National | Assault

Sexual harassment non-existent in the Māori screen industry

Henry's PhD research found the Māori screen industry has an equal proportion of men and women in it that impacts on the way they behave toward each other. Tonight Dr Ella Henry will speak from a Māori perspective at a SWAG (Screen Women's Action Group) forum today on harassment as a part of the #metoo campaign that's been coming out of Hollywood.

"Anecdotally, and I've asked amongst my community, if they've experienced personally any harassment in the Māori screen industry and they've all said no," says Henry.

A recent survey has also been circulating social media sites about sexual harassment within the New Zealand media industry, but its author remains anonymous. This follows the ongoing allegations of sexual harassment and assault arising against some well-known men of the American entertainment industry including Harvey Weinstein, Kobe Bryant and Ryan Seacrest. Former Shortland Street star Rene Naufahu was sentenced to home detention in January this year for indecently assaulting six adult acting students. But so far, no reports of any such activity occurring within the Māori screen circles.

"What's been a concern for a number of Māori women is old white men getting a little bit inappropriate but I've heard nothing to suggest there's a Harvey Weinstein equivalent in New Zealand," says Henry.

She believes it occurs in Hollywood for the same reason it occurs in New Zealand, it's male privilege and its Pākehā or white privilege.

"If you are used to having power, you will exercise it indiscriminately, the difference I think in this country is that certainly, I know that our Māori men understand is that if you mess with a Māori woman, it'll end badly, especially an empowered professional one who's highly skilled and highly regarded in her community."

Henry recalls when Māori once raised all children to believe they were young chiefs, and young chiefs she says are not people you mess with.

"Predators can spot prey. Strong people are not prey, so we have a responsibility, which we always have taken as Māori in the past, and we were great parents once, the fact that that's not true all the time now is a tragedy of colonisation as far as I'm concerned."