Next week a small Māori research team will begin a series of six regional hui with Māori Providers who are committed to bringing to fruition a philosophy of whānau ora. I am not speaking of whānau ora as policy or as structure, but whānau ora as a way of living, a way of being, a way of seeking wellbeing for this and future generations. These hui are a part of a wider kaupapa of bringing forward tikanga and whakaaro that link to childrearing practices of our tupuna. To discuss and share tikanga that we can draw upon to enhance the wellbeing of our tamariki and mokopuna. This is a part of a wider kaupapa of whānau ora.
In a time when right wing, neo-liberal policies privilege the wealthy, where unemployment is on the increase and where just making ‘ends meet’ is having a growing detrimental impact on our people, we must take stock and look for innovative ways to support those most affected. A growing number of Māori and community based initiatives are seeking to take the lead in fighting poverty in this country. The Mana Party initiative ‘Feed The Kids’ is described as “a simple easy and immediate way to address the growing levels of poverty in Aotearoa” (www.feedthekids.org.nz) and is an initiative that deserves and needs support. There is ample evidence that our tamariki going hungry to schools has a direct impact on their ability to engage and participate in learning.
Brazillian educationalist and activist Paulo Freire once said;
“I didn’t understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn’t dumb. It wasn’t lack of interest. My social condition didn’t allow me to have an education. Experience showed me once again the relationship between social class and knowledge”.
In light of this statement there is not doubt that the Mana Party insistence that we must make changes at whānau, hapū, iwi, kura, regional, national levels to ensure the wellbeing of our tamariki and mokopuna, and of our wider whānau must be supported.
Freire’s work has for many years resonated with our people. His critical analysis within Pedagogy of the Oppressed developed as a process of engaging with poverty, with oppression, with subjucation. Within Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire makes deliberate connections between oppression and processes of dehumanizing the oppressed. Denial of fundamental human rights is central to that process of dehumanization. Poverty and the impositions of policies that maintain and reproduce poverty are processes of dehumanization. That is reflected in the neo-liberal ideologies and practices that have determined policies within Aotearoa since the inception of the new right policies of the 1990s and which have been increasing entrenched with subsequent National governments.
What is clear from the reflections of Paulo Freire is that the oppressor has no interest in changing the power relations that exist. It is for the oppressed to take that role. It is for those who are most denied to both initiate and struggle for the humanization of all. What that says is that we as Māori must take control of our destinies at all levels. We must find ways that we can support our whānau in ways that enable us all to realize our full potential, that enable us to be fully Māori, that enable us to be full participants in society both now and in the future. The struggle is multi-leveled. It is both cultural and structural. It is both about challenging systems of oppression and enhancing cultural approaches for wellbeing. It is about reminding ourselves that our tupuna worked collectively for generations to ensure the wellbeing of our whānau.
We live within a system that is not of our making, it is a system that values money over people, it is a system that privileges the individual over the whānau, it is a system that fails to value the inherent mana and tapu of all people, it is a system that is grounded within a capitalist intention of accumulation at no matter what cost, it is a system that will destroy our whenua, our awa, our maunga, our moana with no thought for current and future generations. This can not continue. We must make changes that bring a return to collective wellbeing and a movement to ‘Feed The Kids’ is a movement that must be collectively supported.
Dr Leonie Pihama (Te Atiawa, Ngati Mahanga, Nga Mahanga a Tairi)