Me, A Māori Woman
July 12, 1950 — New Zealand House of Representatives, Wellington NZ
E te mauri o te motu, kingi Koroki, te thi, te mana, tena koe, tena koe, tena koe, me to whaea me Te Puea, tena korua — o tipuna, korua, kuia, maatua, whaea. Tena koutou katoa. E te iwi morehu mai i te rerenga wairua, Maunganui, Tamaki, Mokau, Mangatoatoa, Pariminihi, Wai totara, Tawhitikuri, Miria te Kakara, Whitireia, Whanganui-a-Tara, whiti ki te Waipounamu me Wharekauri, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou.
In those words I have said this: To your supreme states of Māoridom within these shores king Koroki greeting and salutations. To your forebears, to Te Puea greetings. To the remnant peoples from Cape Reinga, Maunganui, Tamaki, Mokau, Mangatoatoa, Parininihi, Wai totara, Tawhitikuri, Miria te Kakara, Whitireia, Whanganui-a-Tara thence to the Waipounamu, Wharekauri, greetings.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps, Sir, it is precedent to confess my trepidation in this my first address in Parliament, in this gathering of learned representatives of the land, more so, Sir, in my being fully aware of the unseen audience which is all over the country listening with curiosity, praise, criticism, or otherwise, to me, a Māori woman upon whom the choice of the electors in the Western Māori District has fallen to represent them in Parliament. With humble sincerity I pray that what little I, their servant, may contribute to this debate and this House may have some substance and food for thought, and which may culminate and consolidate assured progress for the coming generations of my Māori people in this ever changing world of to-day. Opinions may vary and differ, but, nevertheless, I personally avail myself of this opportunity to extend and express my appreciation through you, Sir, to the past regime, my present-day colleagues, now the Opposition, for what they have done in the past from a most sympathetic and considerate concern in confirming various enactments to further the betterment and the future welfare of my Māori people. Sir, though now on the opposite side of the House, I have no uneasiness as to the future of my Māori people as the Hon. the Prime Minister has said that, “Māori electors need not fear that their interests will not be sympathetically studied by the new Government.” I was very thankful to hear that statement made by the Prime Minister. I want to thank the Prime Minister for his wise choice of the Hon. Mr. Corbett as Minister of Māori Affairs. We are fortunate to have him in that capacity. He was brought up among the Māori people of Taranaki, and I know that with Mr. Corbett as its Minister of Māori Affairs the new Government will give my Māori people every consideration.
Mr. Speaker, I have not been oblivious of the shafts of criticism levelled at me on my attaining parliamentary honours. I wonder at the outlook of some in comparison with others. I will mention one, Sir, whose example was a source of encouragement to do that which is mine to do for my people to the best of my ability, with truth and integrity befitting the dignity of this, His Majesty’s Parliament of New Zealand. I am referring to Dame Enid Lyons, widow of the late Mr. Lyons, a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. After the death of her husband Dame Enid Lyons, though blessed with a large family, contested and won a seat in the Commonwealth Government of Australia, and has represented Tasmania from then until now. How inspiring was her tenacious and courageous action which justly received the highest tribute of the land, and was well and truly eulogized by the press and public of Australia. Sir, when my people selected me as their representative, the eulogies from various correspondents were so flattering that it left me, as I have stated, in a wonder, and I will leave it at that.
Up to the close of the past century many years have passed during which Māori affairs and great matters of policy have been determined. These are reflected in the history and progress of our young country. Māori administration has been the graveyard of reputations. Ministers came and went, and Governments were kept in power only by their ability to steer a discreet course through troubled waters, war, turmoil, distrust, and unpopular clamour. At times apprehensions and distrust and fear came and went only to rise again when the Māori people charged the Government and their officials with a failure to make proper provision for them. Governments were charged with breaches of contract, improper administration of the law affecting their lands, and an unsympathetic attitude to the administrative Department. Many of these complaints, some with merit and some without, have been raised from time to time over the years, only to fall as an embarrassment on the party for the time being in power. Sir, I wish to refer to statistical returns, parliamentary reports, G–10, on Māori Affairs, where the practice and the growth and advancement of land-settlement schemes are well and truly illustrated. I, who have been farming a unit for this last ten years, am fully in accord with the objective of this great work for my Māori people to attain and acquire farming ability of the highest order, skilled judgment, management, foresight, pride of achievement and possession. Truly what has been said about land-settlement schemes is a new chapter in the life of the Māori people to-day. Before proceeding further, I want to say to my leader and to my present-day colleagues, now the Opposition, that I congratulate them very much indeed that when they were in power they boosted up to the hilt this great work which is of such importance to the Māori to-day.
There is no doubt that housing is number one priority to ensure the future well-being of the Māori people, but it must be remembered that there has been a great increase in the Māori population. It has created serious overcrowding in homes in the cities. Overcrowding in homes and homes not fit for human habitation lead to the danger of the inhabitants becoming victims of disease. We all hear the question, “Why do Māoris go to the cities and not remain on the land?” Because, Sir, industry has attracted them in the meeting of labour requirements. I was very impressed to hear what the Minister of Māori Affairs had to say about bad housing to a gathering of Māoris in a community hall in Auckland. He said that the Māoris could rise above their environment, and should remember spiritual values in achieving that. The future of our Māori people lies in good homes and good houses. The foundations of Māori well-being are laid in the home, the starting-point of social progress and structure. In the atmosphere of a good home the character of the youth is later shown in the man, and that of the girl in the woman. Spiritual and moral well-being is most important, and is indispensable in the atmosphere of a home. Several schemes have been brought forward to meet the housing position of the Māori people, but the increase in the Māori population must be borne in mind. The annual increase in the number of houses erected is quite inadequate to cope with the demand.
We, the Māori people in all parts of New Zealand, are appreciative of and thankful for the humanitarian provisions made available through the Department of Health and the health services. Statistics show that the health of the Māori people was in a shocking state, but it is pleasing to note that through the activities of the Department of Health and the health services there has been marked and steady progress for the better. The object of education is to produce good and healthy New Zealanders, and, particularly among the Māori people, that is an easier task than formerly. We have the development of land schemes which are a new chapter in the life of the Māori people. In the social Acts of 1945 we have the development of the human element. Therefore, I say we have before us two vital issues to face — land development and human development. There is an opportunity of unlimited scope to organize the drive for the advancement of the Māori people which has already begun. A spirit of progress is dawning such as the Māori people have never realized before. We, the Māori people, must advance hand in hand with the Pākehā, and, by common effort in common society, we will reach new heights of achievement.
The Prime Minister has told us that the interests of the Māori people will be sympathetically studied by this new Government, and I have already said that I was very thankful to hear that. I know the right honourable gentleman will remember his words when there are matters pertaining to my Māori people brought into the House. I know that what the past regime — my present-day colleagues — did for the Māori people, the new Government will do also. I shall remember the Prime Minister’s words in this House whenever matters affecting the Māori people are brought up here. Before I resume my seat in this honourable institution I pray that God will give me strength and encouragement to serve my King and my Māori people as a whole.
Source: New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, First Session. 29th Parliament, Legislative Council and House of Representatives. 289 Volume, (Wellington: R.E. Owen, Government Printer) 1950, pp. 335-337.