Maori social health – some discussion

In their discussion of violence in New Zealand, James and Jane Ritchie devoted some discussion to the way in which Maori social health deteriorated after, and as a result of, colonisation by the British Crown. Having described the urbanisation of Maori in the early parts of the twentieth century, they write:

The multiplicity of tribal groups in urban areas can be dealt with by building tribal associations and allegiances, rather than by continuing with policies which amorphously attempt to integrate Maori into some kind or pan-tribal identity. There never was such an identity, and most of the ordinary mechanisms of Maori culture cannot be made to work on such a basis. Such policies are not unlike the assimiliationist pressures of the 1950s and 1960s (for example, the Hunn report) which envisaged all Maori ultimately becoming individuals within an integrated New Zealand society. That was a policy that was tried and which failed.

What then should be done? Violence by Maori offenders can be reduced if the position of the Maori people is improved. There are three immediate avenues that must be pursued. They are economic opportunity, education, and power sharing.

Economic opportunity must restore to the Maori people control of their own resources so that they are not merely subservient to a monocultural commercial and authority structure. Poverty will always engender helplessness and resentment. Unemployment adds to poverty, and provides extra time and energy with nothing to do. Until Maori people have adequate resources, any talk of cultural renaissance or reconstruction is just empty words.

Maori people have their own ideas of how the unemployed might be occupied. What they have not been able to do is persuade the institutions of government to put such programmes into operation. Maori land requires massive labour for conservation, rehabilitation, and development, and someone must pay for that. Marae facilities throughout the country need repair and extension; historic buildings need careful restoration. The concept of the marae as a set of community facilities that will service all kinds of needs from before birth until after death is capable of great creative expansion. Facilities such as houses for the old, health centres, young people’s houses, training centres, tourist and entertainment complexes, educational facilities, recreation and sporting centres, small business ventures could all be part of a modern marae. All the major cities in New Zealand have far too few marae complexes. Auckland alone probably needs a further fifteen to twenty at the present time.” (p.147) “Building these facilities,” Ritchie and Ritchie continue, “as well as running them would utilise a [-p.148] considerable labour force, and to those who say that the cost would be prohibitive, the answer that many Maori people give is that the present costs of sustaining Maori people on welfare benefits, plus the costs of institutional care which has no positive outcome, are also enormous; the Maori Economic Development commission estimated somewhere in the vicinity of $600 million a year. This negative spending needs to be progressively reduced and money made available for positive programmes under Maori control.” (pp.147-148)

“To undertake this restructuring two kinds of education will be needed. The next generation of Maori people passing through the education system needs to see that there will be career alternatives working in, and for, their tribal organisations. …The second kind of education would create a climate of understanding in which such change could occur. This begins with a thorough understanding of the treaty and a rewriting of our history. / Power sharing must be accomplished not only through devolution but also by allowing Maori philosophy, values, and viewpoints to penetrate mainstream institutions, by real assessment of the constitutional challenge.” (p.148)

Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Education in poverty, Images of Parent Child and Expert, Maori learners and education, Metaphors and Narratives around children and learners, Mono- Bi- and Multi-culturalism, social and political contexts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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