1 Mar 2020

A panel discussion about LGBTQ+ life in New Zealand

From Smart Talk at the Auckland Museum
Thomas Sainsbury, Tanu Gago, Louisa Wall, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Welby Ings

Thomas Sainsbury, Tanu Gago, Louisa Wall, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Welby Ings Photo: Auckland Museum/Max Lemesh Photography

Comedian Tom Sainsbury chairs a discussion explores LGBTQ+ life in New Zealand at Pride Festival Aotearoa.

It features four panellists with decades of involvement in the gay scene as creators, advocates and agents of change: Louisa Wall MP, Prof. Welby Ings, Professor Emeritus Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, and award-winning artist and filmmaker Tanu Gago.

Their conversation surveys many aspects of our recent history, from the dark years of the 1950s when it was illegal to be gay up to marriage reform.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The protection of LGBTQ+ rights is advanced in Aotearoa, relative to other countries in Oceania, and is one of the most liberal in the world, with the country being the first in the region to enact same-sex marriage.

However, none of the panellists believes that we are living in a post-queer world, and several warn against assuming that the freedoms LGBTQ+ individuals have achieved in Aotearoa are replicated in other countries, or indeed that they will necessarily remain intact.

There are still countries in the world where being queer, gay, bisexual or transgender is a criminal offence or worse, punished by death. And in many, including in the Pacific, non-heterosexual people do not feel free to live their authentic lives.

About the participants:

Thomas Sainsbury, Tanu Gago

Thomas Sainsbury, Tanu Gago Photo: Auckland Museum/Max Lemesh Photography

Louisa Wall

Louisa Wall is the MP for Manurewa, having stood for the New Zealand Labour Party. She has represented New Zealand in both netball as a Silver Fern and rugby union as a member of the Black Ferns.

Born in Taupo, Wall has Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Waikato ancestry. She was named after her father's cousin Louis, who died on the day she was born.

She attended secondary school at Taupo-nui-a-Tia College and earned qualifications from the Waikato Institute of Technology, the University of Waikato and Massey University. She worked in the health field. She is openly lesbian and is a strong advocate for human rights.

In May 2012, Wall submitted a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage in New Zealand to the Member's bill ballot. it was subsequently drawn and introduced to Parliament in late July 2012.

On 29 August 2012, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed its first reading with a vote of 80–40. On 17 April 2013, the Bill was passed into law by 77 votes to 44, making New Zealand the 13th nation to allow same-sex marriage. The Bill came into effect on 19 August 2013, since then married same-sex couples in New Zealand have been able to adopt children jointly.

At the third reading, Wall gave a speech likening the passing of the Bill to Treaty of Waitangi settlement acts previously passed by the New Zealand Parliament. She stated the passing of the Bill was like winning a "World Cup final". (Wikipedia)

Welby Ings

Professor of Graphic Design in the School of Art and Design at AUT, Ings describes himself as a ‘disobedient’ thinker. An internationally renowned speaker and educational reformer, he sees productive disobedience as behaviour that pushes our thinking and action into new and unconsidered realms. Specifically, he questions our anxious micromanaging of thought and our preoccupation with tick box assessment. In 2017, his best-selling book Disobedient Teaching became influential in the reconceptualisation of New Zealand education.

Although Professor Ings is an award-winning author, he is also a designer and director. His interest in film as a story-telling medium has seen his three short films Boy, Munted and Sparrow selected for numerous international film festivals including Cannes. Boy was shortlisted for the 2006 Academy Awards. And this short film

Professor Ings believes that scholarship is by its very nature, creative. He sees creativity as part of normal human thought. With designers, its quality lies in the fact that creativity is not used to prove ‘truth’. He says “We don’t seek the truth when we design; we seek to find elegant and appropriate answers.” He does not see teaching as dissemination of knowledge, rather, it is creating an environment for learning. Effective learning, he says, involves ongoing, intelligent, disobedient acts that help to move knowledge beyond the constraints of formula.

Professor Ings completed his PhD in 2005 on the structure and profiles of narrative music videos and television commercials. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK), a member of the Designers’ Institute of New Zealand, the New Zealand Screen Directors’ Guild.

