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Posts Tagged ‘language’

another world is possible

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Published by -

This is a CD with 15 tracks from bands such as  Massive Attack, Moby, Manu Chao and the Asian Dub Foundation & Zebda. It also has introductions in 6 European languages, from people at the forefront of the discussion on Globalisation.

mall_photoIn English Noam Chomsky talks about the so-called boom of the 90’s, and Naomi Klein points out how uniform we can become when we buy into brands.

The introductions are not repeated in all languages so good luck with the ones you don’t know!

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Trigger Issues - Mosquito

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Richard Swift

malariaMosquitos are the ultimate survivor and to date all attempts to wipe Malaria out have failed. But are scientists finally on the verge of a breakthrough in the fight against this deadly disease? This practical pocket sized book explores how the mosquito’s 2,500 species have invaded not only bodies but culture too: every language acknowledges its fearsome reputation and pays a grudging respect to the tiny terror. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “If you think you are too small to make a difference try sleeping with a mosquito”

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Talk with me: ‘Kifah’ - Struggle

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Talk With Me, a national writing competition for secondary school students, is run by the Petone Settlers Museum in association with the Department of Labour and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It was first run in 2006 alongside a major exhibition Walk with Me: the Refugee Experience in New Zealand. Kate Brooks’s winning entry is about her friendship with Kifah.

‘Kifah’ - struggle
By Kate Brooks, 17, Roncalli College, Timaru

holding hands shadow

It is ironic that the theme for World Refugee Day 2007 is ‘Voices of Young Refugees’, when in their own countries they are denied a voice and in their adopted countries they cannot find a voice through language barriers. Living here in one of the most peaceful, tranquil countries in the world, it is easy to think that New Zealand is a paradise for these displaced, dispossessed and disoriented young people. But for these young people the reality is so very different.

All teenagers need friends because when you are young, being part of a culture that is based on laughing, crying, talking and sharing life’s joys and sorrows is vital if you are to become happy, healthy, functioning adults. Sitting here, watching, listening and realising how lonely it is for Kifah makes me realise how difficult it is when you are a virtual outcast in a society that does not understand you.

Teenage refugees face special problems when being resettled. Because they are traumatised from the horror of actually living through bombs, gunfire, explosions and fire, their hearing is hypersensitive and stillness does not bring the calm and relaxation it does for New Zealand teenagers. When I see Kifah sitting, poised, anxious, waiting for the inevitable blast to go off, she looks like a tightly sprung coil, waiting to uncurl. I know that she needs me. I know that she wants to be part of my culture, but all I can do is smile at her and hold her hand and take her with me. Kifah doesn’t speak English and unlike her sister who is only seven, does not like to make mistakes. Teenagers do not like to stand out in a crowd and although she practises her English every night in the quiet of her bedroom it is hard for her and speaking in front of others is difficult and embarrassing. Kifah and I never really know what each other is thinking and unlike my Kiwi friends, I cannot give Kifah the encouragement and the empathy that she needs. I often watch, helpless, as she struggles to grapple with her new life in a foreign country.

This year New Zealanders’ celebrated Father’s Day on September the 9th. Kifah, her sister and her mother came to our house and what would normally have been a happy and joyous celebration for my family became a time for reflection. On the day Kifah’s father left home and never returned, her mother packed a few meagre belongings and walked with Kifah and her sister from Iraq to Syria. Listening to the halting English trying to describe the journey, I painted pictures in my head of the dust, the despair and the continual walking. I wondered what your thoughts are when you know you are leaving your culture, your homeland and life as you know it, behind you forever.

Kifah’s eyes have a depth to them that is fathomless. How much suffering can you ‘get over’ before you give up. I know she is strong. I know she is kind. I know she loves to laugh. But what does it feel like when innocence is ripped away by political ideology, religious fanaticism and military might. For refugees all over the world their lives are a constant battle every minute of every day, trying to cope with new languages, new food, new customs, new religions, new clothes, new climate, new houses and new prejudices.

Dear God, Dear Allah,

Give us the courage today and every day
To stand up for justice and to fight for peace.
Give us the grace to reach out to others
So that their struggle is not in vain.
Give us the wisdom to recognise
That difference is only skin deep
Inside, all humans are the same.
We all laugh, love, cry and worship the same God
In different ways.
Please find a place for all the displaced people in this world
And help the lucky few to recognise that everyone needs “a voice”.

Check out the other two winners’ pieces: Nosia Fogogo’s Happiness is Ubiquitous and Juliette Varuhas’s Never, Never .

What is sexism? It’s a global problem

Friday, May 18th, 2007

by Eliana Darroch & MZ

Bikini girls

  • It’s when a woman walks home from the bus and someone wolf-whistles at her
  • It’s when we see half-naked women on billboards, usually advertising something completely unrelated like burgers
  • It’s when magazines tell us, as men and women, how to behave, how to look and what to desire
  • It’s when a woman feels unsafe to walk alone at night
  • It’s when rape survivors are blamed for the abuse they have suffered, assuming “they asked for it.”
  • It’s when women are destined to have a life of up to 2/3 less pay than men and significantly more difficulty in advancing in their jobs
  • It’s being EXPECTED to be strong and tough, or to be sweet and defenceless
  • It’s assuming a nurse will be a woman and a doctor will be man
  • It’s when a woman playing with children is seen as a natural maternal activity, but a man playing with children is regarded with suspicion

