Pākehā not broad enough

March 7, 2018

Another complaint about this year’s census is the stir over the options for ethnicity:

An Auckland man is pushing for the term Pākehā to be included as an ethnicity option in the census form.

Piha resident Peter Hosking was part of a Call me Pākehā online campaign, calling for the return of the term Pākehā in the census.

It was last featured in the 1996 census when it was bracketed next to New Zealand European, but was removed from the next census. . .

I don’t have a problem with calling myself a Pākehā but I won’t accept the ethnic category European New Zealander.

Ethnicity has several definitions including the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition; a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like; shared cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions that set apart one group of people from another.

By none of those definitions would I claim to be European which is defined as relating to or characteristic of Europe or its inhabitants.

It can also be someone of European descent and that could indicate the colour of my skin but it doesn’t apply to a common national or cultural tradition to which I have any connection.

All of the antecedents I can trace were Scottish or New Zealanders of Scottish descent. All those born there all either died, or left, Scotland long before it became part of the European Union. I am sure none of them would claim European ethnicity.

It is possible that many centuries ago the ancestors of those ancestors I know about came from a European country, but Europe is a group of  different countries with different languages and cultures and I doubt if anyone from any of those many and varied countries would put European as their ethnicity.

Why then is is applied to people on the other side of the world, almost as far away as it’s possible to get from the European continent?

To add to the absurdity in the other category on the census form, Dutch is given as an example of ethnicity. If people from the Netherlands are Dutch rather than European surely New Zealanders should be New Zealanders rather than European.

That takes me back to Pākehā. While I don’t mind being classified as one, if I understand its meaning correctly I couldn’t categorise myself as one if my ancestors weren’t Scottish but were, for example Indian, Japanese, Iranian or Kenyan.

Or what if I was of Maori descent? The census allows you to tick more than one ethnicity box but would anyone who ticks Maori also tick Pākehā which can mean foreigner or not Maori?

We might well have lots of these people who consider themselves to be of New Zealand ethnicity but wouldn’t be comfortable claiming to be Pākehā.

If we were in Australia those of us who shared the cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions that set us apart as New Zealanders could tick New Zealander as our ethnicity.

It is high time we could do it at home.


Who am I?

March 5, 2013

Who am I is a fundamental question of identity.

Ethnicity is a fundamental piece of the jigsaw that provides the answer.

For census purposes an ethnic group is defined as:

 . . . people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name 
  • one or more elements of common culture which need not be specified, but may include religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  •  a shared sense of common origins or ancestry 
  • a common geographic origin.

The group into which I best fit with that definition is New Zealander.

But those of us who consider ourselves to be of New Zealand ethnicity will have to tick other and write New Zealander in the box because the census doesn’t consider it important enough to have a category of its own.

At least this year we will be counted under that category. Until the last census anyone who wrote New Zealander was considered to be a European New Zealander. That gross act of official and discriminatory presumption must have miscounted a whole lot of people of all sort of descent who considered their ethnicity to mean a lot more than where there ancestors happened to come from.

But it is ridiculous that still New Zealander can only be a self-selecting after thought and not a category in its own right as it is in Australia.

If we can’t count in our own country how can we answer who we are – or should that be whaddarya?


Time to count Kiwis

February 16, 2013

The delivery of census forms starts today.

New Zealand is gearing up for the largest government-run activity this year, the Census on March 5th.

 Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson says more than 7,000 census collectors will from tomorrow start delivering census forms to every home.

 “Included with forms is an internet access code for people to complete them online, which is a secure, quick and easy option.

 “The Government has set 10 Better Public Services results, including, New Zealanders can complete their transactions with the Government easily in a digital environment. The 2013 Census is an example of how we are doing that by making it easy for people to take part in this important event online.”

 Statistics New Zealand expects more than two million census forms will be completed online on Census day.

“If everyone in a household completes forms online then the census collector will receive a text saying they don’t have to return that address to collect them,” Mr Williamson says.

Official census collectors will be wearing a yellow identification badge and carrying a blue census bag.

The 0800 CENSUS helpline is also ready to take calls from the public.

The census is designed to count us all, but count us as what?

It’s entered the 21st century with the ability for people to complete the forms online.

But it’s still stuck in the 20th century with the options under ethnicity.

Ethnicity is defined as  a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship. 

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name 
  • one or more elements of common culture which need not be specified, but may include religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  •  a shared sense of common origins or ancestry 
  • a common geographic origin.

But the options given are are New Zealand European, Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian, Other such as Dutch, Japanese, Tokelauan.

This suggests that people of Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian and all sorts of other descent aren’t ethnic New Zealanders  which is divisive and does not reflect our multicultural society.

If it’s  ethnicity not race they’re measuring, why are the only people who count as Kiwis, European New Zealanders or those who choose New Zealander in the other category.

It is high time our statistics moved into the 21st century and gave New Zealander as a proper option rather than an afterthought.

