Emmaline Anderson

Emmaline Anderson was born in Sydney, Australia and raised by her Australian mum, from whom she gets her Irish and Scottish heritage. From her dad comes her Maori and New Zealand heritage. Her Maori hapu (sub-tribe) is Ngati Manu; her Iwi (tribe) is Nga Puhi, from the northern region of the North Island. Culturally, Maori waiata(s) (songs) are very significant and are sung at all gatherings, ceremonies, funerals, etc.

Emmaline plays music because, as she says: “I got the rhythm in me!” At age seventeen she realised she was a drummer after years of her mum and teachers continuously asking her to ‚Äústop tapping”! Music is her love, joy and therapy. Music moves her to dance, and laugh and smile. It moves her to tears, and to realisations and inspirations.

She always wrote poetry from the age of twelve, and when she began playing guitar it developed into song writing. She writes because it has got to come out of her. It is usually not a conscious effort; it just kind of happens. Words form, or a feeling or a rhythm inspires a melody. A song often comes to her because her emotions, spirit or heart needs to release, or express something, or because her soul just opens and receives. Most of Emmaline Anderson’s songs are about love of some form, or unity and positivity.

Details of Maori artwork at the Ohinemutu Village Marae (meeting place) in Rotorua, Aotearoa/New Zealand of the Te Awawa tribe.


Approximately one thousand years ago, the ancestors of the present day Maori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) migrated from eastern Polynesia. To travel the vast distances of what is known as the Polynesian Triangle Polynesian people required masterful skills as seafarers and colonisers. Their eventual colonies ranged geographically from Hawaii in the north to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east and Aotearoa in the west. They carried with them not only a language and culture but also a way of life and worldview that is still recognisable today across the vast region of Oceania and the many places to which Polynesians have migrated.

Europeans first explored Aotearoa in the seventeenth century and the eventual concerted colonisation by British settlers in the nineteenth century irrevocably altered Maori culture, politics and control of their lands and seas. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between Britain and Maori representatives and some rights, such as access to resources, have subsequently been re-established. Nonetheless, British colonisation and its attendant deprivations and diseases devastated the Maori population. Slowly in the twentieth century it began to recover so that today approximately six hundred and fifty thousand or fifteen per cent of New Zealand’s population identify as Maori. As the second largest ethnic group in New Zealand however they are still over-represented in negative indicators of well-being. Nonetheless, Maori culture and language are now integral to national identity and embedded in educational and governmental policies.

New Zealand Maoris and Australia have had a considerable history of contact. Maori were reported in Sydney as early as 1795 and they were noted seafarers in the colonies of pre-Federation Australia. For example, they were working in the Torres Strait region during its maritime boom of the late nineteenth century and Maori entertainment troupes also performed on Thursday Island. As well, Maori were a notable exception to the overt racism of White Australia Policy of the early twentieth century as they were generally considered British subjects and thus afforded the same rights as ‘white’ New Zealanders, including the right to settle and, unlike Indigenous Australians, the right to vote. There was an attempt to remove those rights in 1948 when the then Australian Federal Minister of Immigration, Arthur Calwell, tried to ban Maori from settling because they were ‘Polynesians’ and therefore ineligible. In the 1950s there were also attempted bans but they were over-turned because the Maori were technically British citizens.

Many Maori moved to Australia in the 1970s and 1980s because the economy in Australia was more buoyant than in New Zealand. Demographically, Maoris in Australia increased from just over one hundred in the 1930s to twenty six thousand in 1986 to eighty-four thousand in 2001. In 2001 there were almost twenty thousand Maoris living in the Brisbane area alone. Today, immigrant Maori are active in all levels of Australia’s society and economy, including sports and entertainment.