by Catherine Delahunty
Last week I placed a Bill in the Members’ Ballot which is aimed at ensuring citizenship ceremonies inform new citizens about Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Bill came about because some individuals contacted me saying they had participated in some of these ceremonies and were horrified to find no reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and thus new citizens in some communities have no introduction to our founding document.
To check the current practices we wrote to all of the district councils and asked them how they included Te Tiriti o Waitangi in their ceremonies. 11 percent of Councils refer to Te Tiriti in some way. They tend to be Councils who have developed strong relationships with local hapu. In other areas Councils involve waiata groups and include some bilingual references and quite a few sing the national anthem in Te Reo and English but are silent on Te Tiriti.
My Bill would require whoever was conducting the ceremony to ensure that the opportunity of being part of the Te Tiriti journey was explained (by the Mayor or any other appropriate person) and the name of the local iwi and hapu was given to the new citizens. In some ways my Bill is complementary with Te Ururoa Flavell’s Bill which is before the House at the moment. His Bill creates the option of swearing on Te Tiriti in any formal oath ceremony. Both these Bills recognise that Te Tiriti is fundamental to our nationhood. My Bill would help people begin to be informed about its role and Te Ururoa’s Bill would give them an the option of including it in the oath. Both issues are important.
The Federation of Multicultural Councils has put out a media release in support of my Bill because they see the benefit of providing this crucial information to new citizens. All I need now is to get my Bill selected from the ballot so we can see how willing the Parliament is to support this idea. I have had 4 Bills in my name selected in 4 years so I hope my luck continues because this change is overdue. Let’s help new citizens participate in this unique political framework. This is Aotearoa New Zealand and not simply a British colony or a European nation. My Bill is a positive opportunity for councils and also for our new citizens.