Hi, Carolyn here from We Teach Well. Our mission is to promote educational equality by providing English and literature teachers wherever they may teach with truly borderless professional development options. We are inviting writers and educators from around the world to share the cultural and historical issues that sit behind the literature of their country.
Things are just a little bit different today. The Interview with Angela went for a very long time and every part of it was good. And I couldn’t work out which bits to cut. So this fortnight’s recording is going to be in two parts. The first part will be tonight, and the second part will be in two weeks time. This interview is a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun doing it, and I think you’ll find it has a heap of really useful information. And it’ll be worth coming back for part two.
Welcome to this week’s episode of We Teach Well’s World Lit podcast. I’m your host Carolyn, and I am really stoked that I get to talk to this week’s guest, Angela Tutty. Angela will be talking about New Zealand literature. So grab a comfy spot, pop on your headphones, and enjoy what is bound to be a super interesting episode. Angela and I met when we were part of the same project in Singapore in 2008. A group of consultant teachers were tasked by the Ministry of Education to help resource Teachers of English and literature. While my interest in cultural signifiers was born in the UAE, it really grew in Singapore. There’s so much wonderful literature in Asia, yet so much of what is taught is the same old British classics. Angela now teaches in Australia, and is the director of teaching and learning for the Humanities at her school. I just found out in the warm up chat that Angela has just established a new committee at her school, which has the task of presenting Australian history from an indigenous perspective. This is something that probably has happened in New Zealand for a long time, but is only just beginning to be introduced in Australia. So hi, Angela.
Can you tell us a little bit more about this new committee and how, where you got the ideas from that?
I guess it’s taken a lifetime to get the ideas, the New Zealand I grew up in is very different to the New Zealand today. And New Zealand still has a long way to go when it comes to the indigenous perspective. One of the things that really stood out for me when I came here, and having been in Singapore with you, and then in Malaysia, I noticed that the indigenous people often were forgotten about, and here I got the biggest shock of my life because it was all sort of hidden. And and I’d be talking to students and I’d be talking about the Myall Creek Massacre and they’d look at me like, ‘what are you talking about?’ And this is even with students that are at university. Trying to spark their interest and learning about the indigenous people of Australia, but it was just all hidden. And since I’ve been in Australia lots of things have happened, we’ve had Sorry Day and I have seen a massive change. But in the school I was in, very little was being done. There was the odd thing, was a bit tokenistic, which is very much the way I grew up in New Zealand, where it was quite tokenistic to the Maori culture. So when I applied for my job as Head of Humanities, and I had been already writing curriculum, they asked me, what did I want to do? What was the big thing that stood out for me? And I said, I really struggle with the attitude to the indigenous people of Australia. I said, I’ve talked to a lot of people, I’d spent some time in Central Australia, I’ve watched a lot of programs like First Contact, when I’d actually been horrified. And so I said I want to make the students really aware that Australia is more than one race of people. Australia’s human race. I really like that when you go to the Holocaust Museum, they asked us what race do you belong to? You belong to the human race. And so along with my principal and some key members of staff, I had this idea that I would like to have this committee, we have brought people from different campuses, because I’m in a school with multi campuses. So we have some people who are indigenous, we have some members of staff who have a strong indigenous appreciation and acceptance, and I’ve spent time in Central Australia, and we have people who have got an environmental focus. I came with very much a curriculum focus, that I want it embedded in our curriculum, that we’re looking at the perspective of the indigenous people, just like we should be looking at the perspective of woman, or children. So we don’t just get this white, European perspective. So we will look at, we include the welcome, welcome to country in our major events, but perhaps not in our smaller assemblies. We have flying of the flag on some of our campuses. I’ve got a staff member who’s already keen to be planting indigenous plants throughout, and teaching the students about it as we do it. Just so that it becomes a way of life, that that’s our culture, that we are a very inclusive school. And we don’t have a lot of students from other countries. But also we want them to feel welcome and able to share their story. Cool.
