Denial Of The Effects Of Colonisation ?
The backlash against comments made by Tariana Turia in her address to the Psychological Society Conference on 29 August,
has been astounding in two respects. Her remarks have either been inaccurately reported, or misrepresented; and the
reaction to them strongly suggests a total denial of the facts of the colonisation of this country.
On the first point, ‘The Dominion’ today began its front page article ‘Turia stands by Holocaust remarks’ with:
“Associate Mäori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia is unrepentant about comparing the European colonisation of New Zealand
with the Nazi Holocaust.
The comparison sparked a flood of calls to the Prime Minister’s Office, talkback fury and almost universal criticism
What Tariana actually said was:
“Do you consider for example the effects of the trauma of colonisation? I know that psychology has accepted the
relevance of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
I understand that much of the research done in this area has focussed on the trauma suffered by the Jewish survivors of
the holocaust of World War Two. I also understand the same has been done with the Vietnam veterans.
What seems to not have received similar attention is the holocaust suffered by indigenous people including Mäori as a
result of colonial contact and behaviour.
The Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal made such a reference in its Taranaki Report of 1996 and I recollect what appeared to be
a “but our holocaust was worse than your holocaust” debate. A debate I must add, I do not wish to enter.”
She did not compare “the European colonisation of New Zealand with the Nazi Holocaust”, and she specifically stated she
was not into competitive holocaust debates. What she said was that the trauma of the colonisation of this country (and
elsewhere) had not received the same kind of attention - and in this she is obviously correct, the reaction against her
comments alone is proof of that.
Indeed, the reaction indicates a widespread denial of the facts of the impact of colonisation on Mäori. The Collins 1993
English Dictionary and Thesaurus gives the first meaning of ‘holocaust’ as “great destruction or loss of life or the
source of such destruction, esp fire.” Given the great destruction of Mäori culture, economic base, political systems
and religious belief and the loss of life of approximately 30% of the Mäori population within two generations of
settlement, then ‘holocaust’ seems a reasonable description of the impact of colonisation on Mäori.
Within this overall loss are of course specific examples of atrocity - the armed invasion of Parihaka is one which comes
readily to mind, with the opening of the Parihaka Exhibition in Wellington this past week. Nine hundred and fifty five
armed volunteers and six hundred and forty four Armed Constabulary were sent to deal with people who were peacefully
resisting the theft of their land. More than four hundred resisters were arrested before the invasion. The invasion was
marked by rapes; the looting of the resisters property; the burning of their homes and uprooting of their crops; the
forced relocation under armed escort of 1507 men, women and children; arrests which continued for three weeks after the
invasion; then imprisonment without trial in dank caves for periods of up to two years.
Part of the backlash against Tariana’s comments has come from those of the ‘it’s time to move on’ school of thought.
However, it is a basic principle of conflict resolution that before people can move on from any hurt and harm they have
suffered individually or collectively, their loss and suffering has to be acknowledged. What is clear from the reaction
to her remarks is that many people do not have the slightest inkling of the devastation and destruction colonisation has
Of the various statements issued by politicians condemning Tariana Turia the most startling has come from Jenny Shipley.
It features incendiary mixed metaphors such as: “Comments like Tariana Turia's widen gaps rather than close them. They
have the potential to cause huge division and seriously damage race relations in New Zealand. Her latest bombshell has
thrown petrol into an already sensitive area.” We have included the full text of her statement at the end of this alert
because it is a truly appalling indication of the level of understanding amongst some politicians.
Jenny Shipley, of course is an expert on serious damage to race relations. You may recall her comments in parliament on
16 May 2000 during the debate on the sale of the high-tech radio spectrum:
“ ... this government is saying that, somehow or other, Mäori cannot cope on their own; that, somehow or other, a racial
allocation in the form of a discount is needed to close the gap. Where is the 5 percent discount for Pacific Island
people, if they are actually causing trouble as well? They climb in the windows of other New Zealanders at night. It is
not only Mäori.”
Interesting how there was very little backlash against what Jenny Shipley said.
* What you can do
One of the major concerns we have from the mass media coverage are the reports that Helen Clark’s office has been
inundated with complaints about Tariana Turia’s speech.
Peace Movement Aotearoa the national networking peace group
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand.
tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173,