It happens everyday, it’s all around us and worst of all, many of us pretend it doesn’t exist —Sexism

Sexism is the oppression or discrimination of a person based on their sex or gender. It reinforces attitudes and behaviour based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles in our society. Sexism can be anything from pay inequality to a music video that portrays women as sexual objects. Sexism affects us all, but particularly women, as it is engrained in our patriarchal (male-dominated) society. Sexism is an attitude that can affect women in almost every aspect of their lives and can prevent them from achieving their potential.
MasterSexism manifests itself in our society in many different ways, from the accepted gender roles to the language we use. When you think of the word “master” and “mistress”, which meaning holds more power? They both mean the same thing, apart from the gender that is attached to it. What about bachelor or spinster? Which would you rather be? Almost anything can become an insult if you add like a girl’ to the end of it. “Ahhhh you throw like a girl.” Music videos, TV programmes and the mass media give women a variety of labels from ho’ to chick’ or doll’. There are also many words used to describe people who do not conform to socially accepted gender stereotypes, like poofter’ or tomboy’.
Media and advertising is a powerful medium in our society and virtually impossible to escape. Everywhere we go, we are bombarded by sexist images that subject women to a certain ideal of beauty. While using women’s bodies to sell you something, the airbrushed images tells us what beauty is. Women start to measure themselves against these impossible and unrealistic standards. The cosmetic industry uses women’s insecurities to their own advantage, by selling us products to help us achieve this beauty ideal. The underlying message of many ads is, “you’re not beautiful unless you buy our product.” These insecurities can develop into lack of self esteem or even psychological disorders, often related to eating. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are eating disorders suffered mostly by women. One in four girls may suffer from the symptoms of an eating disorder and 52% of teenagers begin dieting before the age of 14.
Aotearoa New Zealand
AotearoaGlobally Aotearoa New Zealand has led the way in promoting women’s equality, being the first in the world to give women the vote and first in the world to simultaneously have a woman governor general, woman mayor and elected female prime minister. Although many improvements on the position of women have been made, sexism still exists in this country in many forms. Women are still associated with passivity, weakness, submissiveness and being emotional. They’re often seen or treated like sexual objects. Men are stereotyped to be aggressive, powerful, strong and rational. Particularly in New Zealand culture, men are expected to be tough and rugged and not show emotion. These stereotypes are blatant sexism, but are usually accepted- subconsciously or not.

We still have a long way to go. Women all over the world still struggle for justice, equality and respect. Next time you see sexist behaviour- don’t just accept it! Do something about it, challenge this behaviour and let people around you know that sexism will no longer be accepted or tolerated.
Five Facts

  • The majority of people worldwide who live in absolute poverty (that is, living on less than one dollar a day) are women.
  • Women do 75% of the world’s work, including unpaid, yet own only 10% of the world wealth.
  • Out of over 180 countries, only 11 are currently led by women.
  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.
  • Female graduates are likely to earn less than their male counterparts and take, on average, twice as long to pay back their student loans. (Meaning they could pay up to 20% more for the same education!)

Learn More
Women’s Rights - Human Rights Commission
Violence against Women, Global Bits Issue 09
Eating Disorders

Take Action!!

Be informed, read, think about the language your use, be respectful, discuss issues around gender, sexuality and discrimination
Challenge your friends and your own stereotypes
Help create an atmosphere at work, school or home that doesn’t tolerate sexism
Learn more about human rights and go along to the Human Right’s Film Festival

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

Māori language decline and revitalisation

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Pip Bennett

For all people, language forms an important part of culture, and plays a crucial role in daily life as a means of effective communication. The Māori language is described as a taonga of the Māori people, a special possession or treasure. Unfortunately, since the arrival of tauiwi, or non-Māori, the Māori language (te reo ) has been put at risk. This is a trend that can be seen in most colonised countries which have indigenous cultures where, in particular, English has been imposed as the mainstream language, causing a loss of indigenous language. Examples of such countries are Australia, Canada, the United States, and many of the Pacific Islands such as Tahiti and Fiji. There are also examples where the people are not necessarily identified as indigenous (even though they are), such as in Wales, Ireland, and Spain.

The history of te reo and English

maori warriorInitially in Aotearoa New Zealand, te reo was widely spoken by the Europeans, particularly in interaction with Māori, and by both Maori and European children. By the mid 1860’s, the Crown introduced legislation which began to enforce the growing assimilation attitude, with the Colonisers wanting Māori to be absorbed into the new colonial culture, and so the wearing away of the Māori people began. Māori land was removed, stolen, and its use restricted by the Crown. Schooling was enforced, first in te reo for Māori, but by 1910, in English only. Māori populations dwindled due to introduced diseases, war, and substandard living conditions. Urbanisation and the development of New Zealand’s independent economy after World War Two led to Māori leaving their rural homes, marae and whānau to work in cities. All of these factors greatly contributed to the decline of the Māori language.

How much language was lost?
The extent of the decline varies across different regions. The upper North Island, in places like Rūātoki and Northland which have higher Māori proportion retained greater levels of language for longer. Ngāti Kahungunu (Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa) reports that there are no longer any native speakers of their dialect .

