• Rev Samuel Marsden meeting Māori Nga Puhi Chiefs. Pic: rangihou.wordpress.com/thehistoryofrangihoujune2016 (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A new book details the long standing and close relationship between Australia and New Zealand's First Peoples.
Ryan Liddle

23 Jun 2016 - 2:37 PM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2016 - 3:04 PM

While most New Zealanders celebrate their national team’s recent form in the International Rugby Test series, they had a very different victory in Australia more than 100 years ago - winning  the right to vote.

Maori standing among early settlers in the colony of Parramatta was so great during the early 1800s they were awarded the right to vote in a special provision of the Franchise Bill of 1902 - a franchise not granted to their local Indigenous counterparts for another 60 years.

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This surprising fact, along with how the All Blacks played their very first game at Parramatta and the Maori’s early prominence in Australia’s fledgling colony has been revealed in a new book, ‘Maori Trade and Relations in Parramatta’.

Author Jo Marrama Kamira is a Maori woman and co-owner of Black Knowledge Australia, which she runs with her Koori husband Craig to research and interpret Indigenous stories.

She says Maori history in Australia goes a long way back.

“Non-Indigenous writings place us here from 1793. Indigenous folklore has us here a lot longer.

“I mean, really, we are arguably one of the most seafaring nations in the history of the world. We find tiny little islands in the middle of the South Pacific yet we couldn't hit the east coast of Australia?  I don't think so.

“I think we had a relationship with the Indigenous people here long before we had a relationship with the non-Indigenous people.”

It was the chance meeting of a Maori called Ruatara and “the flogging parson” Reverend  Samuel Marsden on a whaling ship in 1809 that would pave the way for Maori settlement in Australia.

Ruatara was treated harshly and flogged on the whaling voyage to England but on the way back befriended Marsden, who  invited him back to Parramatta.

Ruatara was of great value to Marsden because he knew how to grow and use flax, which was used for weaving and also had  medicinal properties. So Marsden allocated land in Parramatta for him to farm.

Kamira believes Marsden was cultivating Ruatara, but Ruatara could see the entrepreneurial opportunities for his people and their exchange led to lucrative trade between Maori and Parramatta.

But, writes Kamira in the book:  "The story of Marsden and Māori is complex. It is apparent that while Marsden wished to ‘civilise’ Māori, he was a shrewd businessman and saw mutual benefit in the relationship for the purposes of agricultural development. Conversely, Māori also saw a benefit in being able to obtain weapons, tools and other items to expand the Māori economy."

All Blacks' Parramatta connection

But what about that All Blacks match?

Well while The All blacks eye a clean sweep of the International tour series at the moment, their winning form goes all the way back to the year 1889.

While they officially played their first game as the All Blacks on July 1, 1893, it is that game in 1898 on the oval of the Kings school ground against the Parramatta Possums  where they donned the black guernsey with silver fern that is regarded as the true birth date of the modern day All Blacks.

"The Captain of the team, Joe Warbrick sold his korowai or cloak to assist in his passage. He received the princely sum of four pounds for it. That cloak is now housed at the Australian Museum. To think, Parramatta was the birthplace of international rugby union," says Kamira.

Oh, and for the record, the All Blacks beat the Parramatta Possums.

These days there are more than 5,500 Maori living in the greater Parramatta area yet, as Kamira says, "the story of Maori in Parramatta has been all but forgotten by non-Maori".

She has put that right in her book, which is free to download as a PDF.