Pondering 2012……

Marama Davidson - pondering 2012

31 December 2011

Actually before I start on next year I better look at 2011 first. Woah – freaky year!

Around the end of 2010 I decided to pitch in with a few other like-minded wāhine and add our voice to the mix a bit more. Leading into 2011 I took life-long inspiration from those amazing fighters at all levels around me including; the kuia/kaumātua at home keeping it real, the whānau back at our marae burning the home fires, the people on the ground in our communities, our young people ‘halleluiah rangatahi’ who continue to inspire me, our academics, politicians, artists, gardeners, te reo warriors, teachers and especially our whānau raising our tamariki. There are so many people doing amazing work to strengthen our most precious resource that is whānau. There are so many people to thank for being brave enough to speak out for our right to live as Māori. There are so many people taking up our collective responsibility to care for each other and the environment around us.

My puku was telling me I could do more, so I tried. Facebook became a hugely important tool to start circulating my whakaaro via blog articles, press releases, Op Eds, radio and television interviews, community speaking and other engagements.

And I got shot down LOL! More than once. And it will happen again of that I am most certain.

But just today someone who I consider a stalwart fighter of our people reminded me that we need to do more of it – we must not stop. And as always, the other stalwarts of my life will support my need to keep contributing. I cannot contribute to my community without the tautoko of my family, and without having first assured their wellbeing.

This brings me to 2012.

I have huge hope for our future as whānau, hapū and iwi. Our strength and vigilance to maintain our identity on our own lands has not faltered. We have proved time and time again that we are born with what we need to keep ourselves alive – no one can remove whakapapa.

“And we will need more of the same” says our stalwart fighter (who shall remain nameless because a private facebook chat does not a public speech make).

I agree with him. It is nothing new but we are facing even tougher far right agendas which threaten our collective integrity and wisdom as Tangata Whenua. We need to be steadfast in keeping our waters clean, our whenua un-mined and un-fracked and our moana deeply undrilled. We need to be determined to keep our whānau out of poverty and safe from abuse. We need to keep sacrosanct our ability to grow, hunt and fish for kai. There is much to protect.

So I stand in awe of all of us as we continue to be resolute together and support each other. We fight in many ways. We should continue to sing waiata, write poetry, learn to reo, speak te reo, hīkoi in protest, grow gardens (so I can buy your organic veggies cos my gardening sux right now), care for our earth, write submissions, and press releases, and Op Eds, and blogs, speak out, stand up, speak out and stand up.

If we feel hurt enough, we may also need to think of other ways to resist. So let us think….. 

But mostly, take care of our own whānau. Be kind to each other. Thanks to my ever wise mother who reminds me “Sometimes it is easier to save the world than to look after those around you.” Check myself.

Thank you to my husband and children for your ongoing tolerance and support.

Happy (Gregorian Calendar) New Year everyone!

Ngā mihi

Marama

Hei oranga mā te whānau

Dr Leonie Pihama, Māori And Indigenous Analysis Ltd., Te Kotahi Institute, University of Waikato

Dr Leonie Pihama

Over the past few days I have been participating in the NZ Association for Research in Education annual conference. NZARE is a time when educational researchers and practitioners come together to discuss a range of research and intervention initiatives happening within the education sector.    Just a few weeks ago I attended a Māori Health research hui that also included a range of health researchers and practitioners.  At both gatherings it was clear that many Māori work well beyond the boundaries of what is considered to be a part of what is done in those sectors.  The focus of whānau ora and hauora go across and beyond the ways in which society segments sectors.  It is no surprise then that for Māori in those sectors the need to work collaboratively and across areas is clearly acknowledged.

There has been another burst of focus on child abuse within Māori whānau.  We see that public outburst generally on the death or murder of one of our tamariki/mokopuna.  We are then inundated with images of past abuses, of Māori babies and children beaten often at the hands of our own.  We are all overcome then with disgust and sadness and often anger.  And then there is nothing… virtually no media attention, no media discussion, no media information, no media contribution to education.  Nothing.  Until the next baby or child is beaten and killed.  And so it continues…

The point is not that the media should not inform us of these things, or that they are not newsworthy as clearly they are.  But that we rarely see any attempt in the media to provide an educational or informative role outside of social service ads.  Other than Māori Television, primarily through the many profile programmes that they provide us with, there is little attempt or commitment to give any real time to how we turn around issues of abuse or violence within our homes.

