Working as Allies contributors

Joan Macdonald has been an active supporter of Māori justice struggles since the 1970s. She has been involved in Treaty and anti-racism education for non-Māori, supporting specific Māori issues and initiatives in her paid work as a child health nurse; and bringing indigenous peoples’ issues to the fore within the many social justice organisations with which she is involved.

Photo of Joan Macdonald

"I think it is important as an ally is not to lose touch with who you are.  I know who I am and where I come from.  I’m not trying to be Māori.  I think some people make that mistake—well they used to in the past. They get heavily involved in being with Māori and working as if they were Māori. I think we’ve got to take responsibility and be in our own culture and be strong about that—know what our culture is about and know its weaknesses and strengths." 

Tim Howard is employed as a community development worker with Northland Urban Rural Mission, where he works on a range of community development, social justice and environmental issues within a framework of Tiriti justice. Tim is a member of local and national Treaty educators’ networks. 

Photo of Tim Howard

"It’s about realising there are options that can be taken; there are particular contributions I can make.  But who’s going to dictate those contributions?  Who’s going to frame them? As Pākehā in this country there is a choice, but our natural tendency might be to go with the majority, to work with the existing system, a deeply colonial system that doesn’t benefit indigenous people.  That is the default setting. Will we choose to go in the opposite direction and be with Māori in their struggles?"

Alex Barnes is a fluent Māori language speaker raised in Tauranga Moana. He has affiliations to Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāi Te Rangi iwi, and Ngā Pōtiki hapū through his Pākehā family participation and support of kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori.  He has worked with hapū as a programme evaluator and is currently a researcher and evaluator with Te Wāhanga, the Māori team of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. 

Photo of Alex Barnes

"This work can be exciting, full of potential, and also imbued with conflict and misunderstandings.  You know you’re not going to solve all the issues or all the problems at once and taking a longer view to a particular issue is really good.  Really work on the relationships as well." 

Melanie Nelson was raised in Motueka. She has taught te reo Māori to adults in a range of settings and has worked as a translator. She has held a range of roles in the conservation and environmental sphere and is currently a manager of iwi relationships for the Department of Conservation in Whanganui. She is a fluent Māori language speaker. She  and Alex Barnes are developing a group to support Māori language revitalisation through promoting te reo Māori to Pākehā and supporting Pākehā learning the language.

Photo of Melanie Nelson

"…although this conversation is framed around being allies to indigenous causes, it doesn’t really seem like it is someone else’s cause because we’re so much richer for the experiences that we’ve had.  It’s really an all-round beneficial thing to have more than one perspective and to have more than one language and to have that cooperation going on."

The Barmah-Millewa Collective (BMC) was formed in late 2000 following Friends of the Earth receiving a formal request to join the Yorta Yorta people in a campaign to re-establish their rights to own and manage Barmah-Millewa, the world’s largest red gum forest. Collective members Jonathan (Jono) La Nauze and Indira Narayan talk about the work of BMC.

Photo of The Barmah-Millewa Collective campaign

"At some stage I came to the point of, ‘I belong here.  I can’t belong anywhere else.  There’s nowhere else for me to belong because my heritage is so mixed up and comes from all over the place. There’s nowhere else that I love as much as here.  In order for me to love it I need to do something to help it be a good place, and for me to feel okay about being here."   Indira Narayan

"Think about your own personal relationship and history and your family history or think about the geographic space you’re in now.  ‘What mob used to live here?  Do you know their language?  Where are their descendants now?"  Jono La Nauze


Pru Gell lives on the country of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation in Sydney. For over 10 years Pru has lived, and worked, as a facilitator and educator of social change projects in regional and remote contexts with Indigenous communities in Australia and South-East Asia. 

"I had this very clear realisation that if I was committed to working along the interfaces between my dominant white culture and Indigenous people—supporting Indigenous peoples’ struggles and their fight for a long, long time to come—then I needed to be prepared to be told that I am wrong by pretty much every kind of person in the picture. I’ve just got to wear that. " 

Lorelle Savage has a background in education and programme coordination and has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for a number of years. She is currently the Indigenous Programs Coordinator for the Diplomacy Training Program. 

Photo of Lorelle Savage

"When you’ve been socialised in a racist country you’ve got a whole set of ready responses for anything that is different or you’re uncomfortable with.  You can draw on your racism so easily.  In order to challenge that you have to have some understanding about different perspectives."  


Clare Land got involved in thinking about her relationship to colonialism in 1998 and since then she has been involved in educating herself and other non-indigenous people through collective work. With Krauatungalung (Gunai)/ Gunditjmara man Robbie Thorpe she presents a radio programme called Fire First which discusses colonialism in Australia from invasion to the present day. In 2012 Clare completed a PhD on the politics of solidarity with indigenous struggles in south-east Australia. 

Photo of Clare Land

"… putting yourself into a position where you can’t be criticised, or not doing anything so that you can avoid criticism, is actually an expression of privilege.  You choose not to do anything so you can’t get it wrong."  

Mitzi Nairn was the Director of the Combined Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Programme on Racism, and has been actively involved in anti-racism initiatives since the 1960s. 

Photo of Mitzi Nairn

"… a respect for Māori ability and Māori authority has been really important to me.  I think it’s really important in reconstructing or reasserting, or whatever it is we are doing, that Māori authority, that tino rangatiratanga.  Because for te tino rangatiratanga to flourish it’s got to be asserted by Māori but it’s got to be respected by Māori and by Pākehā."