Language Revitalisation
Māori language revitalisation has been a movement particularly strong since the mid 1970’s. The Ātaarangi Movement, Kōhanga Reo, and Kura Kaupapa were all established in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s. The Māori Language Act 1987 established te reo as New Zealand’s first official language, as well as defining goals, expectations, and responsibilities of the Crown in respect to the language and its revitalisation.

little girl at schoolMāori language surveys, carried out by Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development) and Statistics New Zealand, seem to show that language levels are currently being retained, although this level is still less than ideal. Unfortunately though, there are few proficient speakers, with most of them aged over 50. Currently the focus is on the education sector but the use of language outside of school grounds is not controlled, and the Act cannot contribute to the production of fluent speakers, only regulate the level and quality of language (like how we learn grammar in English schools, to increase the diversity and skills of language we have).

Despite this, many people who support revitalisation still continue to place faith in the education system as the primary method. Nevertheless, as well as the fact that schools can only control language use inside of school grounds, other problems exist. For example, there are insufficient resources (particularly for teachers of specialist subjects such as biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics), teachers with low quality language skills, and even when teachers are fluent there can be more problems, for example there aren’t well-circulated words for school subjects, so teachers often have to make them up (some of which don’t fit into the Māori language correctly), and also because many of the teachers are second language learners, which means they also have the influences of their first language which can destroy grammatical constructions.

So what’s the future?
The next 25 years have been identified as crucial to the revitalisation effort in raising the number of native speakers. The home and the community have been identified by agencies, such as Te Puni Kōkiri, as crucial to the survival of the language. If parents and whānau cannot ensure the Māori language is protected at home, revitalisation will not be a success because te reo is not protected at workplaces, mainstream schools, or in the media in our English-dominated world. It is important to remember that Māori need to determine their own needs and wants, and require space and support for this. Everyone has a part to play in the revitalisation of the Māori. It is a part of our heritage as well as our future, and its importance needs to be reflected in our life and activities, by for example, using te reo where possible, joining a te reo language club, or going to te reo classes. If it is not used, it will be lost.


Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development)
Te Taura Whiri (Māori Language Commission)
Statistics New Zealand


If you want to be active in the revitalisation effort, try:

I am a Muslim

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

mosqueIt is a Sunday and I am inside my first ever mosque. Today is a learning day where all the young people gather to learn about their faith. Happy laughing kids run around the corridors and burqa wearing women cook up a mean sausage sizzle. I am greeted by a pākehā woman (also in a burqa) who leads me to a group of teens willing to talk about growing up as Muslims in NZ. Where are all the terrorists, I wonder slightly disappointed by the obvious joy in the mosque. Clearly they are not all into blowing themselves up and abusing women. But I had to find out for sure. What is this thing called Islam?

I talked to three New Zealand teenagers about their life in a largely agnostic/Christian country…

Where are your parents from and have you ever lived in another country?

Salma: Both my parents are Arabian. I grew up in Kuwait; I was born during the Gulf War. I also lived in india and Jordon before moving to NZ.

Did your parents leave because of war?

Salma: They found it hard to live in a country with so much conflict. They came as refugees.

Alam: My parents are from Fiji and I was born here. And lived here till I was 14 before moving to Dubai. We moved there for a chance to live in a Muslim country. Actually the only difference is there are mosques everywhere and you can eat easily because all the meat is halal. (Especially prepared)

Ayeesha: Both my parents are Iraqi and lived there till I was 6 years old. Then we moved to Yemen for a year and then came here. I’ve been here for about 7 years. Iraq is not the most secure place to bring up a child and opportunities are more prolific here.

What are you doing here today?

Salma: We start at about 10 and we have koranic learning. We learn about it and how to read it. The little kids have to learn the alphabet. In the afternoon we have religious studies and the history of Islam.

What are the foundations of Islam?

Salma: In terms of moral guidelines we have the same basis of the 10 commandments. It’s just common sense and what all society is based upon. But in terms of action we have the five pillars of Islam which dictates how we live our lives and the routines we go through every day. For example we have prayer five times a day and fasting once per month.

How do you fit praying five times a day into a normal life?

Ayeesha: We just pray at school. We have a room.

How long does a prayer last?

Alam: Five minutes. But it’s quite good because it keeps you focused. It’s a very good time for reflection and you can go over your own faith.

Do you ever get to sleep in?

Ayeesha: Well you get up and pray and then go back to bed for a sleep in! You can live your life with praying.
Salma: We don’t even think about it. We get raised that way. It’s not forced upon you until puberty but by then it’s just such an entrenched habit that you don’t really think twice about it.

How could you want to get up at 6am to pray?

Ayeesha: It’s a want. I know I will be accounted on this on the day of judgment. I’m pretty religious so I know I’ll be punished in the hereafter.

How do you know this?

Ayeesha: Because it’s written in the Koran.
Does stuff going on overseas affect you?

Ayeesha: We see what other Muslims do overseas and we think they’re going to represent Islam in a bad way and they’re going to make it look bad. If a non Muslim steals something, it’ll be he’s just a thief. But if a Muslim does it, they’re a Muslim thief and they’re distinguished big time. If you have massive numbers of Muslims dying it won’t be mentioned, but if 11 Americans die it’s a huge deal.

Salma: The main thing that people really understand is that the reason why extremists do what they do is it’s not religious. It’s mainly political. In terms of political differences, people turn to religion. At the same time you’ve got cultural factors influencing how you understand religion. We see these people on TV, we understand they don’t mirror our sentiments and our actions but most people don’t see that. They’ve become caricatures now. I think people have to realise that what’s being shown in the media doesn’t represent. It’s in the papers constantly, on the news but those people are not the majority of Muslims. You don’t hear about the rest of us because we just lead normal lives.