And do you think that the changes that you are aware of in New Zealand, I mean, I, when I look at New Zealand, I think about all the things that they have done so much better than we have done? I think about their insistence in the, was it the 1970s or 80s, that they wouldn’t allow nuclear submarines in? And they are getting a whole heap of flack about that, but they stood their ground. When I watch television and watch New Zealand shows, there seems to be more of an integration of people of both Maori and European New Zealanders and Samoan, and it just seems to me that they have done this better than we have, would that be accurate?
It would, and even right from the start when there was colonization from the British, they wanted to do it better than what they’re done in Australia. They realized that they hadn’t done it very well. And it was quite aggressive and with lots of violence. So they came up with this idea that they would have this treaty, and the treaty would be between the, started out as King William, I think it was but ended up being Queen Victoria who actually signed the treaty. And, the Maori people of New Zealand, the the people so they the Maori people of New Zealand are called the Tangata Whenua, which is the people of the land. And it was a great idea in principle. Unfortunately, not necessarily, that’s how it turned out. So they have this belief that this would be better, that with a treaty the people of New Zealand would be protected. Unfortunately, the treaty was written in English, there was also a Maori version. And then there’s a version that’s direct translation from English to Maori. So when they talked about the rangatiratanga, being this for the British was the sovereign. But for the Maori people, that’s their elders. So right from the start, there was this controversy. And unfortunately, the Maori people were ripped off, because they were given tobacco and blankets for the sale of their land. But the treaty, because it’s in place is still in place today, which is really exciting for me as a historian to have this document that dates back to 1840. And is still today. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that we start to get a real change. And if I talk to my mother, she talks about how, you know, it was, they were dirty, or they were second class citizens. Not as bad as here with the flora and the fauna, but certainly it was frowned upon. And I remember when I went to school, it was all about a tokenistic Maori week and we made poi. And we sang wiata songs and things like that. But it was just one week in the year. So that we just pretend that for one week, you know, we’ve got this other group of people. And so in the 1970s, is when they actually created the Waitangi Tribunal, and now the Maori people can go and they can make claims to the land. They can get reimbursement if they’ve had land that was taken off them, and rivers. My understanding is through my study and my teachings, and a humanities classroom. And you’d get a much better perspective from someone of Maori descent. So I look at the world now that my grandchildren live in, and I have grandchildren who are fully immersed. So they go to a preschool, the kohunga reo, and the school, the kura, where they speak only Maori, and then my other grandchildren in just the normal government schools Maori is in the classroom all the time, but not necessarily spoken in sentences. So like when I teach, I will use words. Especially if I’m teaching about Maori culture, I want to use the right language. So when I want to talk about a canoe, I don’t talk about a canoe I took about a waka, because that’s what it’s called. So there’s there’s been that big change there. Is it perfect? No, it’s nowhere near perfect. Since the 1980s, we’ve been fighting for women, we’re fighting for their rights still and, we’re fighting for Maori, for health and things like that, and for education, and we certainly need more Maori educators, that speak for Maori. I’m very excited that our daughter in law, she was born in Australia, but her dad is a Maori. Since returning to New Zealand to live, she has looked into her whakapapa, or her ancestry, she’s found out about her culture, she’s been growing in her culture, she’s been raising her children in her culture and taking my European son along the journey with her. She’s learning to speak Maori, and is about to enter into a university course where in time she will become a Maori teacher. And we’re really excited to be on this journey with her. And she teaches us so much, and she’s so beautiful, because she’s so tolerant. The longer I’m away, the worse my pronunciation is. I’m embarrassed about that, because I can’t pronounce one of the main languages of my country, But she’s beautiful, and she just takes the time with me and helps me by with my vowels. So I’ve seen a lot of change, but there’s still a few problems. I had a conversation with my son not long ago about the justice system. And I think that’s quite realistic to what like what’s here in