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Sporting life

All Blacks triumphant after winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup (pic: New Zealand Herald)

All Blacks triumphant after winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup (pic: New Zealand Herald)

2015 has been a great year for sport and world cups.

At the beginning of the year New Zealand hosted the Cricket World Cup. There were great cricketing moments from the Black Caps, like Martin Guptill’s double century over the West Indies, or the touching photo of Grant Elliott helping South African Dale Steyn up after the Black Caps’ win to make the finals. Although we lost to our sport nemesis, Australia, in our first cricket final, it will never be as bad as the unforgotten underarm bowling incident.

New Zealand also hosted the FIFA Under-20s World Cup in May.  This is FIFA’s second-largest competition for males. Our under-20 team managed to make the knock-out stages for the first time, but the ultimate champions were Serbia. Football in New Zealand has slowly gained more recognition thanks to the All Whites, the Phoenix and the growing number of New Zealanders playing football internationally.

In August, Australia hosted the Netball World Cup. As usual, it was a Silver Ferns-versus-Diamonds final, and (unlike 2003) the Silver Ferns couldn’t pull it off.

Mid-September saw the start of the Rugby World Cup. The opening of course featured Rugby School and William Webb Ellis.  The All Blacks are the defending champions, with no team ever yet winning two cups back-to-back. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up like 2007.

Long to reign over us

Queen Elizabeth II on the observation platform of her royal car, 1954 (pic: Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga)

Queen Elizabeth II on the observation platform of her royal car, 1954 (pic: Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga)

On Wednesday, after more than 63½ years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II surpasses her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, as the longest-reigning British monarch. Because New Zealand did not become part of the British Empire until several years after Victoria’s accession, Elizabeth has been this country’s longest-reigning monarch since 2013. Between them, Victoria and Elizabeth have been New Zealand’s head of state for more than 70% of its existence as a separate colony, dominion or ‘realm’.

The two reigns have an inverse symmetry. Victoria became monarch in an era of imperial expansion accompanied by economic and social upheaval (think Chartism). She lived long enough to experience the high point of empire – absolute British rule over India – but also anxiety about the rise of Germany and the United States, and trouble with the Irish.

Elizabeth’s era has been one of imperial decline. By the time she succeeded her father, King George VI, in 1952, the country that had stood alone against Hitler in 1940 was no longer a great power. The Indian subcontinent was already independent, and the rest of the Commonwealth soon followed suit. In 2015 the United Kingdom is a middling country on the edge of Europe whose internal unity can’t be taken for granted.

The monarch’s role has shrunk along with her domain. Victoria – especially while her husband Albert was alive – expected ‘her’ ministers to at least take her views seriously. Even after the Reform Act 1832, only 5% of Britain’s population had the vote, and Parliament and government were dominated by an elite steeped in deference. Today, Elizabeth acts only on the advice of the people’s representatives.

Queen Victoria never visited New Zealand – or India, even though she was installed as its Empress and studied Hindustani. Elizabeth II was the first reigning monarch to visit New Zealand, in 1953, six months after her coronation. She has been back nine times, on the last occasion in 2002 as part of a golden jubilee tour of the Commonwealth. Since then younger members of the royal family have visited this country frequently.

The significance of the monarchy today is largely cultural. In the 1950s every household seemed to have a souvenir of the first visit by the young Queen and her dashing naval officer husband. Tea towels hung proudly on walls and commemorative booklets graced mantelpieces. Watching the Queen’s Christmas message on television remains part of the Christmas Day ritual for many households.

Though Elizabeth retains an aura of authority – or at least, mystery – royal pomp and ceremony isn’t what it used to be. One milestone, in Wellington in 1970, was the Queen’s first so-called ‘walkabout’ (as it was dubbed by the British press corps, in a misguided reference to Australian Aboriginal custom). There was a strict ‘no-touching’ policy in relation to the royal person – yet today, a selfie with Prince Harry is probably the most sought-after souvenir of a royal visit.

As the silken bonds of empire continue to fray, the record royal reign is also likely to be one of the last, at least for New Zealanders.

Saluting Jack Perkins

Jack Perkins on the job

Jack Perkins on the job

It was the end of an era last month, when Jack Perkins hung up his headphones, or mic, or whatever it is that radio documentary producers hang up when they retire. Now 75, Perkins has spent 56 years in radio, producing Radio New Zealand National’s weekly Spectrum programme since 1972, when it was set up as a human-interest complement to the more current-affairs-focused Insight (also still running).

Portable recording gear (unwieldy though it was by today’s standards) was introduced in the 1960s, allowing radio producers to get out in the field, talking to people in their own environments. It brought a freshness and immediacy to radio, and Perkins made the style his own. ‘Radio had been a bit stuffy, it had been tied to the studio, largely,’ muses Perkins in Spectrum’s life and times’, an endearing two-part Spectrum about, well, itself, in which he chats with the programme’s founder, 88-year-old Alwyn ‘Hop’ Owen. ‘We were able to get out and get ordinary New Zealanders telling their own stories in their own voices, and that was a huge change … They were hearing their own stories fed back to them and the people in their community.’