Last month national MP Bob Clarkson opened his gob and said “Islam religion-type people’ who wear burqas could be crooks hiding guns. Do you understand why he might have that attitude?

Ayeesha: When you go through an airport, you know they are going to hard core check you. You can’t really say that because they’re wearing a burqa or abaya, they’ll be hiding weapons. They’ve got all this technology to check. They just have to pick it up and use it. You could be hiding a bomb under a jersey. Really it’s just all clothes, not just burqas.

Have you been flying?

Ayeesha: I went to Auckland. I wore my black abaya. They checked me hard core. She checked my bag. I was definitely being checked way more than other girls. It hurts but because of what politicians say and what’s going on, you just have to deal with it.
muslim girl
Could you help me understand why a female body should be covered?

Ayeesha: It’s to do with attraction. If it’s not covered properly then the guy would be attracted and then you’d start dating and it would lead to more problems. If you start off with basic rules and you apply them, you’ll be safe.

What if a woman feels attracted to a man? Would that be bad?

Alam: We have our coverings as well. Most people don’t understand that it was ordered to the women to cover up but before that, the men were ordered to lower their gaze.

Can you be attracted to someone’s personality?

Salma: The thing is we’ve all known each other for a long time so we’re just really good buddies and we don’t think of each other that way. It’s just a good place to come and hang out with like minded people.

How do you meet someone you could love? Do you ever dream of romance?

Alam: All these feelings are normal for human beings and you can’t be blamed for them. What you can be blamed for is how you act on them.

Salma: What people normally do when they want to get married is find someone else in the community who is ready to get married.

Alam: My mother might talk to her mother.

Salma: It’s through the grapevine of the mothers. We all know what’s going on each others lives.

How if you’re not allowed to date. How would you meet your husband?

Ayeesha: You don’t have to date to find a husband. We do talk to guys but you have to know your limits. My parents and I will eventually decide oh this is a good guy for me’ so I’ll sit there and talk to him, try to understand to understand what he knows about Islam. If he’s a good Muslim then he has what I’m looking for in a husband. We’ll get engaged to get to know each other a bit more and eventually we’ll get married. You don’t have to date someone to marry them.

So it’s arranged?

Salma: A lot of people think that arranged marriages are part of Islam. But they’re not. It’s cultural. It isn’t just Islam. Islam doesn’t force you have to arranged marriages; it’s just part of the culture. Just optional.

So falling in love comes later?

Ayeesha: Is he a good Muslim, that’s the first question? Does he pray in the mornings? Some people if they’re not religious, they’ll be like oh it’s so early, screw this, I’ll pray later’. But if they’re deeply religious, they will get up and pray and do the things that Muslims do.

Is it hard to fit in here?

Ayeesha: It was hard for me to grow up in a Muslim society and then move to NZ. There are all the actions of what New Zealanders do, such as going out and having boyfriends. Then there’s me having to apply what I learnt as a young child. It’s very difficult. But things that have made it easier for me are coming to the mosque and doing all the traditions that my parents have taught me. They keep it with them. They like tell me ok you have to pray now, so I do. It’s hard but…

Do you ever feel like an outsider?

Salma: I think you have be very convinced of what you’re believing in. If you’re just living your faith for the sake of it and you don’t really believe in it, you’re just doing it because you have to, it’s not going to be a very successful attempt to assimilate into a culture. If you are very strong in your convictions and you understand why you don’t do it, you can explain it to them. Most people don’t bother you too much about it. A lot of times you can have a normal social life, you know, going to the movies and stuff.

You must hear people talking about boys and going out…

Ayeesha: Of course but I’m very used to it now. But I tell my friends look this is part of my culture, I can’t be with you at this time because you’re going to be drinking or doing drugs and it’s against my religion. Most friends try and understand my religion but others are just like oh that’s so weird, how could you not have a boyfriend’. They say all these things to make you feel bad about yourself but then I realise these aren’t friends.

Are you ever tempted?

Ayeesha: Of course. It’s just the way your hormones work. You can’t really do anything about it. Sometimes I get pressured but my true friends know it’s wrong for me. They’ll do it themselves. Everyone does it and I’m used to it. But I want to stick to what I believe.

Your parents must have done a great job to keep you on track

Ayeesha: I grew up very religious and I competed in Koranic readings. All the centres have competitions for the best readers. I just flew up to the nationals in Auckland. I always enter them. I love doing things like that. It keeps me on track. I got 3rd nationally.

What do you think of kiwi chicks who wear tight jeans and short skirts?

Ayeesha: I’m fine with it. This is their culture. I just do my thing. I’m not against anyone. Deep inside I know it’s wrong for me. You can’t change someone.

Do you know what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in Afghanistan and what’s the difference?

Salma: Most people don’t realise that what you see with regards to Muslim women over there is related to the culture of being an Afghani. It’s a lot more restrictive for them. Ayeesha and I really don’t feel as restricted as people’s impression that we are. We live slightly different lives in that we can’t do some things but we can do other things. But it doesn’t make this huge impact on our lives that most people would believe.

This article was originally written for and published in the October 2006 issue of JET magazine. It is reproduced here with their kind permission.