Australia, that the indigenous people certainly have got much higher, and much more frightening statistics. And, you know, we really have to work to meet their needs. It’s no different to anyone else, you know, as a teacher, you spend your whole life looking at how do you meet people’s needs. I remember when I was teaching in New Zealand, they brought in a specialist from the iwi, the tribe, and he came in and he taught us. A historical look at the fact that, as with all indigenous races their teachings are done orally. It’s not written. So how do we approach that in the classroom and and especially in a world where we expect everything to be written down. And I think that’s the most important thing is to be open minded, to not be an expert. I certainly wouldn’t class myself as an expert, but I’ve worked hard to learn and to know and to share my knowledge with others. I’ve encountered this everywhere I go, people say to me, ‘Oh, do the haka!’ Well, the haka they want you to do is what the All Blacks do and though some women are now doing the haka it’s a much milder version than what the men do. And it’s knowing what’s appropriate? And what about the culture, every culture has roles. And we need to respect them. I know that the Maori culture don’t like you sitting on pillows because pillows are where your head goes. And so my mother, my mother’s in her 80s and she would know very little of that. But my generation are certainly more aware. And my children and my grandchildren are in a much better place in New Zealand. They’ve still got work to do. I guess that I find that really tough here. And also, I live in an area in Australia where there isn’t many Aboriginal people. So I find that quite difficult. Even where I come fromk, I’m from the South Island of New Zealand, and still the Maori population would only be about 6%. It’s lucky if there is 1% where I am in Australia with the indigenous people.
What I found really interesting there is that progression that you can see in almost the micro. Not just in a town or city, but within your family, where, this is happening over a period of time. And one of the things about teaching, often I felt, when I was going to school and teaching and working with teenagers, I love teenagers, they’re a lot of fun. But their attitudes were so different. Since Im not in the classroom anymore, you don’t get that hopefulness, you know, there’s these terrible things that are happening, terrible, public discourses going on. That are just, they’re awful. And when you’re in the classroom, it’s sometimes made you feel better, because the students, they’re like, What do you mean, there’s a difference between black people and white people? The younger generation seems to be ready to move right past all of that. All of these discussions and difficulties that have been around for a while. I mean, just look at America now. I think, for those of us born in the 60s and 70s, no, born in the 50s growing up in the 60s and 70s. you look at that, and you think haven’t we made any progress at all?
I was quite an advocate, in the 80s when I was having my babies for birthing and the importance of that. And I sort of look at woman today and think, well have we made any progress? Or are we still …. And there is lots of progress, and there’s lots of really good stuff, but there’s an awful lot of bad stuff. I think the Black Lives Matters campaign highlighted that more for us. All lives matter, but sometimes we have to work a little harder to make sure that all lives do matter. Because definitely indigenous people, their lives are just the same as anybody else. But they’re not always treated the same. And I think that’s what scares me. And what you’re talking about with attitude with kids, that’s one of the reasons I very much got into wanting to have this committee at school so we could make change. Because I was absolutely horrified that the kids that I was teaching, this would be in the middle years were like, ‘Aw, are we doing indigenous Australia again? why? that’s really boring.’ And I’m thinking, what what do you mean? You’ve got the oldest civilization in the world that’s still going. Is that not the most, Mungo man and Mungo lady? I am just blown away and just so excited and just love teaching the kids about them. Because it’s this incredible history that Australia should be really proud of. And it’s not. The kids aren’t interested. So that’s why I want the kids to be interested. I want them to be like my grandchildren, whether it’s that my grandchildren from my Maori daughter in law, or from my European daughter, where when the language is used, that it’s just the norm. My oldest daughter, her children are in preschool. And because there is a commitment in New Zealand to be bi-cultural, it means that with the children language is used, just words not sentences normally, unless there is a qualified Maori teacher. So they know when my daughter uses those words, what it means. And that’s just beautiful, because that’s just natural. We’re making a real movement at