Embracing Diversity in Aotearoa

Fresh from our Hui-ā-motu at Tūrangawaewae Marae (20.01.24), where over 10,000 gathered to listen and kōrero about Kotahitanga, Unity – I sat down to reflect on what I had heard, discussed, and written. Below are my thoughts on cultural nationhood.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, our national identity is enriched by the diverse cultures that call this land home. Central to this identity is Māori culture, which stands not just as a component but as a main thread in the fabric of our society. This prominence of Māori culture offers us a unique opportunity to move towards a more omni-cultural society, where the integration and interweaving of diverse cultures are celebrated and valued.

Bi-culturalism – The Foundation of Our National Identity: Our journey starts with bi-culturalism, deeply rooted in the relationship between the indigenous Māori (tangata whenua) and the Pākehā (tangata tiriti). Grounded in the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, bi-culturalism in New Zealand goes beyond coexistence to embody a partnership based on mutual respect. It acknowledges Māori as tangata whenua and integrates our rich heritage, language, and traditions into our national narrative. This bi-cultural foundation sets the stage for a broader conversation about our national identity and cultural integration. To be clear; True bi-culturalism does not dilute either culture. In fact it recognises each cultures traditions and ways of being, and finds itself navigating through those profound waters, which represent past, present and future. We will find ourselves speaking both Te Reo Māori, and the English language – including any other language that aids us in expressing the truth of the moment.

Multiculturalism – Embracing Diversity: As New Zealand becomes increasingly diverse, multiculturalism brings various cultural perspectives into the spotlight. It promotes the celebration of this diversity, encouraging the inclusion of different traditions, languages, and beliefs. However, multiculturalism in Aotearoa is not just about adding more threads to our tapestry; it’s about creating a cohesive and vibrant picture that reflects all who live on the whenua (land).

Omni-culturalism – Māori Culture Leading the Way: The concept of omni-culturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand is particularly compelling, with Māori culture providing a guiding framework. As we embrace omni-culturalism, we are not just acknowledging the presence of multiple cultures; we are actively seeking ways to integrate these diverse perspectives into our societal fabric. Māori culture, with its emphasis on community, guardianship (kaitiakitanga), and interconnectedness (whanaungatanga), offers valuable insights for this integration. By looking through the lens of Māori values and worldviews, we can foster a society where different cultural values and practices are not merely present but are interwoven, enhancing our collective wisdom and enriching our national identity.

Towards a Unified Aotearoa: As we reflect on our national identity, it becomes clear that the path to a united and inclusive Aotearoa lies in recognising and embracing the role of Māori culture as a central thread in our national fabric. This understanding paves the way for an omni-cultural society, where every culture contributes to and is integral to our shared future. In embracing this journey towards omni-culturalism, we celebrate a society where diversity is not only accepted but is woven into the very essence of who we are as a nation. Our Māori culture, with its profound heritage and values, offers a beacon for this journey, guiding us towards a future where every individual in Aotearoa feels valued and united in our beautifully diverse nation.

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