My PYF experience: a reflection

Monday, October 30th, 2006

TeRito Peyroux

TeRito, Jacob and Rosie
In March of this year, before even sending an application to be part of the New Zealand delegation attending the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival (PYF) in Tahiti, I was already excited. I suppose it was almost as if I knew that my going would be a liberating home-coming of sorts, to a place in Polynesia which (like Rotuma, Rarotonga and Aitutaki) is a significant part of both my family heritage and cultural identity “Liberating” in the sense that I would be returning to Tahiti without the comfort and security of my parents or ma’piga on hand, should I want it.

So with my own cultural identity being at the root of initial thoughts and feelings from the very beginning, it was quite natural (after finding out that I had actually been accepted to go and would therefore need to look for funds) that my attitude, learning and overall experience of the PYF were strongly influenced by things pertaining to cultural identity. My cultural identity–as a multiethnic, urban New Zealand born and raised, Methodist young woman, in 2006.
For sure, the PYF provided a myriad of conferences and workshops ranging from health and education right through to governance and sustainable development, which were designed to be all very relevant to the 1000 or so youth participants in attendance. There was even a representational group that met devotedly every evening to help piece together a Pacific Youth Charter, on the PYF’s behalf.

Of course, no Pacific gathering would be complete without the flamboyance, richness and celebration of cultural dance, songs, stories and friendships, and in a land so well versed in creative Maohi performance and hospitality, Tahiti was certainly no exception. This was superbly complemented by the nation’s annual Heiva festivities as well.

I suppose I could also dedicate a paragraph of my reflection to the political woes of French Polynesia and other Pacific Island nations that were shared from the perspectives of those whose portrayals when shared in the media aren’t usually very comprehensive (if they’re shared at all). However, due to my fear of digressing, with regard to politics, I’ll stop right here.
Still bearing all of the above in mind, the main highlight for me is something that even up until now I pleasantly continue to unwrap. From this PYF experience, my highlight came in the realisation that regardless of things measurable, predictable or linear, my sense of belonging and cultural identity is something that I journey toward discovering, understanding and accepting for myself, and thus I need not anyone else to demarcate for me.

Regardless of whether I’m a son or a daughter; whether I’m a first, last or even only child; whether or not I can fluently speak my mother/father/or ma’piga tongue for that matter; whether I’m half, quarter or an eighth of an ethnicity, whether I can sing hymns or chant ri jaujau; regardless even of my religion or whether my theology is orthodox, liberation or otherwise influenced …by birth and by upbringing, I am a part of all of these types of variables and they are all a part of me.

Thus in relation to my ethnic identity for instance, despite the arithmetic and despite any explanations or justifications, I am Rotuman. I am Tahitian. I am French. I am Scottish. I am a Cook Islander. I am a New Zealander. I belong and have just as much of a right and responsibility to each of these different groups as anyone else whose journey through understanding their own sense of identity and belonging leads them to these places also.
And so, with very cherished experiences in heart, a host of stirred understandings in head, heaps of awe-inspiring new friends on hand, and a nurtured spirit in tact, I certainly look forward to the next Pacific Youth Festival which is expected to be held in Fiji.

eating taro ice-cream with friends
TeRito attended the Pacific Youth Festival as part of the Just Focus contingent. This reflection was originally shared in the NZ Rotuman Association Quarterly and also put up on the Rotuma Website.

The PYF: Pākehā reflections on a Pacific gathering

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Lyndon Burford
welcome to tahitiThe inaugural Pacific Youth Festival was a phenomenal gathering. Held in Tahiti from the 17th to 22 July 2006, it was a veritable showcase of cultural diversity, exchange, and open-minded enquiry. It was a vehicle for celebration, learning and sharing, and as ever with new learning, there was the challenge of stepping out of old comfort zones and seeing the world in a new light.
The Festival was a week of song, dance, cultural exchange, and also a week of politics. A thousand young people from 25 countries across the Pacific (plus France!), ranging in age from 16 to 30, came together in Tahiti to discuss 4 themes of key importance to the Pacific Region; Equitable Globalisation, Conditions for Peace, and Cultural Diversity. The goal of the festival was to create a Pacific Youth Charter, a guiding document to establish a set of common hopes, values, and goals for Pacific Youth. For myself personally, the Pacific Youth Festival was a chance to reflect on my own culture and identity, and to think about my place both in the Pacific and in Aotearoa.

After a day acclimatising (and yes, checking out the warm Pacific waters!) the Pacific Youth Festival began in earnest. The Festival was structured around small group (20-50 people!) workshops and conferences’ (presented by panels of guest speakers) which ran from 8.30 till 5.30 every day. There was cultural performance every evening, in which we were treated to the great richness of the Pacific’s cultural heritage. There were performance groups from as far abroad as Belau (Palau) and the North Marianas in the West, and Rapanui (Easter Island) in the East. Each had its own unique rhythms and styles, and each brought spirit and character to the Festival. All in all, the days were packed full of learning, laughter, song, and dialogue.
discussion in workshop
Peace and Non-violent Conflict Resolution Workshop
NZ’s professional contribution to the Festival was a workshop on “Peace and Non-violent Conflict Resolution”. This was created and presented by Annie Boanas of the Peace Foundation Wellington, with assistance from Eva Lawrence of the Global Education Centre in Wellington, and from myself. The workshop was run in three phases. The first phase encouraged people to consider what peace meant to them personally. Following this, we proposed a definition of peace as more than just the absence of violence, suggesting that it is the result of a positive, non-violent effort towards the building of a culture of peace. This requires dialogue at all levels, in order to deal with the root causes of conflict. The second section of the workshop gave participants time to consider specific issues related to Peace, through discussion of questions such as:

  • What threatens peace in the Pacific?
  • What do you think your culture has particularly to offer to help create peace?
  • How can people build peaceful relationships at a personal level?

