Unbeknown to me, I came across the Treaty of Waitangi in my first year of Nursing studies in the year 2000 being an international student. It was a special paper on Cultural Safety and I had to pass it. It was drummed into me. I knew how important it was as I studied Irihapeti Ramsden, the late Maori Nurse who theorised and further developed cultural safety in New Zealand to provide equal quality health care to all people of different ethnicities (I later nursed her as a New graduate Registered Nurse in New Zealand through her last days-a complete honour!). The Treaty of Waitangi was a vital part to this effective healthcare practice.
I consolidated the three most important principles of the treaty; partnership, participation and protection. They are incorporated into my daily nursing practice when I am at work as these became integral to my Nursing Annual Practice Certificate/Licence. It is an essential part of the Nursing Council of New Zealand requirements as the country I believed transitioned from a bicultural society (Maori and English) to a more multi-cultural community. Today there are more than one hundred ethicities represented in New Zealand and to be able to hear the representation in early childhood education and educational institutions is very reassuring.
Jane Wright was instrumental in connecting me to the Treaty Times Thirty Project team when she completed her Vanuatu mission. She was a fantastic kiwi volunteer on a VSA assignment to my island Malekula in Vanuatu and through the power of networking, we met on our international travels. We became friends through other volunteers as well which was really beneficial. Jane even visited my parents on their beachside property to give them tourism advice for their long term project.
Through Radio New Zealand International, Jane recommended that I take on this project due to my lingustic abilities despite my chaotic lifestyle with work and other community projects. I agreed. Wholeheartedly. I knew very well that it was a volunteer project and I was willing to invest my time, energy and expertise into it. Longterm wise, it could potentially help with my journey towards writing and publishing a book on the international stage. The connections and networking would be invaluable and that is what I welcomed and invested in. I believe it could help raise my profile and character throughout the local communities as well as the international audience. I did embrace the challenge but I under-estimated my ability to translate.
I dedicated a whole weekend to this project; that is approximately over 24hours of my time with regular breaks inbetween. It meant that I had to translate till 2am the next morning too (I met some of the translators who only translated the two versions in one hour at the launch party!). I read through the two versions; the english and the maori versions a few times to understand the meanings. I really didn’t have Bislama words for the Queen, her majesty, sovereignty, Royal Navy, reserverations and the list goes on. I was really baffled for words then. I had no other help or support to run my ideas and sentences against. It was a true learning curve where I managed to break the words down to make it simpler for me. One word could potentially see me translate into multiple sentences which would make sense to the local RSE workers who are currently contributing in large numbers to the New Zealand Horticulture and Agricultural sectors. I discovered that if I were to put myself into the shoes of a local Ni-Vanuatu who has never heard about the Treaty before, I surely will have to understand the background of this founding document. There has to be a story behind why this happened and why this is so important to the people of New Zealand. My translations were very different from my other two colleagues Caroline Nalo and Dr Robert Early who were based in Vanuatu.
There is a powerful history behind this document. You can discover more of the educational stories especially what happened after the treaty was signed, here: http://www.treatypeople.org
I was of course a volunteer just like many others-I believe there was more than 150 of us translators who were involved. I got interviewed by a young journalist from Auckland and I was rather disappointed with how the Treaty translations were portrayed in the media. A professional (an academia) commented that he doubts the treaty will ever be read by immigrants who migrate here even if it was accessible in their native tongue. Why would someone of that calibre make such devaluing comments of all our expertise? Why couldn’t there be more support of how unique this country is with taking this step forward in this global environment? Why do we have to criticise good and hard work of many professionals who have dedicated and see the value of history in New Zealand being preserved? Couldn’t we all just pause, stop and celebrate the diversity? This is such an important culture that defines who we are as New Zealanders. It is so enriching. It is so unique. I am sure New Zealand schools and tertiary institutions especially the Health Practitioners; Nursing, Medical and Pschologists will definitely see the value of this great piece of history created. I should hope the Defence Force is grateful for it too. I know the Vanuatu High Commission/Embassy will be grateful for this input when it establishes itself in the heart of Wellington in the near future for international relations. You can check out my slight part of the interview on here: http://www.tewahanui.nz/culture/treaty-translation-bid-falling-short
There are some wonderful and important lessons to be learnt here which I will cover in my next blog. What a journey it has been. There has been a wonderful support from some of the government organisations such as Archives NZ, the office of Ethnic Communities, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the European Union Delegation to NZ and I am just grateful to be part of it all. I am sure if there is a similar project in the future, I would definitely lend a hand and my expertise. The official website of the Treaty Times Thirty project is here: https://treatytimes30.org/