Taking a second look...
Last week Rochelle and Jock received the birth certificate for their son Tane. When Rochelle showed the certificate to her kuia the old lady held it in her hand and smiled.
Nearly thirty years earlier Rochelle's kuia had approached the office of Births Deaths and Marriages to receive the birth certificate of her brother who had died overseas. It had been a daunting experience for her and she had cried there. At that time there had been a number of occasions when registry staff were puzzled when visiting Māori would respond emotionally to the Register, behaving as if those whose names and details were listed were actually present. At that time some Māori had reported that they were uncomfortable with staff who believed that the history contained in the Register was nothing more than neutral information or data.
An opportunity for change
When legislation covering Births, Deaths and Marriages was reviewed in 1995, there was an opportunity for change and Tony was invited to work with staff. It was at this time that the idea of the Register as a record of relationships between people was introduced. This approach relates to whakapapa which connects the living and the dead. Seen this way, the Register was able to be seen as much more than a repository of static information.
Changes were made to the way records were kept and made available to members of the public. The change in concept was then applied to the actual birth certificate form and the symbol of a manaia was washed into that form. The intention was that the manaia would signal that this birth form is recording not just the start of a life but the person's potential for growth. It would acknowledge a set of existing relationships between the person born and those who have proceeded them. It would also signal the start of new relationships with those who are living.
The application of the manaia introduced a spiritual dimension to a formerly information and data process and gave new meaning to the concept of treating people’s history with respect.
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