Finally, participants were invited to share a peace “success story”: a personal story, or one that inspired them, in which peace was created through the application of non-violent means of conflict resolution. At the end of the workshop, attendees were offered a “Take Action” worksheet, detailing specific personal action that can be taken in their own communities to help develop a culture of peace (this was developed a few years ago by several young peaceworkers involved with the Disarmament and Security Centre in Christchurch). After a heartfelt hour of sharing, the young delegates left with a sense of hope and inspiration, along with concrete examples of people working for peace, and peace working.

Politics in Tahiti - and at the Festival
Politics also played a large part in the week’s proceedings, however. From the opening ceremony, we were exposed to a political battle that had been raging since long before we arrived — between the pro-French civil authorities and the pro-independence government of French Polynesia.
oscar temaru
In his welcome address to the assembled Pacific Youth, the pro-independence President Oscar Temaru invited delegates to redress the injustice of the festival’s agenda that completely ignored the subjects of and independence. This challenge was taken up by two young NZ delegates, Charmaine Clark and Omar Hamed, who ran an excellent workshop on Decolonisation with Justice” at the end of the week. This was attended by delegates, media, MPs, independence advocates, as well as by the small French delegation, who had their own assumptions about the place of France in the Pacific challenged over the course of the festival. (They were growled at by the French authorities for their active in the workshop). In closing his welcome speech, Temaru stated that it was forbidden to speak the indigenous Maohi language in the French Polynesian parliament, which, although not true, does reveal a legitimate grievance of the indigenous people, in that the Maohi language is not an official language of parliament or state. Temaru’s confrontational stance at the opening ceremony saw the French Government’s representative walk out in protest, and reply with an equally confrontational outburst in the media the following day. Such was the political atmosphere in which the week unrolled.

The Politics of the Pacific Youth Charter

This political struggle also played out among the youth themselves. Each day, a Charter Drafting Committee, consisting of one member from each delegation, met to draft resolutions regarding the issues discussed that day. To the surprise of all, a young French delegate joined the Committee, taking an active role at the right hand of the Tahitian delegate, who had unilaterally declared himself Chair of the Committee. This was symptomatic of a lack of that was a constant frustration at the Festival; a young Frenchman was invited by the local French authorities to negotiate and vote on a Pacific Youth Charter, without any discussion of the matter with other Pacific delegates.
houses in tahiti
The issue came to a head in the middle of the week, when President Temaru invited the Charter Drafting Committee to an evening reception. In a vote split 11-10, the French representative held the crucial deciding vote that saw the young delegates refuse this invitation from a head of state. At this point, several delegates, including the NZ’s delegate, left the meeting to attend the reception. They pointed out, quite rightly, that it was inappropriate to snub an invitation from a head of state, particularly as the Committee had accepted an invitation from the French High Commissioner the night before. The following day, the Committee voted overwhelmingly to remove France’s right to vote on the Charter committee. Nevertheless, resolutions proposed by the NZ delegation relating to nuclear disarmament somehow fell off’ the agenda, and were entirely absent in the final draft Charter. The fallout of French nuclear testing in the Pacific still affects the region today.

A new perspective: Aotearoa in the Pacific
There was valuable learning for many Kiwis in observing the process of drafting the Pacific Youth Charter. As Kiwis, we are used to thinking of NZ as a small state, while Pacific Islanders in dialogue with us see themselves as the small state, and Aotearoa as large state or regional power’. The new perspective gained in the Charter process offered us insight into Aotearoa’s role/place in the Pacific Community. This influential role brings with it responsibility; to exercise our power wisely, in the interest of the wider Pacific Community, not simply to pursue our own self-interest.

Thinking regionally
A Pacific Youth Charter sometimes required that we put aside our own interests, and put on our regional thinking cap - human rights issues are a good example. Currently, Fiji, Australia, and NZ are the only Pacific countries that have Commissions. However, for many countries in the Pacific, recognition of the even the most basic human rights remains an urgent priority. Sometimes, it was frustrating to see relatively watered down’ concepts making their way into the final document, but for other countries, the mere mention of universal Human Rights in an official document is a great leap forward.

Cultural awakenings
International considerations aside, what are my lasting personal impressions of the Pacific Youth Festival? In a sense, I had a wake up call reminiscent of that of many Pākehā who were involved in the 1981 Springbok tour protests. Having been confronted with persisting French colonial influences in Tahiti, I have been forced to consider, as a Pākehā , my place in Aotearoa-NZ. Through dialogue with the Māori members of our delegation, I was also confronted with the reflection that my own land is not as peaceful as I had chosen to believe.
The current political debate around the removal from NZ legislation of references to the Principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in NZ is a good example. Pākehā seem uncertain as to what they believe the Principles are and what they mean in legal terms. But rather than engage in a genuine contemplation of the Principles, Winston Peters has proposed simply removing all reference to them, thus erasing from NZ law most references to our founding document. This threatens to further provoke already disillusioned Māori, who quiet rightfully would see such a move as de-valuing the historical document through which they agreed to Pākehā settlement in Aotearoa. As one Māori member of our delegation noted, where Māori are looking to Pākehā to support a just and fair society, the deletion of the only legally binding mentions of the Treaty in NZ law does not set a good example.
cultural performance
I’m a Pakeha New Zealander. What is that?
As we proposed in our Peace and Conflict Resolution workshop, peace requires constant nurturing through open and honest dialogue. So finally, I am left with this question: what do I bring to an intercultural dialogue with the Tangata Whenua of this land?
What do I know about the Treaty of Waitangi that afforded my ancestors entry to Aotearoa-NZ? More even than that, what do I know about my ancestors? Having been presented with the wealth of Pacific culture, of which Māori culture is a rich and unique part, I have been faced with a slightly unsettling question, in so far as the answer is not immediately clear: what is my culture? What is the richness of Pakeha culture? This is both the challenge and the reward of the Pacific Youth Festival for me; to take the time for some genuine reflection on who I am, where I come from, and what it means for me to be a Pākehā in a Pacific land. And in this challenge there is a new sense of hope. For in rediscovering my own history, I may be able to play a small part in healing the history of this land.

