A MEMORABLE CONFERENCE
The second Conference of the Maori Women's Welfare League was held at the Maori Community Centre at Halsey Street, Auckland. The number of delegates and observers attending lay around 300. The president was Mrs Whina Cooper of Panguru, Northland.
At the Hon. E. B. Corbett's arrival, all the women participated in a long and high-spirited haka in the best Maori tradition unhindered by the conditions of a well-filled conference room. A splendid performance was given by Mr Te Kani Te Ua who in greeting the Minister said he was sorry to have to welcome him to so outlandish and barbaric a place as Auckland.
The Minister said in his address that he could already see the great role the League was to play in the life of the Maori people. The women's work, he said, would be an inspiration to the men's tribal committees, and would put out a challenge to them, and strengthen their organisation. The Minister was anxious that the League should not drop the word ‘women’ from its organisation. A merger with the tribal committees, he said, was not desirable. The women's problems were peculiar to themselves. They were the problems of family life which was the centre of the social and spiritual strength of the people.
‘After this conference,’ said the Minister, ‘you will have been recharged with the zeal of the missionary. Many of you have to go back to the daily grind at your own fireside. There you have the greatest opportunity to help. Remember that you are the mothers of a great race, which over the centuries has survived many tribulations: the migration from Hawaiki to New Zealand and then the impact, the terrible impact of an alien way of life. What wonderful progress has been made! Proceed with the cultivation of songs from your childhood days which take you back to the ages of the past and remind you of your heritage. It is good that your organisation should cultivate the songs and handiwork of your people.’
In the afternoon of April 1 the main work of the conference started. This consisted of the study of five major Maori social problems: housing, child welfare, employment, health and education.
The fiercest and most comprehensive discussions of the conference were centred on housing. As Mrs Cooper said in her presidential address, all social problems begin with housing. Drunkenness too very frequently results when a husband comes home
and finds an absence of essential home comforts. Mrs M. Tamihana, district representative for Tairawhiti, was chairwoman of the committee. The subject was introduced by Mr J. H. W. Barber, director of Maori housing, who outlined the administration of Maori housing (Information on this subject will be given by Te Ao Hou from time to time; see p. 42 of this issue). Delegates criticised the Department on the high repayments asked of housing applicants on the holdings in the building programme and in the dealing with loan applications; they also asked for a higher allocation of State Housing. After lengthy discussion, the Under Secretary of Maori Affairs, Mr T. T. Ropiha, announced that the Board of Maori Affairs had recently formulated a policy to enable the department to increase the term for repayment from 25 to 35 years where the applicant's income demanded this. Instructions were to go out shortly, and delegates were asked to give the department twelve months' grace to see the effect of the new policy. Conference finally passed several remits aimed at assisting the Maori people. and the department in obtaining housing. They were:
A resolution to help the department in recruiting labour for building.
A resolution to encourage Maoris to apply for State houses.
A resolution to give full publicity to State house tenants and applicants as to their responsibilities as householders.
foster homes and child welfare
Keen interest was shown in Mr G. S. Smith, District Child Welfare Officer, Auckland, who addressed the Conference on child welfare problems. He stressed that children became state wards more often through the misdemeanours of the unsuitability of the parents than through their own wickedness. Whenever anything unfavourable was known about the children, the foster-parents were given the story, but a large percentage of the State wards have never been convicted of offences. Mrs P. P. Tahiwi chaired the committee.
After discussion, conference decided to pass a remit urging league branches to make a survey for suitable foster homes for Maori and part-Maori children. A variety of other remits touching on the welfare of children were passed, such as:
Support to the National Council of Women in its recommendation for stricter censorship of radio serials, films, comics and magazines.
Resolution to stimulate teaching of Christianity to children at home, in Sunday schools, bible classes and churches.
Recommendation for more severe punishment of those guilty of assault on children.
training Maori tradesmen
Introduced by Mr M. R. Jones, the discussion on employment centred on the problem of getting Maori boys apprenticed to trades. Mr Jones described the department's efforts to build hostels in the cities in which the boys could be housed while undergoing apprenticeships. He made it clear that the limiting factor on the number of Maori tradesmen who could be trained was suitable city accommodation. He also stressed the necessity of the boys getting their school certificates, or at least two years post-primary education, if they wished to be apprenticed to trades. Chairwoman of the committee was Mrs H. Phillips.
The Conference passed a remit commending the government for its hostel policy and ‘respectfully suggested that it be fuller implemented.’ It also discussed:
The necessity for relatives taking greater care of youths coming into the cities.
Need for more efficiency by officials handling information about Maori school leavers for whom employment is to be found.
The need for more health information was the chief theme of the conference's deliberation on this topic. The Health Department's representative, Miss Armstrong, candidly stated the problems that had to be faced by the Maori women. Plans were then worked out for collaboration between the league and the Department of Health. Mrs R. Sage chaired the committee.
Conference asked for:
More talks from Health Nurses, with supporting films and exhibits.
More radio talks on health in the Maori language.
Other remits recommended delegates to campaign in their own communities for causes such as these:
‘Maori Mother's Aid’ in every district council.