the moment, especially in our year seven area, to be using the language to have the language so that they are understanding it, even if it’s just words. That’s been quite exciting to see that be implemented, and the kids are interested. And I think that’s the most important thing, it is that changing of attitude, we have these kids, you’re dead right, they couldn’t care with what color people’s skin were, and more what size people are, or what’s their religion, or their sex or whatever. And we’ve got to build on that and make it just that this is the norm. We struggle, you know, we try really hard to get indigenous texts. I have just read the most beautiful book that we’re putting into year five called Black Cockatoo. And I was just blown away. I mean, it’s quite a short novel. But it’s beautiful. I was so excited. You know, they talked about the stolen generation, but it wasn’t like year nine, where we would be quite focused on the stolen generation, they just mentioned it in passing, but it’s embedded. So it’s introducing it to these younger children, what their culture is about. And I think that’s the difference, when I started teaching, because I grown up in a world where it was very tokenistic towards the indigenous people, I had to learn. And I remember reading Patricia Grace, and part of teaching English was that you had to be teaching indigenous texts, it wasn’t up for discussion. It wasn’t ‘Oh, maybe we’ll do it this year and not next year. Every single year, you taught indigenous texts. And some of them were from the white perspective. And some of them were from the Maori perspective. And I really liked Patricia Grace, because she taught me so much about the culture that I didn’t know about. I mean, I was lucky because I brought my children that through Playcentre, and they have a very, very strong commitment to their parents and their children knowing about the Maori culture. So I’d been to the marae, to the meeting place, and I’d learnt about the culture. And I think that’s the important thing, and I’ve listened to lots and lots of podcasts and webinars lately about culture. And it frightens me when people say, ‘I’m just too scared I’m gonna get it wrong, so I’m not going to do anything.’ Well, that’s a really poor attitude. You know, I get it wrong. I mean, I have a limited knowledge about Australia’s history. But I share what I know. And I thirst for more knowledge. And I remember reading, this is right off track now, ‘American Dirt’, and there’s a thing at the end, and ‘American Dirt’ is set in Mexico, and it’s about the cartels, and this woman running away from them. It’s a fantastic read. And anyway, it’s written from the white perspective, about the Mexican people. And the author, when she was, I said she, I don’t remember whethjer it was a male or female. When they were looking into doing the research and they said, ‘I don’t know if I should write this, because it’s just another white perspective’ of an indigenous people. The people in Mexico actually said, ‘No, tell our story, we need our story told. Because the more we tell the story, people tell the story from different perspectives, the more people will know. And I thought, that is really cool. You know and that’s right. We need to tell the stories. I grew up on the Maori myths of New Zealand, love them. Absolutely love them.
So when you were at school, Maori literature was taught in schools in New Zealand?
No, not that I can remember. Well, I find it very hard to remember what I learned and what what my children learned. Things are merging. There wouldn’t have been. During Maori week we would have read the myths. I don’t remember read it. I remember reading ‘Catcher in the Rye’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and ‘Macbeth’. That’s what I remember. I don’t remember any Maori texts whatsoever. So by the time I came around, and I didn’t start teaching until the 2000s. And by the time I came around, it was there, that’s what you did. It didn’t matter that I taught both social studies and English, it didn’t matter whether I was in a social studies or an English classroom, I would be sharing the Maori perspective. And so when I did Time and Continuity for history, I taught about the Treaty of Waitangi, and the actual signing of it, and we did a roleplay. I could have just as easily been reading about it in my English classroom.
Just before we carry on, for the audience’s benefit, I am going to ask you, Angela, at the end, if you can send me an email with the correct spelling of these, words and treaties that you’re talking about, because I don’t want to get them wrong. And we will include those in the show notes, with the transcript at the end of the podcast, so nobody worry, we’ll find out the information.
Unknown Speaker 27:35
I just pull us back a bit to New Zealand, New Zealand literature set not necessarily married or European, but New Zealand literature, of what do you see as the primary historical events that authors and playwrights and poets in New Zealand have responded to?