Many thanks to the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust, the Disarmament and Security Centre, and the Quakers Peace and Service Trust, who helped fund this fabulous learning experience.


Peace Movement Aotearoa
The Disarmament and Security Centre
The Peace Foundation
Global Bits magazine, Who are You? The Search for Self in the Global Village


  • Read the guide What We Can Do For Peace, put together by Youth at the Disarmament and Security Centre, Otautahi, Christchurch, NZ

Photos all by Lyndon Burford.

A festival “PACIFICALLY” for youth

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Corinna Howland

corinna howlandTahiti. Sun, sand and… socio-political activism? This may not be the most likely combination, but for over 1000 youth from around the Pacific region, it seemed to do the trick. The inaugural Pacific Youth Festival held on the island of Pape’ete between the 17th and the 22nd of July, was a unique and thought-provoking experience for its participants. Over the five day period, we attended a number of conferences, workshops and seminars centred around the four festival pillars — namely fair globalisation, sustainable development, cultural diversity and conditions of peace. These ranged from the basic (what are human rights ?’) to the complex and challenging (”Recognition, Preservation and Protection of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property “), and provided a rare forum for youth from different countries and cultures to discuss issues concerning the Pacific Region.

But there’s more to the Pacific Youth Festival than a bunch of people sitting around talking about/lamenting the state of the world. The primary objective of the festival was to produce the Pacific Youth Charter’ — a document outlining issues that need addressing within the region and providing guidelines for improvement. This was collated by a representative, or Junior Delegate’, from each of the countries that attended. Charmaine Clark, a researcher and youth worker in Gisborne, was selected to represent the views of the youth of New Zealand. This appeared to be a mammoth undertaking, incorporating an extra two hours plus of work once the sessions had finished for the day, not to mention trying to communicate with Junior Delegates who spoke only French or Spanish (although translators were on hand).
dancers at pacific youth festival
Outside of the conferences and workshops, much time was spent forging connections with other people at the festival. Many felt that this was perhaps the most important aspect of PYF, as this resulted in a truly moving sense of unity and brotherhood amongst the participants. Although communication was sometimes stilted due to the wide variety of languages spoken, the heart was definitely there. The schedule also involved a reception and dance party(!) at the Tahitian Parliament, a recreational day trip to nearby Mo’orea and various cultural exhibitions in the evenings. A particular highlight for me was the spectacular array of scarcely-clad male dancers, and the ukulele which played constantly throughout the festival. Interacting with the locals was another memorable experience — a chance to practice our limited French and Tahitian, and to understand what was important to people and how issues concerning the Pacific were affecting them on a personal level.
party at pacific youth festival
For me, the Pacific Youth Festival not only provided an appreciation of the Pacific, but an awareness of what I take for granted in New Zealand. In one workshop, the person hosting the conference asked what method of distributing information to youth in the Pacific would be most effective. I replied that I thought newspapers would be best, as youth magazines were well-received in New Zealand. Following this, a man from Papua New Guinea put up his hand and said that that would not work in his country, as only half of the population can read. Maybe this is my ignorance, but it was in part a realisation of how little we are taught about the region that New Zealand belongs to. We tend to look beyond the Pacific to America, Britain and the other world powers, when it would perhaps benefit us to be more introspective. So, don’t ignore your neighbours — take the time to find out about the Pacific, and join us at the 2009 Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji!


Going Global — A NZ Guide to International Youth Opportunities - Takes you through all the stages of hunting out, applying for and going to an international opportunity, as well as how to make the most of your experience when you get back home.

Secretariat of the Pacific (SPC) — a Non Government Organisation based in Fiji and New Caledonia which has heaps of info about Pacific issues, plus links to other sites.

Wikipedia — for general information on the countries and territories in the Pacific
pyf sign


  • Encourage your local school to teach students more about the Pacific and Moriori people.
  • Write articles to newspapers and magazines about Pacific Issues.
  • Make changes to led a more sustainable life (recycling is a good way to start) and encourage others to do the same.
  • Get involved with an organisation or group working on Pacific Issues (like Just Focus!)
    Encourage an end to stereotypes and racism (not all Pacific Islanders wear grass skirts and live off coconuts…)

This article was first published in Jet magazine in the Focus column.

Photos by Geoff Cooper.

PYF: A trip to Tahiti, but what else would it be?

