Who is a Kiwi ?

New Zealand is a wonderful place. It has a rich and diverse cultural mix. 

Many Pakeha have been here for generations.  I myself am a 4th generation Kiwi.  While I do have a strong Irish heritage, I am a New Zealander, like many other pakeha people living here.  I don’t identify myself as being Irish.  But just exactly who am I?

I don’t believe I am the first person to ask this.  I am not a displaced person, like many Maori are or were.  My ancestors came here by choice. 

Maori people are doing a fantastic job of claiming who they are.  Much of which was lost with the European settlers and the urban shift in the 50’s.

But what are we, the Pakeha’s doing about our identity?  How are we going to claim who we are?

We don’t have to go along with the flow.  We have to create our own unique identity that makes us a Pakeha New Zealander.

Although there many people from other countries living in New Zealand, Pakeha still remain the largest section of the population.  The new New Zelander’s know who they are by their rituals and practices but the Pakeha blend is not so easy to define. 

While migrants bring a richness and diversity to our wonderful country, they are not New Zealanders - yet.  They still hang on to their own culture – it is not only innate it has been nurtured and we encourage it.  There is the Chinese New Year Celebrations and the Indian Lighting Celebrations, Ramadam, Pacifica, Kapa Haka just to name a few.  But what do Pakeha’s claim as their cultural celebrations? Who has nurtured the Pakeha New Zealander?

Migrants to New Zealand often continue to mix in their own ethnic groups and settle in one particular area.  Many of the older people do not even learn English.  For example, many Chinese settled in East Auckland while the Korean’s gravitated to North Shore.  While it is not exclusive, it is what has happened.  This is not wrong.  By nature we tend to gravitate and settle around the people we most identify with.   

In all aspects of society there is a wide cultural mix.  In my area, healthcare, the cultural mix is very marked.  Some migrants have been taught to understand Maori through compulsory Treaty workshops but what have we done to understand the Pakeha?  There are no courses or training for this yet.  Migrants coming to New Zealand, get a work, visitors or student visa and begin to work without any comprehension of who a Kiwi is.  Often their main motivation to live here is to earn a living, which they are unable to do in their own country.   While I appreciate the difficulties migrants have experienced making a living or a life for themselves in their own country, a university degree behind them does not necessarily teach them how to look after a sick or frail New Zealander.

I believe that unless we start to defining who a Pakeha New Zealander is, and claiming who we are as a people, we are in extreme danger of going down a similar path to the Maori.  We can stop this now and start to create our own unique identity.  So tell me, who are you?  Who is the Pakeha New Zealander?

Author:  Leigh Kelly RN ADN
Independent Nurse Educator Age & Residential Care


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