Okay, it’s like any, there’s all the bad events? Well, lots of little things, like I think of something like Heavenly Creatures, which has goes by two names. Yeah. And, um, off the top of my head might have been Daughters of heaven. So one’s done is apply. And one Stan is
a book about which is about a murder that happens in New Zealand, it’s about two young girls who murder one of the girl’s mother’s. So, and it’s absolute brilliant. And in fact, that’s been on TV as well. They’ve done it as their but it’s, and I haven’t taught anything like that. But it’s just when you think about what events I guess that’s what we look at, isn’t it, that the horrific events. It’s interesting in New Zealand, so if you looked at the historical stuff, there would be the thing called the Maori wars, and there’s just been a new change, to no longer call it that. Which, so they’re gonna call it the New Zealand wars, I think, and I just think that’s a lovely change to, to take it away from, you know, a group of people. So the, the, the Treaty of Waitangi. And it’s been written about it thinking about that’s a lot of nonfiction stuff. And like that treaty was there. The Treaty of Waitangi. So if I think back to the earlier literature, and New Zealand is, of course, very white, European. And if we look at someone like Katherine Mansfield, who is just the most beautiful writer with a really, really interesting life, like She was quite, she was a woman ahead of times, that was for certain. Katherine Mansfield actually spent more of her life out of New Zealand that in New Zealand but writes prolifically about New Zealand and life in New Zealand, which was very much still based on, on the British style of life. And yet, but she’s just such a beautiful, beautiful writer. And, and it’s very proud of her. And then if you if I think of someone like Janet frame, who also are quite a different writer, um, and she, the thing that bothers me about way about Janet frame, the thing that stood out for me the most was that she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, and she almost had a lip balm for me, and what a sin that would have been, to take away all that emotion from such a beautiful writer and, and her style is quite different. It’s very much in about who growing up. And then 1920s and 30s, so quite a lot of poverty. But the more I think about New Zealand literature, for the ones that stand out, for me, everything comes back to farno or family, New Zealand’s a small country. And I always feel like it’s it’s small, a small town, you know, Auckland’s a city and Wellington City. But the the quintessential thing about New Zealand is it’s small town, New Zealand, and, and yet, they’ve had some they’ve had some big boats that they’ve worn in the past politically and have stood up to America about nuclear power. You can understand New Zealand literature, unless you understand New Zealand, right. And I think, well, well writer, you know, as you said earlier, what, Tamara is one of the most prolific writers in New Zealand, and he said some controversy around him that some of his writing, buddy, it’s a beautiful way to teach the rest of the world, about the Maori culture, about the fact that there is, there’s this tradition, you know, when the grandfather doesn’t want her to succeed, because she’s a female. And that’s just not the way it is. Which is really interesting, because New Zealand has had the top out and New Zealand is a king or a queen, and we’re not so long ago, we had a Maori Queen, we’ve actually got a Maori King at the moment. And so and woman are incredibly respected in the culture. And I’ll never forget, so we’re at my school. So part of what you do at the start of the year, and I don’t know if all schools do this, because I actually only taught on one school in New Zealand, but um, we’d have a porphyry. So we’d have a welcoming. And, and that’s the same thing that would happen when you went to MRI. And because they see you as two separate people and peoples and you need to come together and be as one. So
I remember the elder that was standing with us, because one of the people know and one of the tangut afina were the people of the land has to come and be with you. And I remember him saying to the boys, you know, you must respect your mother, that the mother is such an important person, because she’s the one that gives you life. And, and so I love that about well, rider now. I actually never taught well, rider in New Zealand, I taught it and Australia. So that was an interesting scenario. And I think this very much teachers, this shows us what I say about you have to understand how New Zealand works. And so I was teaching it with one of my colleagues who’s actually British, and I knew all the background. I knew about the culture, I knew about the language. But the kids didn’t. And we were teaching it to year seven. And it just didn’t work it. Now we actually taught the film. We didn’t teach the novel. But the kids just couldn’t get it. It was too much of a cultural shock to match for them to understand the context, which is really tough when you know you’re teaching something you feel quite strongly about. I mean, I still can’t watch well, right? I’ve seen the film about 1000 times and not cry. Because that beautiful change and I guess that’s the change of scene in New Zealand where the grandfather when when it comes to the the crisis, that he changes his or her attitude and realizes that she is the born leader. And though tradition may be that, like when you go to MRI, the men sit in the front and the woman sit behind. And that’s the way it’s been since it began. And that’s the words dollars. And so there’s very much these traditional roles for the Sixers. But he changes it and I think that it truly reflects what life is like in New Zealand that it is evolving, and we are changing and we are getting better. And and as the world changes, but New Zealand still is a small town countries, and it’s like, I listened. I talked to a woman the other day who is originally from England, but she’s now a New Zealand citizen. And she said, The best thing about moving to New Zealand where she said I didn’t have to wear shoes. She said it was quite normal to see people not wearing any shoes or wearing exam boots like you’d walk downtown and there’d be people in there gunboats, including my son, he goes to the supermarket and there’s gunboats. So it’s this very, it’s it’s a Australia’s been there, but they’ve moved on. And New Zealand’s still very much I think, isn’t that I just kind of feel like Australia is the city in New Zealand’s the canary.
