Bronwyn Frances was born in 1979 in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Her Indigenous connection is with the Te Whakatohea Iwi and she comes from the Bay of Plenty region. She is from a large family of performing and musical artists.
Bronwyn developed her musical abilities with vocal training throughout her schooling years. Her passion to reach out in song stemmed from the gospel influences that surrounded her and her sisters as young children. Growing up in Youth Music Ministries saw her affiliated with both school and youth bands.
Relocating to Cairns in the late 1990s, she was privileged to share the stage, harmonies and then life with the talented Kuku Yalanji women from Mossman, The Briscoe Sisters. Whilst travelling through Cape York Peninsula and around Australia, she became accustomed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music, harmonies, language and instruments.
Now into her third year with the Austranesia family, Bronwyn states: “many privileges have come while working with other established Indigenous musicians within this family”. For Bronwyn Frances, learning their stories and sharing their joint enthusiasm, skill and love of making music is definitely a career highlight.
The Maori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) migrated from eastern Polynesia approximately one thousand years ago. They were the descendants of earlier migrants from southeastern Asia (China and Taiwan) who had expanded through the archipelagos of what is now known as Melanesia and eventually colonised the many habitable but widely scattered islands of the South Pacific. Their territorial and cultural expansion into what is called the Polynesian Triangle ranged from Hawaii in the north to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east and to Aotearoa in the west. They were master seafarers able to traverse vast distances in large ocean-going waka (canoes) and brought with them to Aotearoa a distinct way of life and culture that they adapted to a new and uninhabited environment.
During what is termed the Archaic period of Aotearoa’s settlement, there was an abundance of birds, marine animals and edible vegetation. However, increasing human population, introduced feral animals such as rats and exploitation of the natural environment for horticulture lead to the extinction of many species of large flightless birds in particular such as moa. By the time of what is termed the Classic period of pre-European colonial Aotearoa, human population had increased and warfare was endemic as competition for resources lead to societal and environmental stresses. These were further exacerbated with the arrival of European explorers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and then European colonisers in the nineteenth century. After an initial period of fairly amicable relations, conflicts over control of land and access to resources lead to prolonged warfare both between Maori groups and Maori and Europeans. Epidemic introduced diseases Maori had no resistance to, also contributed to the decimation of Maori communities, society and culture.
Politically, the control by Britain over New Zealand was established with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. It made the Maori British subjects, and ensured their property rights and a level of tribal self-government. Although open to different interpretations, it conferred some rights for Maori that have proven important in the present day especially regarding control over land and marine resources. As elsewhere in the Western world, in the 1960s a protest movement helped spearhead the recognition and revival of Maori culture. After an extended period of decimation and decline, acknowledgement of Maori culture and language now extends to government and educational policies and they are especially important in promoting Aotearoa/New Zealand as a tourism destination. Today Maori make up approximately fifteen per cent of Aotearoa’s/New Zealand’s population. Although significant gains have been made in access to better health, education and employment opportunities, Maori remain over-represented in the lower categories of such well-being indicators. There are also historical grievances still to be resolved. Due to long-standing arrangements for the generally free flow of citizens between New Zealand and Australia, Australia has an estimated eighty thousand Maori residents.