28 February, 2015. 14:00
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott has come under from Aboriginal leaders for learning and singing the Māori verse to “God Defend New Zealand” at a cricket match between the two countries in Auckland this morning.
The gesture was to be a motion of “good will” toward the people of New Zealand, after the Wellington Hurricanes massacred the Western Force 42-13 last night in Perth – which left relations with the “land of the long white cloud” at an all time low.
However, the plan has seemingly backfired after Indigenous Australian communities voiced their disapproval.
“It’s a slap in the face to Aboriginal people,” said Cecil Rennie, CEO of the Southern Land Council of Australia.
“Why Tony would spend the time learning Māori language while Indigenous communities in Arnhem Land are still struggling to recover from Cyclone Lam,”
“The families on Elcho Island are still without electricity, shelter or food. They’re desperately needing help and assistance but the prime minister is watching cricket and singing Māori in Auckland,”
“It’s no mystery. It’s just more bullshit we have to put up with from a racist government,”
“The next government won’t be any different, or the one after that – not until they come to our land, show us the respect for our history and acknowledge the evil done upon us in the past.” he said.
Media commentators and political analysts have agreed that this is further evidence to show that the prime minister “dramatically out of touch with the nation”.
“It’s a low act,” said radio shock-jock Derryn Hinch, who was born in New Zealand.
“There’s a whole nation of people in this country who aren’t even fully recognised by our constitution, let alone our national anthem,”
“The prime minister needs to either find the “pulse of the nation” or go back to England where he came from – because Australia needs to move on.”he said.
Until the 1990s, only the first verse of the English version of “God Defend New Zealand” was commonly sung. A public debate emerged after only the first Māori verse was sung at the 1999 Rugby World Cup match against England, and it then became common to sing both the Māori and English first verses one after the other.
The All Black’s sing the Māori verse for the first time against England during the 1999 Rugby World Cup in France. SOURCE: All Black TV
Māori leaders have credited the inclusion of native language in the national anthem as helping to “breakdown barriers” and “close the gap” between the Māori population and white New Zealanders.
Arapeta T’angi Coffey is a member of New Zealand’s Māori Party in Dunedin.
“The new generation of “Kiwis” will see all New Zealanders as equals,” said Mr Coffey
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but at least we’re working towards making Aotearoa a better place for our kids and their kids,”
“Sadly, in Australia, I think it’s about as likely for this to happen as the Wallabies winning at “the house of pain” in Dunedin.” he added.
The Prime Minister’s office has yet to respond to repeated requests for comment on the controversy.
With additional reporting from The New Zealand Herald.