And yet, New Zealand is on its third female prime minister. And I yes, they may be small. I was there. I’ve been there twice. The last time was last January in Queenstown, and it was beautiful. I’m not very bright, and obviously hadn’t looked at the map. Because it was January. And I didn’t take a jacket and the wedding was on the side of a mountain.
Yeah, that and that, you know, that would be I still sometimes forget that, that it is still really cold. And I they give me a hard time because I to test the winter and Luna come from New Zealand, Dubai, because of the height the car like the warm I lived in Singapore. And yeah, like, I think when you look at something like Ellen and Elon duffers has done such incredible stuff for literature and New Zealand. Like he wrote things like, you know, that you talked about before, once were warriors, which is really in your face, and frightening and very violent. However, it is also it is about the tradition, the tradition to the family, the tradition of the rose. But he’s gone on to do stuff. That’s wonderful. And so I think it might have changed, but New Zealand up till recently, the school system was mapped on a DSL system. So of course, the poor schools got more money, as they
they had a sensible education. That was
Yeah, yeah. And the top tier schools didn’t get money. So if you were from I’m not sure if it started at zero, or I think it might have started at one. So if you were npsl 123. So recently, before, Ellen Duff started up this fund, and he offered to every single student, and and those disallow schools of choice in return, so four times a year, every student in those schools got a choice of a range of books, and both of them perspectives on lots of different topics. And they got to choose a book and take it home and keep it because he felt the most important thing was to have books and homes. And I think that that is it’s just mind blowing. And to think that that you know, and that’s right, any teacher would tell you that we need books and homes, you can tell the kids that have been read to you know, if it doesn’t matter what perspective you’re learning about, we just need to get the books and the highs. I love now that in New Zealand, it’s really easy. So what goes and paper plus are the two main booksellers in New Zealand. And so when I’m buying presents, when I’m buying for my Maori grandchildren, I can buy them, Maori ticks that are in Maori, and I don’t know how far the range that goes because at the moment, I’m only buying picture books but gets really exciting. And I can also get books that are bilingual so that my non Maori son can actually read the same book to his children as well. And and so natural for the children to say that there is two languages and I just don’t even think that if the language is being spoken, it’s it’s about and homes. Which if I talked to my daughter in law’s dead, he’ll tell you that when he went to school, and so he would be in his early 50s, that they weren’t allowed to speak the language. And that’s just heartbreaking because everybody knows that if the if the language isn’t there in the culture dies as well, because that’s just so important.
Well, that seems like as good a place to stop it for today as any. This is what this podcast is all about when English language was used in a way that minimized the importance of indigenous cultures.
Join us again in two weeks time as we continue this conversation with Angela, and find out more in detail of the development of New Zealand literature, and the conventions that lie behind it. For more information about our organization you can visit us at we teach wild.com and if you have any questions or would like to send some suggestions of literature you’d like to know more about, then email us at support at we teach well.com We hope you are enjoying this podcast and please, if you are, make sure to like it, share it with your friends, and subscribe to our mailing list so that you can stay up to date with all of our latest news initiatives and upcoming episodes.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai