There is a fascinating debate happening right now around Māori health. The WAI 2575 Health Service and Outcomes Waitangi Tribunal hearing at Tūrangawawae marae is critically analysing the institutionalised racism embedded within Pākehā health providers and the outcome stats make for dire reading.
Māori die 7 years earlier, twice as likely to die from heart disease, suffer death from strokes and cancer at a higher rate, twice as likely to develop diabetes and the suicide rate is astronomical.
None of this of course is new, every social indicator suggests Māori are receiving a level of outcome far below Pākehā, and this dynamic can be witnessed throughout NZ society. From education rates (34% of Māori leave school with no qualification), home ownership rates (far lower than Pākehā), poverty levels, and imprisonment rates (over 50%). The issue isn’t that there in’t a problem, the issue is how do we solve it.
Part of the complexity is the denial many Pākehā live in when it comes to Māori suffering. So conditioned is Pākehā culture to ignore the injustices of the Treaty, they can not bring themselves to admit systemic failure and so place the problem back on Māori culture.
The other part of the problem is acknowledging that If Pākehā systems aren’t working for Māori, then Māori should be able to run these social services themselves. That logic becomes problematic when the Don Brash’s of this country have a field day screaming separatism.
So we find ourselves stuck in denial by the dominant culture with no means to take back agency to empower Māori to find their own solutions.
I believe a possible way forward is a wholesale adoption of Māori inclusivity and kaupapa throughout NZ public life. I’m not talking about the faux adoption of Māori symbolism on logos and correct pronunciation, I’m talking about a total and complete change in values from a neoliberal selfish one to an inclusive one. Our social welfare agencies aren’t just toxic to Māori, they punish Pākehā and fail them with as woefully as they do our first people.
The need to change the toxicity of culture inside Housing NZ, WINZ, MSD, Oranga Tamariki, Corrections, MPI, and Justice is well documented but the neoliberal values that dominate those agencies haven’t budged in the last 30 years. For the good of those agencies and for the well being of all New Zealanders, Pākehā need to start learning and listening to Māori.
Positive outcomes based on inclusivity is a far better conclusion to social policy than measurement of reduced costs based on a limited ideological framework of independence.