The child poverty documentary was a long awaited one, and was timed perfectly for broadcast at the height of the elections and where many commented on how disturbing and disgusting and even how wrong it was to see families and whānau living in such conditions.. and many of those conditions were in fact state owned housing,  such programmes that inform and challenge us are a rarity.  They are programmes that show the complexity of child poverty, that don’t give easy answers or advocate a quick fix, nor do they provide the general ‘public’ with the easy way of seeing things through blaming the victims or announcing this is all about the deficiencies of those whānau.  That complexity is shown in child mortality rates where key causes of child mortality are: Medical 38%, Unintentional injury 32.7 %, Intentional injury 19.6%, Unexplained 8.7 %, Missing data .9%

Table 1.1: Mortality (number of deaths) in children and young people aged 28 days to 24 years by cause of death and age group, New Zealand 2006–2010 combined (n=3356 deaths)

Category                     <1 year*         1–4     5–9     10–14 15–19 20–24 (%) Total         Percentage

Medical                       371                  209     95        126      233     242           1276                    38

Unintentional injury  15                     112     59        85        419     409          1099                      32.7

Intentional injury       8                       22        3          32        274     320           659                                       19.6

Unexplained              275                  17        –           –           –           –                 292                                       8.7

Missingdata                14                    3          –           1          6          6                     30                    0.9

Total                       683                   363        157       244  932        977               3356             100.0

The Children’s Social Health Monitoring group highlight that Māori and Pacific children live within lower living standards at disproportionate rates.   All of the indicators that are presented related to notions of poverty are based within a taken for granted assumption that all poverty is related to monetary terms.

I am not in any way questioning or challenging such an assumption. However it is limited in regards to Māori children.  The direct output of such an assumption is that throughout the election process and in particular in the last couple of weeks of the campaign, when the documentary aired, there was a preoccupation with the advocating of the minimum wage, excluding National of course who advocate minimal taxing of the wealthy and not minimum wage for those in poverty, there was much talk of increased access for children to health care, some labour candidates advocated a Minister of Children, The Māori Party a Minister of Whānau.

Without doubt all of these things are useful. However they are not the whole picture.  As with the child poverty programme that highlighted the direct impact of poverty on tamariki and whānau there was very little comment that the majority of children living in poverty are Māori and Pacific children.  There was very little comment on colonization, there was virtually no comment on systemic and institutional racism.  And why are those things important? Because they provide the underpinning reasons for why we have such a large proportion of tamariki who would be considered to be in that group that is being referred to as ‘vulnerable children’.

Our whānau have been under constant attack and threat since colonization.   Where much of the focus of economic development has been at an Iwi level it was in fact the whānau that was the first structure actively attacked through colonization. It was a deliberate and planned attack.  We see that through the development and operation of Mission and Native schooling.

Notions of civilizing and christianising Māori were focus on the whānau.  The foci of attack were multiple, in terms of te reo and tikanga Māori.  Linda Smith wrote that the Native schools were the equivalent of  ‘trojan horses’ amongst our people. They were placed at the centre of communities to actively promote an way of life that up until that time was essentially foreign to our people.

At the heart of all interactions was the notion of individuality as opposed to collectivity.  Where multiple generations in whānau supported collective obligation, accountability and reciprocity, the notion of the individual promoted individual rights, individual ownership of property, to be accountable only to one self etc. These notions are all actively a part of western pedagogy.

Notions of privatization and private homes, private ownership, private property, all undermine cultural constructs within tikanga of whanaungatanga and collective responsibility.  The private domestic space is enabling of family violence, it is enabling in that it is grounded upon the nuclear family structure, which we often refer to as whānau but in fact the nuclear family is not whānau, it is a structure based on private ownership and individual private actions.  Which enables unhealthy relationships on many levels to go undetected and with little hope of intervention.

What I am positing is that the idea of ‘working with vulnerable children’ is itself problematic and that perhaps this forum could redefine what is a critical area within the lives of our whānau. It locates a sense of ‘being without protection’ or being ‘extremely susceptible’ or ‘weak’ or ‘helpless’, yet many of our whānau are none of these things, in fact even the Child Poverty documentary showed the ways in which whānau negotiated and sought ways to protect and care for their tamariki, however within a systemic context where state systems of provision are dysfunctional, as opposed to the notion that whānau are dysfunctional, then it is easier to locate the problem in the home.

There seems to be an obsession with creating terminology that serves to act as a smoke screen to what is actually happening for our people.  Our children, our whānau are faced with systems of economic elitism, cultural oppression, gender inequalities and racism. Rather than refer to our tamariki as vulnerable children we should be continuing to talk about the dysfunctional system that works with our children, and the need for us to gain an ability for economic and ongoing sustainable resources to put things in place that actually work for our people. 

Yes we must have access to health care for all children, but we must also have that care be appropriate to our people, as the disparities work from Māori Public Health specialists indicates that racism pervades both our access to Primary care and the forms of treatment we receive.

