Golriz Ghahraman: Te Tiriti principles should live in every Government policy

Opinion 07/02/2019

By Golriz Ghahraman, Green Party MP

OPINION: Waitangi Day is a time of reflection for all New Zealanders. We ask ourselves what Te Tiriti o Waitangi means today and how it may be honoured to ensure fairness and harmony in the future.

As a refugee, someone not originally for Aotearoa, I know what it is like to try and find your place in this discussion, but we have an essential role to play. By learning about our nation’s history of colonisation we can better relate to its indigenous people. We too have often experienced colonisation, escaped imperialist wars and know the loss of our culture and natural resource. We can stand together with Tangata Whenua in building a fairer Aotearoa New Zealand.

For me, Waitangi Day is about celebrating Te Tiriti as a living constitutional document. The special self-governance and other rights of Māori as the indigenous people of Aotearoa are ongoing and can’t be settled away in any lump sum. Respect for Te Tiriti principles of shared decision-making and Māori guardianship of natural and cultural heritage must be upheld and strengthened generationally. These are rights promised by the Treaty. They are essential for harmonious race relations, and so benefit us all. They are, in fact, human rights.

Practically speaking, that means ongoing support of Te Reo Māori.

It means our justice system needs Māori-led policy to address inequality of treatments and outcomes there. As a lawyer and child rights advocate, I remember the amazing results we got and continue to get when Māori kaupapa and tikanga are incorporated into the justice system. One example is our Marae-based Rangatahi Courts (Youth Courts), where young people and their whanau report that the tikanga-based process engenders feelings of respect and legitimacy of the courts, in turn, making discussions about accountability for offending and compliance with orders easier.

I think this is proof that the key to better outcomes for Māori lies in Māori-led processes, discussion and incorporation of Treaty principles into every policy area.

Golriz Ghahraman is an MP for the Green Party.