In its 43 years Spectrum has been everywhere and met everyone, it seems – to a kākāpō-saving project in Fiordland, to the Nelson tip, up in Tiger Moths and helicopters, to rugby matches and protests and tattoo parlours and railway stations and many, many people’s lounges, from one end of the country to the other. And it has amassed a remarkable body of recording, of New Zealanders talking about themselves and their lives, and on subjects of all sorts, from long-line fishing to caravans to tsunamis to skydiving to boarding schools. It has recorded our voices and thoughts and memories and lives, and played them back to us, and preserved them. ‘We didn’t really know just how valuable in terms of social history we were going to be,’ says Perkins. ‘That’s right, you just got on with the job,’ chimes in Owen.

I was lucky myself to work with Jack in 2003 and 2004, when I was commissioned as a freelancer to do a couple of Spectrums, and was trained in the Perkins approach – which I mostly remember as a kind of stepping back, an intent listening, an allowing. In a guide for journalism students, he writes, ‘At the back of the farm, on the city street or on board the fishing boat, we talk to people in their own surroundings, capturing the activity and “feel” of everyday life – their feelings, attitudes, prejudices, stories and experience – first-hand and unfiltered – up close and personal.’ His work is often rich with layers of ambient sound – listen, for instance, to these clips from 1973 abortion protests and from a fruit and vege auction, and to the grizzled, lovely voices of these two interviewees – old mates, clearly – talking about coal mining.

I emailed Jack today, asking for a photo to use for this blog post, wishing him the best, and asking what his plans were. Unassuming as ever, he responded, ‘I feel as though I’m on holiday, it’s a bit unreal after 56 years. I’m just going to see how things go, I’ve nothing specific planned.’

You can catch part 2 of ‘The life and times of Spectrum’ this Sunday – 6 September – at midday on Radio New Zealand National.

Pressing forward

Equal pay cartoon on Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay tea towel (pic: private collection, Fran McGowan)

Equal pay cartoon on Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay tea towel (pic: private collection, Fran McGowan)

The other day I read a rather gloomy article entitled ‘Gender pay gap still there: so what are we doing about it?’ On average New Zealand men still earn roughly 10% more than women for an hour’s work – and the gap has actually widened in the past year. Equal pay for women has been an issue here since the 19th century, when feminists identified it as one of the prerequisites for women’s emancipation. As the Te Ara entry on Women’s labour organisations shows, despite many years of activism, this goal has not yet been reached, even though the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1972. While the gross injustice of men being paid a higher rate than women for doing exactly the same job has been rectified, female-dominated occupations such as early childhood education and aged care are still poorly paid, a reflection of the low value society still places on the work of looking after and nurturing others – work traditionally done by women. Moreover, career progression is often fraught for women in all kinds of occupations, especially for the large number who work part-time or take breaks from the workforce to raise children.

There are promising signs though. Recently Lower Hutt rest-home caregiver Kristine Bartlett, with the support of the Service and Food Workers Union, took a test case against her employer, TerraNova, arguing that her measly pay of $14.46 an hour was less than the rate men with similar skills would earn, and was so low because she worked in an industry where most of the employees are female. The Employment Court found in her favour, ruling that female-dominated industries should receive pay equivalent to what would be offered if that industry was male-dominated, and after TerraNova appealed, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Employment Court decision. Inspired by this landmark victory, Wellington nurses Erin Kennedy and Ann Simmons have just gone to court, alleging that hundreds of women working as nurses and caregivers are being significantly underpaid.

I will be following this case with great interest, but in the knowledge that the fight for equal pay and pay equity has a very long history, and that progress has been slow and hard-won.

On 19 September we will mark another Suffrage Day, and New Zealanders will once again be reminded that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote. It is good to celebrate this, but we should also remember what has still to be achieved. As Margaret Sievwright, one of those who campaigned successfully for the vote, remarked in 1894, ‘We have reached one milestone, it is true, the milestone of the suffrage; we pause, but only again to press forward.’

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Ko Te Wiki o te Reo Māori tēnei. Ko whāngaihia te reo Māori ki ngā mātua te kaupapa, arā, ka manaakitia e tātau ngā mātua ki te ako, ki te kōrero tā tātau reo, kia whāngaihia te reo e rātau ki ā tātau tamariki.

I te tau nei he āhua orite te mahi mo tātau.  Ia wiki, ia wiki ka whakawhiwhia e Te Taura Whiri tētahi kupu me tētahi rerenga kōrero. Ko e te tau te kupu o tēnei wiki, ko haramai, e te tau te rerenga kōrero.

This week is Māori Language Week. The theme of the week is fostering the Māori language in parents – if we support parents to learn and speak te reo, they can foster and teach the language to our children.

This year Te Taura Whiri have used the same idea as last year – one word a week, extended to include a short sentence or saying. This week’s word is ‘e te tau’ (darling), and the sentence is ‘Haramai, e te tau’ (come here, my darling).

Anei ētahi atu kia whāngaihia tō reo.

To help foster your language, here are a few more examples.

Tō ātaahua hoki!             You’re so beautiful.

Kei te mamae tō puku?    Is your tummy sore?

Tō kakara hoki!               You smell lovely.

Kei hea tō koti?               Where is your coat?

Māku koe e āwhina.         I will help you.

Ka nui tēnā.                    That’s enough.

Ko te reo kia rere, ko te reo kia tika, ko te reo kia Māori

Karawhiua!