In 2002, he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence and the NZ Government Award for Sustained Tertiary Teaching Excellence. In 2013 he was awarded the inaugural AUT medal for his contribution to learning and research.

Professor Ings takes his position as critic and conscience of society very seriously and isn’t afraid to deal with knowledge and issues that are underrepresented. His research and design have seen him tackle the history of the culture of male prostitution, homosexual law reform, mental health and marginalised thinking.

He reviews for a number of national and international funding agencies, including Creative New Zealand. His research also covers the historical metamorphosis of underground languages, methodological approaches to creative practice in higher research degree education, the reconceptualisation of doctoral research, and the role and nature of storytelling as academic inquiry. (AUT)

Thomas Sainsbury, Tanu Gago, Louisa Wall, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Welby Ings

Thomas Sainsbury, Tanu Gago, Louisa Wall, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Welby Ings Photo: Auckland Museum / Max Lemesh Photography

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

Prof. Emeritus Ngahuia Te Awekotuku MNZM (born 1949 of Te Arawa, Tūhoe and Waikato iwi) is an academic specialising in Māori cultural issues and a noted lesbian activist.

Te Awekotuku has worked across the heritage, culture and academic sectors as a curator, lecturer, researcher and activist. Her areas of research interest include gender issues, museums, body modification, power and powerlessness, spirituality and ritual. She has been curator of ethnology at the Waikato Museum; lecturer in art history at Auckland University, and professor of Maori studies at Victoria University of Wellington. She was Professor of Research and Development at Waikato University. She and Marilyn Waring contributed the piece "Foreigners in our own land" to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan. Although now retired, she continues to write.

In the 2010 New Year Honours, Te Awekotuku was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori culture. In 2017, she won an Auckland Museum Medal]

Te Awekotuku has researched and written extensively on the traditional and contemporary practices of tā moko in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her 2007 (re-published in 2011) book Mau Moko: the world of Maori tattoo, co-authored with Linda Waimarie Nikora, was the product of a five-year-long research project.

Te Awekotuku took a moko kauae (facial moko) to mark the death of Te Arikinui Dame te Atairangikaahu in 2006.

In 2009 Te Awekotuku and Linda Waimarie Nikora received a Marsden Fund grant as lead researchers in the Māori and Psychology Research Unit at Waikato University for the research project 'Apakura: the Maori way of death'. More funding was received from the Nga Pae o te Maramatanga National Institute of Research Excellence to explore past and present practices around tangihanga.

In 1972, Te Awekotuku was denied a visitors permit to the USA because she was a homosexual. Publicity around the incident was a catalyst in the formation of Gay Liberation groups in New Zealand. This may have been related to a TV interview she gave in 1971, in which she described herself as a 'sapphic woman.’ (Wikipedia)

Tanu Gago

Tanu Gago is a prominent photographer, curator, producer, filmmaker, photographer, visual artist and queer activist.

Born in Samoa and raised in South Auckland, Gago maintains a creative and social practice that spans the past six years. His political activism predominantly sits within the fine arts, working in new media, staged portraiture, moving image, film, social marketing and community development. His practice is collaborative and examines cultural framing, decolonisation, social politics, queer activism and gender and sexually diverse narratives.

Gago is the co-founder and creative director of Pacific LGBT Arts Collective entitled FAFSWAG; established in 2012 with life partner and fellow award-winning interdisciplinary artist Pati Solomona Tyrell. Under Gago’s direction, FAFSWAG has carved out credible cultural space within the contemporary arts within New Zealand.

Gago has worked for the greater part of the last decade as a producer for theatre, film and live events, a curator of queer Pacific Arts, and as the Pacific community engagement coordinator for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. He sits on the Love Life Fono Charitable Trust board, Creative New Zealand Arts & Advocacy Advisory Board, Auckland Council’s Pacific Arts and Culture Programme Board and works as an advisor for Pasifika Festival.

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Photo: Auckland Museum

This panel discussion was recorded in partnership with the Auckland Museum.