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Treaty education 'a path to greater harmony'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Strengthening Treaty of Waitangi education in our schools can provide a path to greater inter-ethnic and religious harmony in New Zealand, claims Veronica Tawhai, a Treaty educator from Massey University, Palmerston North. Her comments follow the recent desecration of Jewish graves at a cemetery in central Auckland, which Ms Tawhai says is not only a grievous breach of human rights but contrary to the guarantees made in the Treaty.

"Many people think the Treaty is a divisive document which gives unfair privileges to some people over others" states Ms Tawhai. "Rather, Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) is in many ways a human rights document which all New Zealanders can draw support from. That support includes the promise of peace, freedom of religion for all who live in our country and respect by all of that freedom".

Article four of the Treaty of Waitangi, known as the Oral Article because it was not written into the Treaty document but incorporated orally at the signing, protects the rights of all New Zealanders to their cultural, spiritual and religious identities and beliefs. It guaranteed:

"ko nga whakapono katoa o Ingarani, o nga Weteriana, o Roma, me te ritenga Maori hoki e tiakina ngatahitia e ia [te Kawana]", or in English, "the several faiths of England, of the Wesleyans, of Rome and also Māori custom shall alike be protected by him [the Governor]".

Strengthening the knowledge and confidence of New Zealanders about the Treaty of Waitangi - why it was signed, what it imparts and how it is applied today - can therefore encourage greater tolerance and unity amongst New Zealanders of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, urges Tawhai. One important focus area for this type of education is the compulsory schooling sector.

"We must strengthen teaching and learning about the Treaty particularly in our schools at the senior levels where students are deepening their understanding of equality, diversity, and thinking about what type of country we want to live in".

"If we are committed to a society free from discrimination, we must invest today in creating a more harmonious future - ensuring our children are educated about the Treaty is such an investment" concludes Tawhai.

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