Northland Maori Youth Conference
Because of the undoubted success of last year's conference organised by the Northland College Maori Students Federation, the Principal of Kaitaia College, Mr J. M. Mitchell was most agreeable that his school be the venue for this year's conference, held from 26–28 July.
Eight fifth and sixth form students organised the whole programme, and Mr P. Joyce, School Guidance Counsellor, was available as an adviser.
Accommodation and Catering
Sleeping was arranged marae-style in two classrooms, with parents, relatives and friends rallying around making mattresses and linen available and providing chaperones.
All meals were cooked and served in the college's homecraft block. Much of the food was donated, some was made available at wholesale rates, and groups of students gathered sea-foods, providing a wellbalanced diet.
Introductions were made in the relaxed atmosphere of a ‘Welcome Dance’ on Friday evening, and on Saturday, an hour of sport in the afternoon and an impromptu concert in the evening made welcome breaks from the more serious study and discussions.
An interesting panel of guest speakers contributed to the conference, but the main
purpose was discussion and debate among the conference members. After each speaker, the students broke up into small groups, and later reported back on their discussions.
At the official opening, Mr J. M. Mitchell, afer referring to great Maori leaders of the past, said, ‘At this conference I hope you will look about you and ask again, “What are the needs of our people?”, “Where do these needs exist?”, “What can I do to help in solving these needs?”
‘If this conference makes you aware of these needs, makes you think realistically about them, and makes you ask yourself what you in your small way can do, then it will be worthwhile.’
A talk was given by Miss M. Mako on ‘The Maori and His Job in the City’, Dr and Mr B. Bowden spoke on ‘Personal Relationships’, and the Rev. K. M. Ihaka introduced discussion on ‘The Place of Maori Culture Today’. The final session was a panel discussion.
In her talk, Miss Mako stressed that, ‘Preparation starts right here at school. Start preparing now. This is no last-minute job.’
She warned the students about attaining a goal and getting the idea. ‘That's it—I'm made!
‘Your work isn't finished just because you've got your B.A.—you've just started … you're like a babe in the woods.’
Mr and Dr Katherine Bowden had an unusual approach to their talk, questioning and answering each other for about half an hour before presenting six questions to the discussion groups:
Will men eventually become feminised by taking part in household work? Does the changing pattern of Maori life create conflict between the generations? What is the best age for marriage? (in which Mr Bowden came down hard on trial marriages: ‘There's no such thing as a trial marriage any more than there is a trial suicide.’) Why do some people choose poor marriage partners? If your parents disapprove of your choice what will you do? Do you think that education for marriage and family life should be part of the school curriculum?
Speaking about ‘The Place of Maori Culture Today’, Rev. Ihaka said, ‘The word “culture” is usually used with reference to art. Here it concerns the arts and crafts immediately recognisable as Maori, or the customs and ideas, arts and crafts, which can be shown to be of pre-European origin. Culture expresses a people's way of life.’
He went on to say that Maori people had to maintain their language, mana and land. ‘Without the land the Maori is a lost person; without his language he can't express himself. If Maori culture as we know it is to survive, then the language must be maintained.’
In answer to a question put to the panel by a Northland College student—‘What is the Purpose of this Maori Conference’— Dr Gregory replied, ‘The single most important thing about a conference of this nature and age group, is not what words of wisdom you hear, but the fact that you get up and say something. It is a testing ground for you. Soon you will be leaders in the community, and will have to contribute to discussions. The fact that you have done this before will help you.’
Several students said they valued the opportunity to express themselves, evén though their opinions might have sounded somewhat radical, and valued the opportunity to hear other students' views and come to a better understanding of themselves and their problems.
It is hoped that the conference will become an annual event.