History of New Zealand seeks to address gaps in knowledge

  Tamsin Hanly is in her lounge room with the product of four years of work laid out in front of her. “These are it,” she says. “Six books on…


Tamsin Hanly is in her lounge room with the product of four years of work laid out in front of her.

“These are it,” she says. “Six books on New Zealand history that together constitute a curriculum programme resource for teachers and schools.

“I took out a mortgage on the family home to do this. The Ministry had no funding for it but a resource like this is desperately needed.”

Hanly explains research that backs up her assertion. She quotes from the 2011 ERO report that states the majority of schools are not addressing their obligations under Treaty of Waitangi principles, and she points to research showing teachers across the country avoid teaching about our history because they lack the knowledge and confidence to tackle the job.

That’s a shame, says Hanly, but it’s not surprising. Most teachers went through a school system that avoided teaching the histories of Māori and Pākehā. What history was taught was often inaccurate.

“So it’s not our fault we don’t know our history,” she says. “Nor is it our fault what happened in our history. But if we are to seriously address the Treaty principles it’s important that we know who we are and know our stories – the good ones and the hard ones.”

Hanly’s resource presents those stories in easy to read summaries, based on the work of our most prominent historians. The first book, Te Ao Māori o Neherā, covers Māori world views, history and knowledge, before encounters with Pākehā and a second, The British Isles, traces the development of a world view that our Pākehā forbears brought with them to Aotearoa-New Zealand. Subsequent volumes explore the interactions between Māori and Pākehā right up to the twenty-first century.

Alongside the narrative Hanly has included suggested activities for use in the classroom, as well as references for further reading and resources.

She is aware that the resource could appear intimidating and that is why she’s offering one-day workshops to schools that help them approach the material.

“Usually they are whole school events, often including board members. People often find them quite life-changing because they discover things about our country that they haven’t known before. But the sky doesn’t fall in. Instead people find that we have incredible histories that we can be proud of.”

As a result of the workshop, groups of teachers usually plan to introduce some of the new knowledge into their classrooms. Often they plan to build a programme over a period of years, working at their own comfort level. The process is assisted by the fact that Hanly gives schools that purchase the resource, rights to photocopy it.

“This is my offering“, says Hanly. “It’s been created with a lot of love for both Māori and Pākehā.”

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