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  • Tue, 5, Dec, 2017 - 5:00:AM

Is Don Brash Australian?

Image: Michael Coghlan/ Flickr

I really think Don Brash might be Australian.

It’s just a feeling I’m getting in my waters, and I have good reason to think this might be so. You see, I’m originally from Australia. As a nation, we have a really embarrassing and chequered past when it comes to how the First People of our land and their culture were treated. And I can't help but feel that our good buddy Don appears to be echoing some similar sentiments with his anti-Te Reo debate over the weekend with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand.

Growing up in the ‘Lucky Country’ throughout the 70s and 80s, we were never taught Australian history from an indigenous perspective. Because, as the Anglicised history books told us, Australia only existed from 1788 when Captain Cook sailed into its waters and discovered it. That particular moment in time is celebrated by Aussies every year on the 26th of January. (Well, some of them anyway. Many indigenous Australians call this same date ‘Invasion Day’. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?)

Australian history is littered with stories of past atrocities and genocide against indigenous people, but don’t believe for a second that that is all in the past. Modern day racism is still alive and well, and indigenous Australians are still being discriminated against every single day. As recently as 2008, the Northern Territory Government all but closed bilingual education in remote indigenous schools by determining that the language of instruction for the first four hours of school must be in English. Even former Australian PM Tony Abbott once said that indigenous people who continued to speak their native languages constitute ‘lifestyle choices’ and should not supported by Australian taxpayers. I can only imagine the uproar if indigenous languages were incorporated into mainstream Australian broadcasts. (Sound familiar, Don?)

As for being able to speak an iota of indigenous Australian native tongues, about the only thing I (and, I would hasten to add, probably most people in Sydney at the time), was able to master was the spelling and pronunciation of Woolloomooloo. That was about as big a nod to Aboriginal language as we got. A quick Google search shows that the name doesn’t even rate a mention acknowledging its Aboriginal meaning, which is hugely embarrassing. I doubt Don would be concerned about that, though.

Contrastingly, I love that New Zealand’s national anthem starts in Te Reo, followed by English. It is a nod to the fact that Māori were here first. I love how many of the towns and cities here are known by their Te Reo names, and not some whitewashed Anglicised version. I love how the majority of Kiwis are staunchly proud of this country’s Māori ancestry and happily incorporate many of the everyday phrases into our collective colloquialism. I know that we could be doing it better, but it certainly can’t be worse than Australia. I challenge you to find one non-indigenous Australian able to greet you in one of the hundreds of almost-extinct languages of the Aboriginal people. I’d wager $100 on the fact that you couldn’t.

Why does Don Brash have such as issue with Te Reo? And, considering the fact that he is involved with the support group (snigger) for white people, the Hobson’s Pledge Trust, advocating for ending ‘race-based privilege’ and the ‘Treaty Gravy Train’, why is he being given a platform to further push his stance? Is hearing the original language of this country making him feel uncomfortable about the fact that his Pākehā privilege stands on the shoulders of past wrongs? That’s so Australian, it’s almost not funny.

Here’s a thought, Don. Let’s swap passports. I’ll happily take over your New Zealand one considering you feel hearing Te Reo on national radio is bothersome. And I’ll gift you my Australian one in return. I’m sure you’ll find a whole bunch of like-minded individuals across the ditch who enjoy radio broadcasts that aren't ruined by the language of its indigenous people.

Kia kaha.


  • Don Brash /
  • Te Reo /
  • Racism /
  • Hobson's Pledge /
  • Kim Hill /
  • RNZ /
  • Aboriginal People /
  • Australia /
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