It has been said that half the truth is sometimes worse than a lie.

By Bruce Moon

Missing components of her heritage

Thus we have Joanna Kidman, professor of Maori Education at Victoria University of Wellington, a prolific author with a PhD in sociology from Australian National University.  Her photograph in Stuff of 15 May 2022 accompanies an article which identifies her as “Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa”!  

There is no mention of the other obvious and evidently European components of her heritage.  Why should this be?  Can we really be expected to take seriously the personal identification of anybody so glaringly out of kilter with the whole truth, no matter what academic distinctions she happens to have?

The “shocking” incident at Handley’s Woolshed in Maxwell

Well, Joanna is now, according to Stuff, a contributor to a book ‘written with other experts: Fragments from a Contested Past.‘  What she is reported to find ‘particularly shocking’ is the incident at Handley’s Woolshed at Maxwell, north-west of Wanganui, during Titokowaru’s rebellion against the Crown in 1868 in which he revived the practice of cannibalism.

Kidman claims that “members of a settler militia based in the area led an unprovoked attack on a group of unarmed Māori children, aged between six and 12. Two, Kingi Takatua and Akuhata Herewini, were killed particularly brutally and others were seriously injured.”  

Well, that is not quite the whole story.

Handley’s homestead nearby had been razed to the ground shortly beforehand by the rebels.  A bunch of youths and boys from the rebel tribes then descended to raid the site and find out what they could plunder.  In short, they were looters.  Not so innocent as Kidman and others might protest, they posted two lookouts on the roof of the woolshed and two youths attempted to kill a large pig.  The squeals of the pig alerted the troopers who charged in and before it was realized that the looters were not rebel warriors the two children had been killed and others wounded.  The lookouts had run away.

Titokowaru’s return to the brutal tikanga of old   

If one reviews the history of Titokowaru’s rebellion, it is becomes evident that the rebels had reverted to the archaic tribal practices explained to early settler, F.E. Maning that: “every man had a right to do everything and anything he chose, provided he was able and willing to stand the consequences, though he thought some men fools for trying to do things which they could not do pleasantly, and which ended in them getting baked.”  

Kidman’s lurid claim is a distortion of historical facts (re the Handley’s Woolshed incident), with her rendition grossly biased in favour of participants in a tribal rebellion.

Kidman’s academic standing brings responsibilities and requires honesty

Be it noted that Kidman herself holds the highly privileged position of a university professor in an institution grounded in the best traditions of European thought and scholarship, owing nothing to archaic Maori beliefs and superstitions. 

Moreover our universities have shown that their practices are far from static, with many women professors today and the majority of universities in New Zealand very recently having woman vice-chancellors, a situation unthinkable a few generations ago. When I was a member of the Professorial Board of the University of Canterbury almost fifty years ago, not one single member was a woman.

Indeed, can what Kidman writes, emanating from a senior academic in a university, be excused?  What indeed is the hidden agenda here from a woman who boasts about her Maori ancestry, but conceals her predominantly European origin?


Kidman has now been appointed by you-know-who as one of the directors of the newly launched “Centre of Research Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism.”



Broadcaster Sean Plunket says, “She has no expertise in internet or computer issues, no training in intelligence or security issues and the role she occupies was not advertised.”

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