If enough of us choose that option it might force a change for the next census.


Census miscounts NZers still

January 9, 2013

The census, which was cancelled in 2011 after the February earthquake in Christchurch, is taking place in a couple of months.

It will be very like the 2006 one which allowed us to  choose New Zealander as our ethnicity, but only in the other category.

A review of the official ethnicity statistical standard was initiated by Statistics NZ in 2008, after ‘New Zealander’ responses in the last census rose to 11.1 percent, from 2.4 percent in 2001. The scope of the review was wider than census but was used in conjunction with the census cognitive testing and research programme in decision-making for the 2011 Census. For more information about the research completed by the review and what this involved, see the Final Report of a Review of the Official Ethnicity Statistical Standard 2009.

In the review, most key users of census data stated that the format of the census ethnicity question should remain unchanged. They emphasised the importance of consistency in statistics across the Official Statistics System and the comparability of the ethnicity measure over time. These views reflect concerns that even a minor change in a questionnaire’s format can have unintended but significant impacts on responses and subsequent statistical outputs.
Some submissions to the review expressed a desire for greater visibility for ‘New Zealander’ responses. As with outputs from the 2006 Census, this will be done by having ‘New Zealander’ as a separate category (under ‘Other’) in several of the 2011 Census outputs. For an example of how ‘New Zealander’ responses in the 2006 Census were output, see QuickStats About a Place on the Statistics NZ website.   . .

The importance of consistency is obvious if those who use statistics are to be able to make comparisons between one census and another.

But some things change and cultural identity is one of those.

My mother used to refer to Britain as Home, even before she’d been there. That wasn’t uncommon for her generation and they probably didn’t think twice about claiming European ethnicity.

That is no longer the case for most of us.

Although, when you look at the definition of ethnicity, I’m not sure it ever really was:

Ethnicity refers to the ethnic group or groups that people identify with or feel they belong to. Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship. Ethnicity is self-perceived and people can affiliate with more than one ethnic group.

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name 
  • one or more elements of common culture which need not be specified, but may include religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  •  a shared sense of common origins or ancestry 
  • a common geographic origin.

If ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship why are the choices for ethnicity New Zealand European, Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian, Other such as Dutch, Japanese, Tokelauan?

All of those seem to owe at least as much to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship as they do to culture.

If some of us are supposed to be European New Zealanders, which particular European culture are we affiliated to?

I like Spain and its culture, I lived there for three months and have been back three times since then. But I couldn’t claim to have Spanish ethnicity and have even less connection to the many other European cultures.

Given the diversity of Europe it would be difficult to claim a cultural connection to it as a whole. If I identify with any culture outside New Zealand it would be, thanks to my tartan gene, the Scottish one. Scotland is now, thanks to EU membership politically aligned to Europe but that is very different from cultural affiliation.

The form acknowledges this by giving Dutch as an example under other.

Why do only those who regard themselves as having a European cultural affiliation get to claim to be New Zealanders?

It suggests that it isn’t culture but skin colour which matters.

It’s discriminatory and insulting that people of Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian or any other descent don’t count as New Zealanders except under other.

I have a great niece and great nephew born here whose father is a Kiwi and mother is Argentinean. They are too young to define their cultural affiliation now but I am quite sure it wouldn’t be European.

The more I travel the more I am aware of New Zealand culture which includes elements of different cultures and races but which transcends them, recognises what we have in common and unites us as New Zealanders.

Consistency is important in censuses but so too is accuracy and the ethnic category is no longer accurate for our multi-cultural country.

The Australian census has New Zealander as an ethnic category.

It’s more than time we did too, recognising  New Zealander as category and not lost as a footnote among the others.


Them and us

June 2, 2011

Why do people who collect statistics and design survey forms consider race to be more important than any other factors which  define ethnicity?

This morning I completed a survey for Air New Zealand and was pleased that at last it’s possible to be a New Zealand of either Maori or European descent in answer to the question how would you describe your ethnic origin?

  New Zealander/ Kiwi/ New Zealander of European descent
  Maori/ New Zealander of Maori descent
  European
  Pacific Islander
  Japanese
  Chinese
  Korean
  Indian
  Middle Eastern
  Eastern European
  Other Asian
  Or another ethnicity (please type in)

 But why can’t New Zealanders of Maori descent be Kwis and what about all the other people who happen to be descended from other races?

Why does having a Scottish father and maternal grandparents allow me to claim New Zealand ethnicity when having antecedents from the Pacific Islands, Asia and North or South America wouldn’t?

And if it’s ethnicity rather than race they’re interested in why European which covers a multitude of ethnicities?

New Zealander isn’t just nationality it’s an ethnicity which takes in all the things which unite us regardless of our race.

This is the 21st century and it’s time statisticians and survey designers caught up with the reality – race is only one aspect of ethnicity. Making it the prime determinant is excluding and inexact.


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