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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays


Youths migrating to the cities arrive often without permanent accommodation and without enough money: they probably have relatives to stay with till they find board, though the relative's house may be overcrowded They may find one of those bed-and-breakfast places that 'welcome' Maoris and charge more for the privilege, or insist on their being out al1 day, even at weekends. They may prefer to go flatting with friends. They are likely to have pakeha neighbours complaining, and police interrupting, if they sing at parties. They keep shifting from place to place. They are removed from the restraints of their home district—the Tribal Committee, wardens, older relatives who sit and watch them at the youth club dances; and they are glad to be free of the parental nagging that descends at adolescence. They are exposed to the excitement and anxiety-ridden values of the films and popular music. They frequently get into trouble. In 1960, a fifth of magistrate's court convictions for 'distinct prisoners'* in arrest cases were Maoris, and 17 out of 100 prisoners sentenced in the Supreme Court; 31 of 100 prisoners received were Maoris. It is possible, as was argued at Whakatane, that the statistics give an inaccurate picture, since there are no figures for undetected crime, and it might well be that most Maori crime is detected. Maoris are less frequently represented be counsel and more often plead guilty. Delegates at Whakarewarewa claimed that adolescents under police interrogation confess to crimes they haven't committed in the hope of escaping an anxious and unfamiliar situation: the 1955 inquiry into the Ruka-Harris case confirms that this has happened at least once. Police are seldom willing to call in a welfare officer or the tribal committee. Magistrates in Hamilton and Rotorua have stated that Maoris are not obtaining proper counsel, but in other towns seem to be provoked into strictures: pakeha offenders are not called a disgrace to their race. A year or two ago, one magistrate took it on himself to deliver a misinformed attack on the Ringatu religion, and order a youth to abandon it. But if there is any prejudice in the magistrates' courts, the statistics show only a slight difference between the proportions of Maoris and non-Maoris who are not convicted.12 Measures suggested at conferences were the provision of legal aid, and co-operation between the police and welfare officers or tribal committees. Since offenders will talk more freely to Maoris, more participation of Maoris in the processes page 112 of justice is desirable: not only Maori policemen, but Maori J.P.'s. It is a pity there are so few Maori lawyers; consequently there is no immediate prospect of Maori magistrates. Maoris are excluded from jury rolls, but at present Maori leaders prefer to accept this as a restriction incurred by the right of a Maori who has committed a crime against another Maori to be tried by a Maori jury. But since most Maori offences are not against other Maoris, and the right is seldom invoked, I cannot see why the right to be tried by a Maori jury should entail the exclusion of Maoris from other juries.

Most of the crimes are against the person (assault, sexual offences) or against property, particularly theft, breaking and entering, and car conversion. At Kaitaia it was said that in a small community where everyone is related it is no crime to help oneself to another's property, and that Maoris do not take so serious a view of carnal knowledge. This defence is not a strong one, but it points the need for Mr Hunn's suggestion, supported by two conferences, that youths about to leave for the city should be instructed in 'permissible conduct'. But surely one factor in car conversions is the discrimination against Maoris (imposed by insurance companies) by rental car firms. For the rest the reasons for juvenile crime are boredom, insecurity, unemployment, frustration from overcrowding or from boarding where one is not welcome, and a desire for kicks. Several conferences suggested more provision for recreation and social life: in the country there are the youth clubs, in the cities there are the pakeha sports organizations and the Y.M.C.A., and Auckland has (for schoolboys) its police-run Boystown. Wellington has its Ngaati-Pooneke Club; Auckland's Community Centre is more of a hall for dances and talent quests than a true social centre—and factionalism has held up progress with the proposed Ngaati-Aakarana marae. Several conferences have seen the problem as one of reception of migrants as they reach the city. A Wellington soft-goods firm, with the help of welfare officers, found accommodation for twelve girls it was bringing from Wairoa, but obviously the possibility of this sort of arrangement is limited. Elders at the Auckland conference suggested tribal 'embassies' in each city, financed by tribal Trust Boards, as meeting-places and reception centres. Six-month transit hostels have been suggested. And the simplest and most radical suggestion, from the Tauranga discussion group who prepared a paper on employment for the Whakarewarewa conference, is that pakeha homes should take Maori boarders.

The Tauranga group's statement is worth quoting since it gives an insight into how Maoris see the problem. If the English is awkward, it should be remembered that it is a foreign language, and, further, that it would be unusual in European society to have a group meeting fortnightly to discuss a serious public question, consisting of secondary pupils, an apprentice, four clerks, a labourer, a telephone operator, a hotel domestic, three teachers and three farmers.

page 113

The whole situation requires fundamental thinking for, at the present time, where Maori youth must leave the spiritual security of their homes, and the society in which they have grown up, to live in an alien and not-understood environment, the guidance necessary in the growing up period of adolescence and early adulthood must be supplied. This is the very period when all humanity needs guidance but is least willing to accept it even from their own family. The problem is not so much the provision of board and lodging but the provision of those spiritual necessities which culminate in that feeling of 'belongingness' to the community from which stems self-respect. . . .

So here we put out clarion calls to both Pakeha and Maori. To the former we ask that you go out of your way to welcome us into your communities and into your homes and that you be not over-critical of those behaviour patterns which do not conform to yours. If at times we jar we shall at least be being given the opportunity to learn how to conform. Without your sympathetic co-operation we shall find the results of all our strivings to be in vain, consequently not worth the effort entailed. Take our youth into your homes as boarders, rent us your homes not your derelict buildings, give our families who come to live among you the courtesies of neighbourliness.

To the Maori people we say, if, as is now the case, you have for the economic stability of yourself and your family, to leave your home district and take work in towns then accept those unknown difficulties, so frightening because they are unknown, with the set idea that your inherent abilities and strength of character can overcome them; realise that it is a sad fact that the behaviour pattern of many of our race has over the years been such as to warrant condemnation, and determine to eschew them. The acceptance of those requirements on each side will do much toward the elimination of the necessity for so much hostel accommodation.

12 It is possible that no conclusion can be drawn from the published statistics which show only a selection—arrest cases only (which are only a tenth of total distinct cases) and only about half of those, without any indication of how these cases were selected. For what they are worth, the percentages worked out from the selection of distinct arrest cases from the Magistrates' Courts in Reports on the Justice Statistics of N.Z. are: 2.84% fewer Maoris not convicted than non-Maoris in 1958; 3.52% in 1959; 3.64% in 1960.

* i.e., prisoners as distinct from charges.