have to vote,” he said.

“Actually being politically aware makes voting really hard. You have to be super analytical. Who are these people, and what do they do?”

He became distrustful of both major political parties after his family was affected by Labour’s “Rogernomics” policies during the 80s.

“That short political history even from the 80s and the things that Labour and the Left have done.

He said he became more interested in the relationship between colonisation and democracy after first seeing Jackson speak at an Orientation Week during his first year at Victoria University.

“Even as a 15-year-old I thought this democracy, this political system wasn’t built by us and it certainly wasn’t built for us,” he said.

Tui-Helen Kupa still votes on the Maori roll because she doesn’t want Maori to lose their voice

“There are indigenous systems, but actually are we ready to ‘we are Māori’ and ‘we as Tuhoe’, are we actually prepared to shift our whole way of thinking and way of operating to do something that’s truly an indigenous thing?”

Tui-Helen Kupa said while she is also sceptical of the system, she votes on the Māori Roll to ensure a voice.

“I like to vote on the Māori roll because I fear that if I don’t then the Maori seats will be taken away,” she said

“And there’s one less voice we won’t be able to get back for Māori. And I understand if you don’t want to. I don’t want to. I’m voting purely out of fear.”

Ella Grace, the only Pakeha on the panel, said that there was too much hype around just voting during election time, and not enough discussion about the system itself.

She runs the project, YVote, an online political discussion group about young people voting.

“Every election cycle we tend to put a lot of energy into the idea of voting when it could be perhaps an opportunity to talk about wider issues, and the fact that we could perhaps change the system,” she said.
She was wary of “youth voices”.

“I feel like some of the youth voices that are amplified during election time are often young people who aren’t doing too bad for themselves under the system as it is or sometimes people who would like a political career for themselves.”

Nadia Abu-Shanab, who is half English and half Palestinian, attacked both parties on the welfare system.

She cited former Green co-leader Metirei Turei as a recent example.

Nadia Abu-Shanab thinks the way Metirei Turei was treated before her resignation is a sign of how the system treat poor Maori and Pacifika

“What we see within our welfare system, if you start to really peel away and look at our welfare system, is this institutionalised, racialised, gendered, demonization of women, particularly Pacifika, particularly Maori women and mothers,” she said

“And that is at the heart of our welfare system. It’s actually a punitive system, rather than one that is there to lift people up.”

She criticised Jacinda Ardern for not standing up for Turei.

“Jacinda Ardern, when Metirei said her stuff, she didn’t have the political courage to actually say ‘I think it’s important that we have a conversation about the violence of poverty and what that does’,” she said.

“Instead she said ‘I want to distance myself from this idea of breaking the law and I see our law as a legitimate thing’.”

The mood in the room changed when keynote speaker and prominent Māori lawyer Moana Jackson talked to the young crowd about change through activism.

He discussed constitutional reform and what a true “New Zealand/Aoteoroa” democracy, based on the Treaty of Waitangi, might look like.

“One of the ways we can hold onto hope in activism, is to be really clear about the things that we want to change, and to be very clear in the words that we use.

Key note speaker Moana Jackson spoke of constitution reform for a system that better represents all New Zealanders

“When people in this country talk about democracy, talk about having a vote every three years, that is to me not democracy.

“In fact, it seems to me that in country that has been and is still being colonised, the use of the word democracy is a contradiction in terms.”

“Because colonisation, by its very nature is an undemocratic process.

“It seeks the subjugation of indigenous peoples on the basis of their assumed inferiority.”

If Constitutional reform in New Zealand happens, its citizens need to think about what democracy means.

“So if we are to talk truth to the power that now names itself as democracy, if we are instead to talk the truth of our power, then I think it’s helpful to always question and discuss ‘what do we mean by democracy?’” he said.

“Do we mean elections every three years? Do we means a system based on the adversarialism in New Zealand? Or do we mean something else?

“Do we mean that ineffable hope with all humans to make decisions for themselves?”


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