Last night Ngaropi and I spoke about the ways in which ideas of poverty dominate the discussions and whilst, as I said earlier we both agree with the notion that poverty creates a range of circumstances that have been created through ongoing political neglect and colonial capitalist systems that are again about individual benefit and gain over the wellbeing of all.  What we spoke about is that as a direct result of colonization in Taranaki our people have been dispossessed of access to all those things that have in the past mitigated against economic poverty.  We had access to kai and even in the context of economic depression we could feed ourselves, our whānau, our hapū, our iwi, and we did that collectively.   In a korero from Aunty Marj reflecting on rongoa she spoke of seeing her father bring a cart load of piharau, lamprey eels, to the marae to share with the people.

Those ways of being are significant. They are about whanaungatanga.  They are the essence of whānau ora.  Yet for the past 30 years since the pollution of the seabeds at Waitara and the earlier pollution of the river that is not a sight that would be seen.  In fact my tamariki have never eaten kai moana from the Waitara coast.  Then earlier this week the NPDC were granted a further 30 years extension to the use of the pipeline.  Why? Because its more economic than developing a landbased treatment plant.

So we ask, is it solely an economic or monetary explanation for why many can not feed their whānau? As I  have said previously, that is one part of the picture. And in many ways it is the most pallitable part of the picture.  But underpinning the ability of many of our people to feed ourselves and our tamariki is the dispossession of access to those resources that could and did provide for us in times where this dysfunctional system created contexts of vulnerability.

Why the fear of Māori representation?

02 December 2011

Responses to the issue of Māori representation suggest some deeply rooted fear amongst opponents.

Marama Davidson

Last Friday it was reported that the Whangarei District Council voted against Māori seats. Over the past month councils around the country have voted similarly except for Waikato Regional and Nelson City Councils.

In a Gisborne Herald column (16 Nov) Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie addressed the most common concerns in relation to Māori wards.

Gisborne District Council and all local authorities around the country would do well to engage in more informed and meaningful dialogue around this issue. Robust conversations among communities, iwi leaders, hapū members and councils would result in better understanding of what Māori wards could deliver.

One example of where better Māori representation could benefit everyone is in the area of waste water and sewerage. Currently around the country Māori groups (often alongside Pākehā groups) are fighting to uphold their responsibilities as guardians over natural resources.  Hapū are concerned with the long term well-being of rivers, lakes and harbours. Accountability to whānau requires hapū to protect that resource as a taonga, a source of food and spiritual nourishment. Yet hapū are battling short term planning that often favours cost-cutting and ‘developers’. At the core of these struggles is a reluctance to share power. There is a refusal to acknowledge expertise held by local Māori over hundreds of years of care for that resource. There have been ‘economic’ waste-water decisions made over 30 years ago that have done nothing but explode wider costs by ruining waters and ecosystems, eventually ending up in expensive litigation. Having proper hapū representation at the decision table 30 years ago may well have saved the natural resource and public finances. This would have been good for ALL of the community.

A letter to the editor in The Star (Dunedin) from Peter Aitken refers to Māori representation as ‘racist’. He further aligns the concept of Māori wards to the oppressive regime of South African apartheid. That apartheid system treated black people as subservient on the principle that they were lesser human beings. In fact through the ongoing denial of human rights, inhumane denigration, disgusting humiliation and outright murder, black people were treated as barely human at all. Affirming Māori rights in relation to natural resources guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi will not diminish any human rights for non-Māori. Māori representation will not subjugate non-Māori as lesser human beings. It does not deny non-Māori their dignity and existence, nor exclude their active participation in decision-making.
 Another flawed line is that Māori should reject ‘special treatment’ as patronising. It is that argument in itself which is patronising. It comes from a level of ignorance and prejudice that uses the term ‘special treatment’ in the first place. The issue is instead about rectifying the systemic structures that have denied Māori having real input into resource management issues that they have always been entitled to under the Treaty.

The current democratic process has failed to deliver Māori representation. Whatever the arguments, we are still left with the fact that Māori are not recognised as sovereign stakeholders. This sovereignty was guaranteed under the Whakaputanga Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Waitangi and endorsed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is the basis upon which Tangata Whenua agreed to welcome other peoples to our lands.

Whatever the model, it is Māori upholding their rights and responsibilities as hosts of this land which has to be the outcome. Māori representation is not an outcome in itself.

Māori cultural values and worldviews offer this country a rich source for planning and development. At the heart of these values are notions of kaitiaki and manaaki – to look after, care for, and treat with respect. Those are the endeavours of tino rangatiratanga/sovereignty and sustainable economic development.

 Those opponents of Māori representation need to come to an understanding that at the heart of the Treaty – is not what you think it is.

Marama Davidson

(Te Rarawa/Ngāpuhi/Ngāti Porou)