Sunday, April 1, 2012

Main cultural concepts depicted in Australian and New Zealand national worldviews.

These competing world views actually represent something of a schism that is new to the Australian psyche, and that will define much of the social and business agenda in Australia in the coming decade. On the one hand Australians see themselves as outward-looking, positive people happy to engage with, and be engaged by, the rest of the world. In this outward view Australia and Australians are confident of their place in, and of  their value to, the global community. This positive engagement with the rest of the world is evidenced in their largely export-oriented economy as well as their propensity to travel, and to work abroad. For the first time in the history, more Australians travel theirseas than foreigners visit Australia. New words have entered their vocabulary: the gap year was largely invented by that most-travelled of generations, Gen Y, to describe a period at the end of the teenage years when broader horizons are confidently explored. New Zealanders call this their OE, or overseas experience, year. In a little more than a decade, Australia has asserted its interests in areas of international conflict in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are now closer ties with the US, most likely as a consequence of their alignment with US foreign policy. At the same time the rising business of trading gas, iron ore and coal strengthens their  links with China. There is also a closer, albeit at times strained, relationship with India as a consequence of their entering the business of delivering international education services.

All of this is on top of the fact that Australia is now attracting record numbers of migrants: 297,000 net migration in the year to June last year, compared with say 97,000 10 years earlier. It would seem the views espoused by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman in his 2005 book The World is Flat were correct. In that world, where resources and labour flow almost seamlessly between markets, Australia is a winner. How could their world view not be shaped by this internationalisation of Australian interests over the past decade? But just as Australia embraced a fuller engagement with the rest of the world, another competing world view emerged.  Australia concerned about external forces over which they have little or nor control. As a consequence it is considered important that  Australians close ranks and protect what they have. This is an inward world view.

The climate change issue gathered popular momentum in Australia from 2006 with the release of Al Gore's movie and the IPCC report (2007), both of which seemed to coincide with devastating weather events such as droughts, floods, cyclones and even bushfires. The concept of a threat from beyond has very much been part of the Australian narrative over the past decade -- to such an extent that there is now a backlash against what they see as external threats.Sydney's Cronulla riots (2005) and Melbourne's violence against Indians perhaps reflect an ascendant world view that there are external threats to the Australian way of life. Climate, foreign students, immigrants are all part of the same external threat that must be resisted by imposing taxes and barriers.Even the mining community has been drawn into the angst: there are people in cahoots with foreigners selling non-renewable Australian resources without paying a fair commission. It's a line that feeds well into a world view held by some Australians.
( Emirova F.)

The world view of Māori changed immediately after they arrived in New Zealand. Encounter with European settlers brought further change. It is not possible to say that there is a single viewpoint in Māori culture today. The ideas set out here are only an attempt to understand the world view of Māori before Europeans arrived. In traditional Māori knowledge, as in many cultures, everything in the world is believed to be related. People, birds, fish, trees, weather patterns – they are all members of a cosmic family. This linking was explained in tātai (genealogies) and kōrero (stories), collectively termed whakapapa (meaning to make a foundation, to place in layers). Experts recited the whakapapa of people, birds, fish, trees and the weather to explain the relationships between all things and thus to place themselves within the world. This helped people to understand the world, and how to act within these relationships.

Gods and their families
The entire world was seen as a vast and complex whānau (family). In the Māori story of creation, the earth and sky came together and gave birth to some 70 children, who eventually thrust apart their parents and populated the world. Each of the children became the god of a particular domain of the natural world. Their children and grandchildren then became ancestors in that domain. For example, Tangaroa, god of the sea, had a son called Punga. Punga then had two children: Ikatere, who became the ancestor of the fish of the sea, and Tūtewehiwehi, who became the ancestor of the fish and amphibious lizards of inland waterways.

The value of oral traditions 

Although many of the stories are myths, they also have a practical function. They can pass on knowledge about the natural world, such as where to find wood pigeons and how to harvest them. Although science is another way of understanding the natural world, the traditional principle of interconnectedness is still important and meaningful to Māori. For example, the genealogy of fish and sea animals makes clear the kinship of people and other creatures. It also points out values that guide people’s interaction with other species, teaching respect and correct conduct. As the sun rises each morning and sets each evening, the world follows a daily cycle of light (Te Ao) and darkness (Te Pō). Māori creation stories emphasise this movement from nothingness and darkness to the world of light – Te Ao Mārama. It is said that the world itself is created each morning with the rise of the sun.

Ideas about origins

Until the arrival of Europeans in the late 1700s, Māori held a world view that originated in their Polynesian homeland. This grew and changed according to life in the new land. The Polynesian influence is still widely evident, although it is challenged by some. Some iwi (tribes) hold that their ancestors did not come from over the sea, but sprang from the New Zealand landscape. Some Whanganui traditions speak of the inland mountains as their place of birth.
The concepts of mana, tapu and mauri relate both to people and to the natural world.


Mana refers to an extraordinary power, essence or presence. This applies to the energies and presences of the natural world. There are degrees of mana and our experiences of it, and life seems to reach its fullness when mana comes into the world. The most important mana comes from Te Kore – the realm beyond the world we can see, and sometimes thought to be the ‘ultimate reality’.


Certain restrictions, disciplines and commitments have to take place if mana is to be expressed in physical form, such as in a person or object. The concepts of sacredness, restriction and disciplines fall under the term tapu. For example, mountains that were important to particular tribal groups were often tapu, and the activities that took place on these mountains were restricted.


Mauri is an energy which binds and animates all things in the physical world. Without mauri, mana cannot flow into a person or object.
(Alla Zentsova)

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