News of Zealand

It’s Almost Waitangi Day But Do Kiwis Know Enough About What That Means?

The History Teachers' Association says no.

by Zoe Madden-Smith
04 February 2019, 2:11am

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Image via Shutterstock.

On Wednesday it is the 179th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Everyone knows that this means a day off, but do New Zealanders know enough about what this historic day actually means? History teachers aren’t convinced we do, and have recently launched a petition calling for New Zealand history to be a compulsory part of school curriculum.

At the moment, teachers say, there is only one achievement objective that focuses on our country’s past in the entire course curriculum, and this has led to Aotearoa's history being taught in a very incoherent way.

History Teachers' Association chairman Graeme Ball, who is leading the petition, says not nearly enough New Zealanders have a clear understanding of how Māori and the Crown were brought together in the Treaty of Waitangi, and how this relationship has played out since. “We believe it is a basic right of all to learn this at school… students should be exposed to multiple perspectives and be enabled to draw their own conclusions from the evidence,” the petition reads.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce boss Michael Barnett told Newstalk ZB that “we are not well informed as people” because the dialogue around Waitangi has been hijacked by issues Pākehā have with entitlement and the cost of compensation, and this has created bitterness around the narrative.

“Instead of us getting the right narratives, the right stories, it has been about what has happened since. It has been about the negative rather than the bringing together of people and what created that… we are not dealing with the facts. We are not dealing with a balanced story.”

A petition to add Aotearoa to the country’s official name is also hoping to celebrate our history through te reo Māori. While ‘Aotearoa’ is mentioned on our money and passports, only ‘New Zealand’ has official status. Wellington man Danny Tahau Jobe is calling for a referendum to change this.

Acting Minister of Māori Development and co-chair of the Labour Māori caucus Willie Jackson said he and his caucus liked the idea, but that the government had bigger fish to fry first, RNZ reports. "If we want the language to live we have to try every avenue to promote it so at that level obviously I would be a supporter but certainly I can't say that's the government's view or would be the government's view.”