15 Mar 2018

Huggies removes offensive list of Māori baby names

11:31 am on 15 March 2018

Multinational nappy company Huggies has removed an online list of Māori baby names with advice for parents after complaints it was racist and offensive.

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Photo: pexels

Māori cultural adviser Karaitiana Taiuru told Morning Report he complained to Huggies for about 18 months, but it wasn't until the story was picked up on social media and news organisations that the information was removed.

He said some of the names were not Māori, were incorrectly translated, or were offensive because they referred to gods.

"Gods' names such as Tangaroa the god of the ocean, Rūamoko the god of earthquakes, Mahuika the god of fire.

"There was one name that wasn't a Māori name, Nyree.

Mr Taiuru said the list also included racist advice on how to pick a Māori name.

"Blatantly racist, so suggesting that a name shouldn't be long or hard to pronounce because the baby might be teased at school. There was other strange comments that a name ... needs to be able to flow with the surname, so there was no cultural understanding of the names."

"The general tone of the advice was racist. It did ignore that we are a bilingual country, we have the Māori language act, we have a commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, and I think it's just inappropriate for an international corporation to not actually get proper advice.

He said there were also problems with translations.

"For example, the name Ahurewa was only referred to as 'a sacred place'. The real meaning of Ahurewa is much more in depth and could be equivalent to naming your baby the pope, a priest, or another sort of religious term.

"The name 'Matiu' was another name which was offered as 'a gift of God' which is really a common translation of the name Matthew, so the 'gift of God' is more of - as I understand it - a Hebrew translation of the name Matthew."

"It was wrong and it was offensive, there was just no consideration of Māori names and how a lot of Māori names originate - for example from ancestors, from iwi names - there was no consideration of any of that.

He said the information had been on the Huggies website for at least five years, possibly longer.

He first complained about it 18 months ago, give or take a month or two.

"I used their online web form. Then several months later I tried ringing, then earlier this year I sent a public tweet to a ... twitter account for Huggies NZ, it was only yesterday that I found out that that account wasn't an official account."

He said the company now had taken all the pages down voluntarily, and had assured him it would do its best to correct the issues in the pages.

"My concern is the information's been there for five years, how many newborn babies during that period have incorrect names or have names that their parents think it means one thing yet it means another thing."

A spokesperson for Huggies said they were made aware of Mr Taiuru's concerns last week.

"And after speaking with him on this matter directly, we have temporarily removed the content. As a result, we are editing the article to ensure it is culturally appropriate.

"We sincerely apologise for any offence caused."