Page 1603 - Week 04 - Thursday, 29 March 2012

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Kapa haka festival

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.21): Last Friday I had the honour to represent the Canberra Liberals at the powhiri—a traditional Maori welcome—for the fourth regional kapa haka festival, which serves as a qualifying competition for Australian teams to participate in the Te Matatini—“many faces”—national kapa haka festival in New Zealand, which will be hosted by the Te Arawa people, the people of Rotorua, in 2013. The festival has been held at a national level every two years in Australia since 2006. It was in Sydney in 2006, in Melbourne in 2008, and it was in Canberra in 210 and 2012, so Canberra must have done a good job in 2010.

The powhiri, the traditional Maori welcome, formally welcomed attending groups, officials, judges and visiting dignitaries from overseas. The highlight of the welcoming ceremony was the arrival and attendance of the Maori king, Kingi Tuheitia, and his wife, Makau Ariki, who opened the Australian kapa haka festival, an event celebrating Maori culture through song and dance. The Canberra and region kapa haka performers, aged from three upwards, sang the welcome to the Maori king and other dignitaries. There was also a welcome to country by Auntie Agnes Shea, which showed a great deal of sympathy and cooperation between Indigenous people on both sides of the ditch.

The speeches of welcome and responses from visitors were interspersed with prayer and impressive singing, a foretaste of the entertainment of the next day. Attendees were also witness to the most astounding exposition of the rhetorical arts. Despite all the speeches being in a language I do not understand, my interest did not fade, even after eight obviously impressive speeches. I did not have the opportunity to attend the kapa haka proper on Saturday, but some of my staff did attend, and I understand it was a great success.

There was some disquiet expressed by some of the organisers that there was such a small amount of financial assistance for the organisers from the ACT government, which is sad considering the number of people who travelled from interstate and overseas to attend the kapa haka.

I want to pay tribute to the Tradies club, who contributed financially to the organisation. I also want to pay tribute to various people and organisations—ACT Maori Performing Arts Inc and their president, Geoff Wallace; the Australian-New Zealand Maori Culture School of Dreams and its director, Isaac Cotter; and the Kia Ora Te Whanau Social Club and its organiser, Raewyn Bastion—for organising a fantastic event. The welcome that I and my staff received was very warm and very genuine. The experience of the great Maori culture was one that I will remember for a long time.

The great participation of all those in attendance was something marvellous to see. I understand that there are now three Australian groups—sadly, not the ACT group—who will be travelling to Rotorua for the kapa haka festival in 2013. I wish all Australian participants good luck, but I want to pay particular tribute to the ACT Maori Performing Arts group and their associated organisations for organising such a splendid event. I wish them success in the future.

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