‘Feed The Kids’ Initiative one to be supported.

Dr Leonie Pihama
Dr Leonie Pihama

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)

ALL Children Born are our Treasures

Personal Opinion – 04 March 2012

 Children are our treasures regardless of what home, family or circumstance they are born into. On this Children’s Day I express my thanks for my own children and every single child that the earth has blessed us with.

 The planet village, the one that is supposed to collectively raise our children, is no longer a given. We have instead a staunch and ever rising concrete sterile building in its place. This structure has been successful in advocating for a notion of individual self-centred survival of the fittest. It is a notion which harbours contempt and hostility for anyone less than fit and it ignores structural issues. This construction has been erected over the top of our gardens of collective compassion, as if those plantings are only weeds to be frowned upon.

As a mother of children ranging from eighteen to three years old – I can understand and fully empathise with the angry cries from outraged New Zealanders. They want death and castration for the Turangi teenager who raped and harmed a five year old child. If it was my own daughter, I may also have murderous hell-bent vengeance from my heart and soul. But at some point I would have to reckon with a future free from the ugliness of hate, for the sanity of myself and the rest of my family.

A huge wrong has been done. It is a profound and deep wrong-doing that has created enormous imbalance with all that is good in the universe. The young man and his family must be held accountable for what has happened – balance must be restored to that little girl, her family, the Turangi community and our entire planet.

To the little girl and her family; I wish for nothing but peace and healing to you all. I struggle to comprehend what you have all suffered. Aotearoa is grieving for you because we know this is not who we are. Today on Children’s Day I remember what happened to an innocent child and I am horrified.

The teenager who committed this wrong has been sentenced to ten years in prison. But I am not convinced that any prison sentence ALONE will properly restore this overwhelming disjunction. I am not sure that true accountability and reflection from this teenage boy and his whānau will happen purely as a result of jail time. In ten years time, he will still be a young man. Whether we agree or not he will be back in our communities again. I am asking us all, what sort of young man do we want him to be when he arrives back to us? Is it too much for me to hope that at the least, he will not be a monster? Is it too far fetched to expect that with appropriate support, he might even become a contributing adult again instead of remaining a burden to society?

I do not know the teenager or his whānau, but something somewhere went very wrong. By all accounts, it appears that this kid did not receive an upbringing. We all know that many exceptional people have come through all sorts of adverse circumstances to become quite functional and even outstanding. If you are still reading this article, I will have enough people ready to bite me by now without me also trying to make excuses for the actions of this teenager or his whānau. There are no excuses. BUT how do we stop this from happening again?! If in the angry call for ‘justice’ we have quartered and hung this teenager in the town square, with his ‘irresponsible’ whānau looking on – then what? Will that ultimate act of revenge ensure that other families and children are all strong and confident and resourced in our communities? Will that act of ‘justice’ provide the incentive for all parents to suddenly become role-models for society by tomorrow?

As I hear people now saying “simple, stop the ‘weak’ from breeding”………..oh wait. No.
My meter for feeling disgusted has just gone berserk and is preventing me from even speaking to such lunacy. Sorry if I got your hopes up for a second there.

Here in South Auckland where I live, people like the Manurewa Marae kuia (women elders) inspire me. They ignore the unforgiving concrete edifice that is devoid of kindness and they stretch their uplifting hands to those who are struggling. The kuia form authentic relationships with those who have already lost Darwin’s race. Their work is challenging, full of complex problems and dynamics and is mostly akin to pushing crap uphill. They are of course underpaid, under-resourced and under-valued by most.

I place huge value in those kuia and their small but important gains. Recently they spoke to me about a young mum ‘coming out of the darkness’. The kuia spoke about the many months they had spent just supporting her to feel like she was worth more than the life she is currently living. These are immeasurable gains. Can we measure how many babies we do not kill?

However, the kuia are up against ‘that building’ as well. Yes many communities, marae, and whānau have planted great gardens of collective compassion and nurturing. This has allowed some incredible work to happen in spite of the foreboding cold concrete creation that is concerned only with the care of the self.  I am also aware that many families have done quite nicely for themselves just by tending to their own backyards only. If you do nothing but be good parents for the rest of your lives, yes you are my heroes. But for us all to be heroes so all our children thrive, there is work to be done.

At the beginning of this article I called for accountability from the teenager and his whānau. I stand resolute in that. Only true accountability will give even that young person and his whānau any hope of a future.

In the meantime, how do we make certain that no young person will ever again adopt such tragic actions? I am choosing to fight for sustainable wellbeing for all of our children and whānau. It is well past time to explode this current arrangement of indifference, hostility and outright hate towards our families who are anything less than heroic right now. Rather than exploiting any opportunity to ramble unintelligent bigotry, role-model what genuine concern looks like. I realise that the latter approach takes more intelligence, work and balls but it has proven to have better outcomes than stirring polarisation.

Currently our State is; breaking our country into bits and selling it to more ‘cold colossal’ corporations, whipping the poor without whipping poverty, harassing our natural resources instead of harassing outdated fossil fuel energy, instilling economic, social and political policies that further destroy healthy and basic human values in favour of corporate ones. In Manurewa we have more prison buildings for our children to look up to than we do tertiary education institutions. We  owe it to our children to reject such fee market neo-liberal thinking because it is destroying our planet village.

At the time I was born my parents were young, poor, unmarried, clueless and Māori. By some lunatic analysis, they should not have been allowed to breed at all. Thankfully I entered this world and can now take my glorious place to write articles of profound importance, to espouse words of stunning grandeur, to conjure notions of revolutionary thinking and indeed to inspire mass world change.

Failing that (darn it), I will just try and be a good Mama who role-models care towards others. Thanks to Mum, Dad and my planet village for ensuring that we remain fiercely proud of being Māori. Thank you also for teaching us to stand up for, rather than stand on, others.

Ngā mihi

Marama Davidson
(Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou)

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.