Cultural misunderstandings regarding the use of Māori rituals in Pākehā surroundings have led to embarrassment and anger. Recently, a woman, Bullock by name, filed a claim against the Department of Corrections with the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) a body whose job, amongst others, is to review breaches of human rights as defined under the Human Rights Act 1993. The Department of Corrections was charged with “sexual discrimination.” At the foundation of this claim was the traditional Māori gender-specific role of pūkōrero, (a Maori orator) a person who during rituals of encounter will extend greetings but more importantly through acknowledgement and invocation remove the tapu of the manuhiri (the visitors) in such a way as make them one with the tangata whenua (the hosts). Bullock claimed that she was prevented from speaking and sitting in the place reserved for whaikorero (oratory). The HRRT agreed that the Department of Corrections was guilty of sexual discrimination and that the Māori practice of excluding women from the paepae (place of oratory) was sexually inappropriate. The Māori perspective of the events was never considered by the Tribunal. This paper considers the Bullock case from the Maori perspective, highlights a number of issues that deserved attention and raises the possibility that the HRRT erred in their assessment of the facts.

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