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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care
CYC-Online Issue 39 APRIL 2002 / BACK
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postcard from leon fulcher

From Lake Waikaremoana

Hello again. You will have to look carefully on the New Zealand map to find this place. Start with the North Island and find the bit that reaches out eastwardly into the Pacific Ocean and the principal town of Gisborne. Then if you work your way back west along what is called Poverty Bay, you come to a small town called Wairoa. Lake Waikaremoana is about 65 km inland from Wairoa in the North Island's most undeveloped region, surrounded by the Urewera National Park.

Waiharuru Hut Venue for the Nga Mahi Module

I came here again as part of the teaching team for the National Certificate course in Iwi Maori Social Services offered by Te Ata Hou Trust, a private training provider recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Twenty-four students, all from the Tuhoe tribe, along with volunteer cooks, helpers and kids accompanied these students to “school". In October I wrote about what happened during the first Nga Mahi work skills Module. This second Module involved transporting students and gear by boat across Lake Waikaremoana to Waiharuru Hut, a 5-star tramping hut with basic cooking, toileting and sleeping facilities situated on the edge of this most beautiful lake. This particular Hut is situated beside land within the Urewera National Park owned by the Tuhoe people.

Classes began with a group exercise after everyone was settled and four small groups spent the afternoon examining a case where the State intervened in family life for the care and protection of young children. Oral presentations began during the first evening session, with students framed by flickering candle light because there was no electricity in the hut. It was a very moving experience listening to indigenous New Zealanders review what impact – past, present and future – the Treaty of Waitangi (New Zealand's founding document signed between Queen Victoria and the Maori Chiefs) has had on the three rural communities where these students lived. These students were all from a tribe that had not signed the Treaty and who had limited contact with Europeans until the 20th Century, 60 years after the Treaty was signed.

Ruatahuna Student Group Presentation

The final learning exercise involved students interviewing each other about working with their own people and communities in anticipation of the Urewera District Inquiry. At the end of March, the Government’s Waitangi Tribunal of four people start examining all the land claims in this region dating from the 19th Century. While some tribal lands were confiscated during the 1870s, other tracts of land were compulsorily purchased under the 1925 Public Works Act between 1917 and 1947 for development of a hydroelectric power scheme. Such action – taken without regard for the legal ownership of lands – has now been found to have been taken without due regard for the law. The Crown faces redress for years-old grievances and the prospect of compensation for actions taken without legal authority. There is still a long way to go but there will be no going back. I wish the Tuhoe people well in these endeavours.

Meanwhile, New Zealanders are cheering the Oscars success of our Lord of the Rings Part 1 film, Fellowship of the Rings. Be sure and see it!

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