Racism and institutionalised racism in New-Zealand impacts the life of Māori people in many ways including, employment, education, housing and mainly healthcare.
Māori, as the indigenous people of New-Zealand must be granted the same privileges and opportunities as other groups in our society. Equity must be granted to all minority groups regardless of their cultural beliefs or race.
Unfortunately there are many economic and health disparities in New-Zealand due to racism. Racism includes behavior that results in unequal treatment, judgment or oppression often inflicted upon minority groups. In the healthcare setting, prejudiced treatment can result in the patient feeling inadequate and may cause resistance towards future treatment until it’s absolutely necessary, which will also result in more health disparities.
They may also be exposed to a lower quality of care, due to health professionals being uneducated on the importance of cultural safety. Māori people are also less likely to seek help for themselves or their family, from a General Practitioner due to the fear of institutionalised racism, combined with Pakeha Doctors and Nurses having a lack of understanding regarding traditional Māori medicine.
The health inequities can also result in supporting social stereotypes against the Māori people. The social stereotypes created, can also affect their mental health and lower their self-esteem.
The many inequities and unfair treatment directed towards Māori people often begins through workplace hazards and housing issues. Māori people are sometimes exposed to racism in the workplace, which could possibly lead to harmful behavioural coping mechanisms, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, which further aggravates or causes health issues. These health issues can include heart disease, diabetes and mental illnesses. The coping mechanisms can also harm families, youth and communities.
Due to racism, Māori may also find it challenging to buy a home and they are more likely to be exposed to an unhealthy living environments in their household. Societal expectations that are perceived as normal for Pakeha are not seen as conventional to many marginalised groups.
A single cultured view can result in many Māori people expressing feelings of exclusion and segregation. Unfortunately minority groups may also feel that they lack a sense of belonging in the heavily westernised culture we have in New-Zealand.
I believe it is imperative to be aware of Māori beliefs and cultural values in any professional setting, due to the immense ongoing damage that can be caused if working professionals are not culturally educated. It is crucial that employees are consciously aware and respect cultures other than their own. They must also respect and adapt to diverse beliefs to make the minority groups feel safe and comfortable. This will ensure marginalised groups receive equal treatment and care.
Māori by right, should have the ability to express ones cultural beliefs. This idea is very important to the Māori people and it must be upheld with utmost respect. In a professional setting it is important to create an environment that allows Maori clients to have the ability to express their culture, without needing to be fearful of facing prejudice or judgement. Often when Māori clients are exposed to a healthcare setting in New-Zealand they are “deemed to be in a state of noa”. A state of noa is a feeling of disempowerment in Maori culture.
A conscious understanding and dedication by New-Zealanders to further educate themselves on the importance of The Treaty of Waitangi is paramount. Equal health treatment in New-Zealand will lead to less health care disparities between Pakeha and Māori. By not adhering to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Pakeha people have acquired more privileges and power over the public. It is imperative that Pakeha are aware of this widespread inequity.
Health professionals have a high level power over vulnerable people and therefore they are deemed responsible for equity in health outcomes, for those that are marginalised in today’s westernised society. People that are marginalised often face unfair cultural stigmatisation and racism. It is crucial that we treat Māori people with kindness, empathy and respect.
It is also important for the Māori people to stay in touch with their cultural beliefs and Māori history. I believe all New-Zealanders should respect and encourage the expression of Māori culture and language in schools, institutions and other establishments, throughout New-Zealand.
Hadley Grace Robinson-Lewis is a mental health nurse.