Why workers who are Pakeha benefit from positive action for Maori

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Sometimes in my union job, I get asked why we are helping people from minority groups – like Maori or immigrants – when we should be looking after the majority.

Leaving aside the issue of the fact that my union – Unite – is probably a majority of various minorities – the question is easy to answer: We help these groups because doing so benefits all workers, including Pakeha workers.
Let’s look at some decisions by the government or government agencies over recent months that may appear to prioritise the needs of Maori and think about what their impact will be on workers who are Pakeha.
There is a terrible inequality in access to health care for Maori. One example of this is that Maori males have something like twice the rate of heart disease as Pakeha and yet get half the rate of interventions. Fixing that disparity is a matter of simply ensuring equal access to health care rather than Maori getting more than they “deserve” to use the language of racist opponents of equal rights like former National Party leader Don Brash.
To fix problems like that, some district health boards have committed to improving access for Maori. When I heard one board member discussing how they would do this, she talked about how Maori often missed out on follow-up appointments and they found that this improved by doing simple things like texting and phoning reminders rather than just emails or letters.
It is probable that many workers who are Pakeha also would benefit from that extra effort.
New Zealand has a long-standing failure to deliver quality education to students from Maori and Pacifica backgrounds. Whist the average rates of achievement are similar to comparable countries overseas, what is called the “tail” of underachievement is very long. That means we fail more people on average than other countries and they are largely Maori and Pacifica students. This continues through to University where failure rates for Maori and Pacifica students are 20% higher than Pakeha. Something should be done to address that problem.
Just today there was a report on the radio that a New Zealand university was going to adopt a programme from a US university that had successfully closed gaps between students who were Black, Brown or White over nine years.
It seems that what they did was actually extraordinarily simple. They identified struggling students early and gave them extra support.
Any system that does that will also benefit students from working-class backgrounds who are Pakeha and will often face similar challenges to Maori and Pacifica students.
Maori are imprisoned at an appalling rate – around 700 per 100,000 people compared to 90 per 100,000 Pakeha. That is an appalling statistic. We should be doing something. In recent years the Correction Department did not even mention the problem in their annual briefings to government ministers.
This month Corrections released a report highlighting the problem and committing themselves to bring the rates of imprisonment for Maori down to be broadly similar to Pakeha. That would be a gigantic achievement. The ways they have said they will do that is to treat prisoners as humans, make education, training more broadly available, and give prisoners better access to health care and addiction treatment.
But obviously, all prisoners, including Pakeha prisoners, are going to benefit from a more rehabilitative rather than the current punitive regime that has simply failed, including failing to keep the rest of us “safe” from crime and criminal reoffending.
Workers who are Pakeha have nothing to fear from positive action for Maori. In fact, we have everything to gain.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Oh bollocks.
    Men also don’t get treatment for serious illnesses as early as women, but it’s not due to sexism. It’s due to the fact that, by and large, men are less conscientious about having these things checked out.
    I am one such male and it drives my wife crazy.
    Maori don’t get treatment to the same level as other groups because they don’t seek treatment as often.
    This default setting of “everything is racist” is pathetic and only serves to diminish the impact when real racism is identified.
    It is plonkers like you that help perpetuate Maori plight.

    • Well then I would kindly wish to inform you to not concede to much of this or anything else to the great big capitalist state that is neoliberalism. In all of it the state intervenes and the government doesn’t make anything. With the help of very nice and very well meaning salespeople and lobbyist the government purchases Commercial off the Shelf and Military off the Shelf Systems from the free markets with incredible sums of money.

      There is no proof that a hospital is for sale and that a hospital can be sold. Or maybe you are a little bit of an idiot which is why the poor and middle class are the slowest to catch up, not like you but like Phill Goff. Neoliberalism is an ideology that is meant to put pressure on the poorest amongst us by deregulating the rules for the wealthy so they can privatise state assets and sell it back to us for a song.

      Māori does not want or even need socialist help. Māori would prefer that the state follow a little bit of there own rules instead of changing them all the time to suit ideology.

      • Ah good old Sam.
        Forever lacking the intelligence to respond with anything that relates to the original post or indeed makes any sense at all.
        This is the last time I will respond to your stupidity because it is beneath me to do so.

      • Sam: I’m puzzled at your response. I can’t see how it relates either to the original post, or to Jays’ comment.

        • No, I don’t belive for a secound that it is possible for me to sit here and make you puzzled. I think your intellect was damaged before I came along.

          • Sam: “I think your intellect was damaged before I came along.”