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Nicole Mathewson

tahitian girl dancersI boarded the tiny plane in Westport on July 14, nervous and unprepared. I hadn’t even read half of the information we’d been sent. I was excited to finally get a chance to go overseas, but by this stage I had convinced myself it was going to be terrible. They wouldn’t feed me enough (I like food), the people would be super brainy and super snobbish (how could a little West Coast girl ever compete?), not to mention old (I’m only 18 and the people going were aged from 16-30), and I’d get lost (the amount of youth going to the festival was more than the population of my entire town)!

Then as I munched the delicious chocolate chip airplane cookie I suddenly changed my mind (I’m funny like that). The Pacific Youth Festival will be great, I told myself.

And you know what? It was.

nicole and lyndon's presentationI was immediately welcomed by the 16 other New Zealanders at our one-day workshop in Auckland on the 15th (they weren’t mean after all). And I soon realised I was the only one who was feeling nervous and ill-prepared. And I was one of the youngest people there, but it never became an issue. We all came from different backgrounds, and different parts of the country, but here we were all equal.

We boarded the plane to Tahiti the next day and I discovered something better than airplane cookies - airplane socks!

Up to 1000 youth from around the Pacific (plus three from a youth organisation in France - yes France at a PACIFIC festival, proving how much control they still have in the country) were present for the six day festival. Our goal was to create the first Pacific Charter (a task that proved even more difficult than first imagined).

Our first day was spent exploring Pape’ete, the capital of French Polynesia, and then we got straight into it on Monday morning with the opening ceremony. The most inspiring part of that for me wasn’t in any of the speeches, but was seeing New Caledonia’s refusal to march under the French flag. It was something that became the big topic of the festival, even though originally the organisers tried hard to avoid the topic altogether - decolonisation (which, put very briefly, is the process in which a colony gains independence from a colonial power).
new caledonian sign at PYF
We attended conferences, workshops, and seminars focusing on the different themes of the festival including good governance, peace, education, cultural diversity, health, active citizenship, globalisation, equality, and sustainable development. We also watched cultural performances, had dinner and a dance at the Parliament, spent a recreational day on the island of Mo’orea, and sang - a lot!

Unfortunately, New Zealand wasn’t able to perform a cultural presentation. A lack of time to practise (and the fact we hadn’t met before the trip, let alone performed together) , a lack of indigenous people in the delegation (decreasing the authenticity of the performance), and the debate over what we would perform (Maori or Moriori - and what particular songs or dances) were to blame. The lack of performance is something I hope is rectified in time for the next Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji in 2009.

A variety of culture was everywhere. On the stage, in the fashion, in conversation. And learning about it all was incredible: seeing Samoan men in skirts (and looking good in them), learning about the history of islands like Rapanui (Easter Island), Marshall and Norfolk from the people who lived there, hearing Tongan men praising the attractiveness of bigger-sized women over stick-thin figures (image conscious people take note!), and practising Tahitian songs.
pacific couple
Language barriers were daunting at first, but we soon found there were other ways to communicate than just talking. Though we did do a lot of talking - and I think that’s where people learned the most, in general conversation at the meal table (where the food wasn’t all that bad), or outside our accommodation with a guitar or ukelele or some kind of instrument in hand.

A clear highlight for many (myself included) was the “Decolonisation with Justice” workshop organised by two Kiwis on the last day. It was a chance to finally talk about the effects of colonisation in our respective countries, something that many people hadn’t been allowed to talk about before. Colonisation had affected practically every Pacific Island nation, including New Zealand (the European and Māori conflict anyone?). The importance of keeping native languages and cultures alive and in practise featured heavily in many workshops along with the problems islanders faced in achieving that because of colonisation. Even in our host country, French Polynesia, the Maohi (native Tahitians), grew up unable to speak their own language because of the disapproval from the occupying French. The same thing happened to the Māori in New Zealand when the English arrived, showing that New Zealand faced many of the same issues as other Pacific Island nations and our place at the festival was certainly justified.

NZ delegationAnother highlight was meeting three Moriori youth from New Zealand. I never learned anything about the Moriori people at school. All I knew was something about “the Moriori being eaten by the Māori”… It was interesting learning about how the Moriori were still very much alive and the efforts being made to resurrect their language and culture. Their fight to rectify the shame people felt in being identified as Moriori (even more than Māori, Moriori people in the past were looked down upon and forced to hide or forget their culture) was incredibly inspiring.

While being saturated in culture during the festival was amazing and inspiring, it also became a kind of lowlight as it made me start to ask myself “what is my culture?” As a New Zealand European/Pakeha I felt out of place at the festival without a culture of my own that I could share, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one from Australasia who felt that way.

Even though I didn’t understand everything that was going on, I felt comfortable there. By the end of the festival I didn’t want to leave. I learned more in one week about culture, respect and love than I did in all my years at primary and secondary school. The Pacific Youth Festival wasn’t just a trip to Tahiti, it was also an experience I’ll never forget.



  • Encourage your local school to teach students more about the Pacific and Moriori people.
  • Write articles to newspapers and magazines about Pacific Issues.
  • Make changes to led a more sustainable life (recycling is a good way to start) and encourage others to do the same.
  • Get involved with an organisation or group working on Pacific Issues (like Just Focus!)
  • Encourage an end to stereotypes and racism (not all Pacific Islanders wear grass skirts and live off coconuts…)

Photos by the Aotearoa NZ delegation, including: Annie Boanas, Elise Broadbent and Lyndon Burford.

sunset over mo'orea