Better sanitation in maraes, pas and homes.
Better attendance at clinics and x-ray units where T.B. is suspected.
More use of ante-natal and post-natal care facilities.
schools, scholarships and maori tradition
Next to housing, education was the great theme of the conference. Most of the discussions on health, child welfare and employment were really centred around the problem of the growing Maori child, with whose physical, social and spiritual lot delegates were above all concerned. Several talks on education were given by outside speakers: Mr C. M. Bennett (Asst. Controller Maori Social and Economic Advancement), Mr Sawer (Ad. Ed.) and Mr W. Parsonage, Senior Inspector of Maori schools. Chairwoman of the committee was Mrs M. Logan.
Mr Parsonage said it is the job of the Maori schools to transmit two cultures. The child has to be taught English and the basic skills required in this society and also a good deal of Maori culture. Mr Parsonage commended the cleanliness in Maori schools which could compare with any others. Emphasis was laid in Maori schools on practical work such as homecrafts for girls and handiwork for boys. This was done because it was necessary to ensure that every child, Maori or Pakeha, should have this knowledge, and also, because it was a way of overcoming the language difficulty.
Last year 2710 Maori children entered post primary schools said Mr Parsonage. This represented 64% of the children qualified to enter as against a pakeha figure of 91%. This figure was too low, but a greater problem perhaps than getting Maori children to enter post-primary schools was that of keeping them there at least until they had their school certificates.
Mr Parsonage announced that under the new policy there are now 330 scholarships held by Maoris all for four year post-primary courses, subject to satisfactory progress. The difficulty was that many of the scholars leave school without getting their four years education, letting the Education Department down. It was the parent's job to see that the children stay at school. As for university scholarships, there were six each year for Maoris only. The number of applicants for these scholarships was distressingly small. Sometimes not even six who are eligible apply.
After the address a vote of thanks was passed to the Education Department with much applause.
Conference felt that one of the main reasons for the poor secondary education figures was economic hardship. Remits asked for the grant of more scholarships:
By the Education Department: 120 instead of 90 annually.
By Maori Trust Boards, whose present generosity however was commended.
By funds to be raised by Tribal Committees.
It was decided to recommend to the Minister of Maori Affairs to subsidise money raised by Maori communities for scholarships £ for £. Mr Ropiha, commenting on this proposal in his closing address, suggested that such money should be paid into a national fund subscribed to by all parts of the country and scholars should be assisted according to merit without regard to the source of the donations. He did not think that the government would subsidise such
Name and Address of Donor (if subscription is paid for another person):
This slip, together with money, should either be handed to an office of the Maori Affairs Department, who will issue an Official Receipt, or sent to Te Ao Hou, Department of Maori Affairs, Post Office Box 2390, Wellington, C.I. Subscriptions are also sold at 200 post offices in Maori districts.
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scholarships if the money were to go to individual tribal committees.
Remits also asked for official information on scholarships and bursaries. This will be supplied by Te Ao Hou in its next issue (August 1). Parents were to be urged to make their children follow a full postprimary course wherever practicable.
One of the most important activities of the League will be to press for more education on Maori language and culture. At this Conference delegates demanded some practical measures to ensure the preservation of Maori arts and crafts and the Maori language. Every attempt was made to have the conference itself conducted in Maori in spite of the many outside speakers who were Pakehas. When during the Education debate which had mainly been in English one lady rose and announced that she would ask her own question in Maori, deafening applause followed. The great enthusiasm with which the hakas were performed, the enormous trouble taken to organise a crafts exhibition from many branches at the conference, they were all symptomatic of the earnestness with which the League desires to preserve Maori culture.
It was decided to ask the Education department for improvements in the facilities for spreading this knowledge. Recommendations were:
Maori language to be a compulsory subject for teachers' ‘C’ Certificate.
Teachers of Maori to be appointed to all training colleges.
Maori Arts and Crafts to be incorporated in the Training College Arts and Crafts courses for the ‘C’ Certificate.
A woman specialist in Maori Arts and Crafts to be attached to Adult Education in the Auckland and Victoria University Districts; local experts to assist the appointed tutor.
Parents were also to be earnestly requested to assist by encouraging children to speak Maori at home.
achievements of conference
This meeting has given the League a basis for its work. The main fields of activity have been mapped out and it now remains to further the numerous causes which delegates decided to sponsor.
Delegates and organisers are to be congratulated for the systematic and practical way in which this basic work was done. The League emerges from this conference as a strong organisation which will make itself felt in all those fields where the well-being of the Maori family is at stake and in the preservation of Maoridom as a progressive force in the country.
Officers elected at this conference were: President: Mrs Whina Cooper.
Dominion Vice-Presidents: Mrs P. Paki and Mrs P. Tahiwi.
Dominion Secretary: Mr M. R. Love.
Assistant Dominion Secretary: Miss Mira Petricevich.
Dominion Treasurer: Miss F. Mitchell.
Representative of the Department of Maori Affairs: Mrs R. Wright.
All other officers have remained unchanged except that Mrs F. Moss is now representative of the South Island.
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