            Name-calling and insults of this sort indicate that you’re all out of arguments.

            Regarding your responses, Jays comments: “…..lacking the intelligence to respond with anything that relates to the original post or indeed makes any sense at all.”

            In light of your comment above, it’s difficult to disagree with that.

  2. “There is a terrible inequality in access to health care for Maori. One example of this is that Maori males have something like twice the rate of heart disease as Pakeha and yet get half the rate of interventions. Fixing that disparity is a matter of simply ensuring equal access to health care…..”

    I spent many years working in health services. The problem is actually failure to use available services; moreover, it’s a class issue – as well as that thing about men not being as punctilious about looking after their health – not a Maori one. The working class and the very poor in NZ are disproportionately Maori; this is the change in society over my longish life, brought about to a considerable extent by the depredations of neoliberalism.

    “….Maori often missed out on follow-up appointments and they found that this improved by doing simple things like texting and phoning reminders rather than just emails or letters.”

    Our local medical centre now does this routinely, as do the DHB outpatients’ clinics, which have been doing this for some years (Heck, our hairdresser also does it!). In my experience, patients’ (often, though not exclusively, Maori) failure to keep appointments was our biggest bugbear and waster of resources. Text reminders work very well for us, too, though I’ve seen no data on whether they’ve improved attendance generally.

  3. “New Zealand has a long-standing failure to deliver quality education to students from Maori and Pacifica backgrounds. Whist the average rates of achievement are similar to comparable countries overseas, what is called the “tail” of underachievement is very long.”

    Many years ago, before we experienced the flood of immigration from Asia, I was sympathetic to the notion that the education system was failing Maori in general. I should have looked back to my own years in the education system: I went to school with Maori children, and they did as well academically as the rest of us. Some of them went on to tertiary education as well.

    But the arrival of those Asian migrants, along with their generally good performance in education, has made me realise that – as with access to health services – the factor driving poor Maori and Pacific performance in education is that of class. Not ethnicity. In NZ, class is characterised by income level, not by aristocratic connections. This isn’t the UK class system.

    As was the case when I was young, middle class and elite Maori do very well in the education system. The children of the working class, along with the very poor, can also do well in education, so long as they get the right support. But the issues which contribute to poor performance in education are those we all know about, and they’re to be found within that part of society, not in the educational institutions themselves.

  4. I support and agree with everything you say Mike. As a retired tertiary teacher I think that what and how I taught courses benefited my Maori and Pasifika students. Certainly they were interested in the content of the papers/courses and got good results. That was rewarding for the teacher as well as the students.

  5. Just read D’Esterre and agree underachievment in education is a class issue. More of my working class students were Maori and Pasifika. Unfortunately in schools that structure classes according to high and low ability, the less able/inexperienced teachers are channelled into what are seen as classes of less able students. A stupid system that shat on the working class. Mixing perceived ability plus stimulating teaching and lively interaction between students ( and students and teachers) nourishes good learning and achievment.

  6. What I describe I did in my posts above was band aid stuff that disguises the real problem.The whole system depends on the exploitation of workers. We need to overhaul it through revolution

  7. The failure of the education system (as evidenced in the long tail of underachievement) has a negative impact on everyone but the impact is felt most heavily by those with reduced levels of social/economic capital. So for example, a student from a middle class family who leaves school without a qualification is going to have better access to the job market than a student from a poor family. The middle class family will be able to support their child financially into a job or training or simply have more contacts in employment. It just so happens that it is Maori and Pacific students who make up the bulk of the poor. Therefore the impact of a failed education system is felt more by this group. The answer would be to make the education system better. But the education system is entrenched. It has changed very little (at a structural level) since it was first introduced. It is this argument that can be generalised across all systems – justice, economic, health. A better, more equitable system will better for everyone.

    • Mark Bracey: “The failure of the education system…”

      The point that I was making is that it isn’t the education system itself that is failing: the factors that militate against the working class and the very poor succeeding in education are to be found in that sector of society itself, not in the institutions of education.

      Any education system is a product of one culture or another; and – being designed and run by humans – no system is perfect. The NZ education system is – broadly speaking – a product of European culture; this hasn’t stopped Asian immigrants from doing very well in it. By and large, such migrants are middle class.

      I’d add that being poor doesn’t necessarily determine how one performs in the education system. I grew up in a very poor family. We had middle class roots, but poverty had been thrust upon us, by circumstances beyond my parents’ control. My partner – also with a middle class background – grew up in a similar environment; both of us succeeded in education, as did the rest of my family.

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