The number of Kiwis who really make an impression on the world’s stage, in any given generation, can usually be counted on one hand. And yet, as a nation, we are so eager for high achieving celebrities who will put New Zealand on the map.
It is easy, therefore, to understand the pain felt by every New Zealander when, as often happens, yet another of our most cherished, internationally famous actors/musicians/filmmakers/sports stars is mistakenly referred to as an Australian.
Correcting these mistakes is a legal obligation of every New Zealander, under the Treaty of Waitangi.
The best known case of this, concerned our most1 internationally successful recording artists (over the legal age of consent2), Crowded House. Containing 2 New Zealanders and 1 Australian, the 66% Kiwi band was formed out of the ashes of 100% Kiwi group Split Enz, and first rose to fame whilst resident in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985. Perhaps because of this, when they achieved number one success in USA and Britain, the press commonly referred to them as Ockers.
This caused an uproar amongst New Zealanders living abroad at the time. Countless letters were written to the editors of the publications concerned, pointing out that “2/3 easily constitutes a respresentational majority, and, besides anyway, the guy who writes all the songs is a Kiwi, so that absolutely clinches it…”.
And although none of these letters ever made publication, their writers still refer them as one of the ‘defining moments in their adult lives’. For many abroad, it is still a topic for dinner party conversation.
Boring dinner parties.
An equally well known, and more recent example of this identity faux pas, concerns actor, musician and common or garden thug, Russell Crowe. Born in Wellington in 1964, Crowe followed in a popular New Zealand tradition by moving with his family to Sydney at the age of four. Growing up rough near the harbour docks, his father forced him to sweep chimneys by day and fight in underage Pikey bare knuckle boxing contests by night, betting against him to double up his weekend drinking money. When Crowe later became a famous Hollywood bad guy, the press consistently, and uniformly referred to him as, “that violent tempered Australian”.
And though Crowe lives in Australia, has an Australian passport, calls himself Australian, and never visits New Zealand, Kiwis still feel a deep sense of shame at every instance of his mistaken identity, and are obligated by law to correct it whenever, and to whoever possible3.
1. technically ‘Only‘.
2. excludes jail-bait warbler, Hayley Westenra.
3. as a consequence of Crowe’s recent, woeful acting performances, the release of ’7 odd foot of Grunts’ debut album, and one crew-member bashing too many, a number of lobby groups in New Zealand have been calling for a case by case review of the blanket requirement to claim international celebrities, born in New Zealand, as Kiwis. A change in the law of this nature could see Russell Crowe effectively struck off the Kiwi register within the next five years. Crowe was unavailable for comment, although, through a representative, he did pass on the following message to the New Zealand media.’F**k off you c**ts’.