Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Politics of Activism and Biculturalism: the emergence of bicultural consultancies in New Zealand

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posted on 2021-12-06, 22:55 authored by McKenzie, Ethan

In what many commentators have characterised as a contradictory trajectory, a number of people involved in radical anti-state activism, which defined New Zealand from the late 1960s to the 1980s, became consultants on biculturalism for government agencies by the late 1980s. These consultants ran seminars for Pākehā public servants on the history and contemporary impact of Māori oppression under colonialism; Māori language, culture, and protocol; and the proposed future of the Crown-Māori relationship. This thesis uses genealogy and case study methodology to track the emergence of bicultural consultancies, their ideology and techniques, and their role in Māori policy reform beginning in the late 1980s. It aims to reveal the connections and disjunctions between the goals of anti-state activists active from the late 1960s to the 1980s, and the bicultural consultancies which emerged by the late 1980s.  Māori anti-racist and anti-state activists and their Pākehā allies skilfully leveraged the state by invoking the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi to call for a new partnership between Māori and the state, a partnership that by the 1980s was officially termed biculturalism. The public sector, which was identified as institutionally racist by activists, was an important focus of this activism. Activists demanded that Pākehā-dominated government departments be reformed to better reflect and serve Māori. The state’s response to these demands, beginning in earnest with the 1988 policy paper Te Urupare Rangapu and additionally sustained by the precepts of so-called ‘bicultural’ or ‘Treaty’ issues, created the demand for consultants to assist with reforming Māori policy making and delivery, and by extension, those public servants that would be responsible for the success of these reforms. While bicultural consultants were still working with anti-racist ideas and frameworks, the ascendancy of bicultural and Treaty discourses by the end of the 1980s somewhat obfuscated the ontologies of race and institutional racism in their work.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

New Zealand Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Stout Research Centre

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Hill, Richard; Green, Anna