One of several detainees at Yongah Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia, Jack Aloua had been able to celebrate the 6 February cultural celebration in past years. This year, however, might be different as “nobody got behind it and backed it”.
“Finally a few of us boys got together and everyone wants to do it. So we’ve gone out of our way, we’ve got a team together,” Aloua told Newshub.
“We’ve got a band who’s playing. We wanted to do a kapa haka thing, we’re teaching the other detainees a few Māori songs.
“We said to make it fair for everyone we’ll do a barbeque, and that got denied.”
Aloua reckon almost all of his requests have been rejected, though. Aloua and company’s right to celebrate Waitangi Day reportedly hasn’t been formally denied, but it has not been encouraged either.
“Everything we’ve thrown at them is just getting denied. We’ve even had people from outside approach us saying that they want to bring in Māori food. That got denied for health reasons, I kind of understood that,” he added.
“It comes across as, in straightforward terms, a bit racist.
“It comes across quite offensive. The official made it sound like our day’s just like any other day.
“I was trying to explain to him that Waitangi Day’s a big thing for us Kiwis. It’s something we celebrate every year – even being incarcerated in jail you celebrate it. But it’s totally different in here.”
Waitangi Day, named after Waitangi where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed, commemorates a significant day in the history of New Zealand. Ceremonies take place each year on 6 February to celebrate the signing of the treaty, New Zealand’s founding document, on that date in 1840.
The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on 6 February 1840, in a marquee in the grounds of James Busby’s house (now known as the Treaty House) at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands by representatives acting on behalf of the British Crown and initially, more than 40 Māori chiefs.
During the next seven months, copies of the treaty were carried around the country to give other chiefs the opportunity to sign. The signing had the effect of securing British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand, which was proclaimed on 21 May 1840.