Māori activist Te Matahiapo Safari wins Amnesty International award

11:35 am on 19 December 2023
Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes. Credit: Rawhitiroa Photography

Maōri activist Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes. Photo: Supplied / Rawhitiroa Photography

Rangatahi Māori activist Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes has been announced as the winner of the Amnesty International Gary Ware Legacy Award.

Launched in 2020, the award was a funding opportunity from Amnesty International and designed to empower and equip young people with a passion for protecting and promoting human rights.

Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes (Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu), a prominent Māori rights activist and undergraduate law student at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University, was selected as this year's winner.

He will use the $4500 that came with the award to create new online resources that inspire and inform much needed kōrero (conversation) about indigenous rights in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Maōri activist Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes has been announced as the winner of the Amnesty International Gary Ware Legacy Award. This Waka Huia (treasure box) is a taonga that accompanies the award.
Image credit is Anne Shirley.

This taonga, a Waka Huia, accompanies Hynes' award. Photo: Supplied / Anne Shirley

Hynes said he was feeling fortunate to receive the award and thanked those who believed in him and his vision.

He said the place were most Māori shared ideas was on social media, and so that was where he wanted to promote discussion about Te Tiriti.

"Kei te mohio tātau ko te waka e kawe nei i ngā tini mātauranga, otirā ko te waka e kite whānuitia ana ngā kōrero ko te waka o te pae papori.

("We know that the vehicle which carries the most knowledge, where your messaging is seen most widely is social media.)

"Ko taku whakaaro me haere tātau ki ngā wāhi e haere nei te tangata, kauaka tātau e mea atu 'e koutou mā haere mai ki a au ki kōnei akoako ai.' Ko tāku kē me haere mātau, ētahi o ngā tangata pupuri ana i ngā mātauranga ki ngā wāhi e noho nei te tangata me te mea atu 'anei ngā kōrero, anei ngā matauranga hei kai mā koutou, hei kai mā hirikapo.''

("I think we need to be where the people are, we shouldn't be saying 'the people should be coming to me to learn. Instead, those that have the knowledge should be seeking out where the people are and saying 'here's our stories, here's our knowledge for you to learn.")

Hynes said Te Tiriti, rather than the English Treaty, was the document signed by Māori and so that was what should be paid attention to.

"Kauaka tātau e waiho mā pāremata tātau e tohutohu he aha te aha, he aha te tikanga o Te Tiriti o Waitangi, he aha te tikanga o ngā tikanga Māori o ngā kawa Māori, he aha te tikanga o te aha rawa rā. Ki ōku nei whakaaro me waiho mā tātau anō tātau e whakatau e tohutohu he aha te tikanga o Te Tiriti o Waitangi inā hoki i tuhia tērā kōrero i roto i te reo Māori."

("We shouldn't leave it to Parliament to tell us what's what, to tell us the meaning of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the meaning of Māori customs and protocols or whatever else. I think Māori should be left to decide, to instruct on the meaning of Te Tiriti, especially since it is written in te reo Māori.")

Hynes said Māori also needed to be thinking about what they were giving back to their iwi, whānau and marae, something he hoped to continue working on into the future.

"He nui noa atu ngā ara hei pare atu i ngā whiu mai ā te kawanatanga ki runga ki a tātau, arā ko te oranga o te reo, ko te oranga o ā tātau tikanga, ko te whakawhanake i ō tātau marae kia tū pakari kia tū kaha ai rātau. Koia ko ngā mea ki a au e tino whakaatu atu i te mana motuhake, i te tino rangatiratanga."

("There are many ways to ward of the attacks of the government on Māori, by keeping our language our customs alive, by developing our marae so they are robust and resilient. Those are the things that really show self-determination and sovereignty.")

Amnesty International Aotearoa community manager Margaret Taylor said the three rangatahi judges were impressed by Hynes' proven track record as a great communicator.

Additionally they saw a need for urgency and thought Hynes was a safe pair of hands to deliver human rights impact which was what the Gary Ware Legacy Award is all about, Taylor said.

"The judges, like Amnesty International, they did share concerns at the attacks on indigenous rights here in Aotearoa, and also like Te Matahiapo they believe that education is the key to pushing back against this divisive rhetoric and misinformation that is out there at the moment."

Taylor said the range of human rights ideas in this year's applications was particularly inspiring.

"The award is now in it's fourth year and every year the applications just get better and better and there's more depth and promise from our rangatahi, so we consistently are being blown away."

This year, Amnesty International and the Ware family commissioned contemporary Māori artist Todd Couper to design a taonga to accompany the funding of the award.

Couper (Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu) created a wooden waka huia (treasure box) to reflect the kaupapa of the award.

"It's just this beautiful work of art that captures the essence of the award and of the promise that Gary Ware made in supporting youth endeavor," Taylor said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs