Introduction: A fair go for all? 5
Ethnic inequalities 5
Defining structural discrimination 8
Structural discrimination and the Human Rights Act 1993 10
The use of “special measures” 11
Project purpose 14
Project parameters 14
United Nations calls to reduce ethnic inequalities in New Zealand 18
Past government attempts to address ethnic inequalities 19
Current approaches to address ethnic inequalities: Whānau Ora 22
A Treaty of Waitangi-based approach to structural discrimination 23
Public attitudes 27
Deficit theories 29
Socio-economic factors 29
Systemic analysis 31
Structural discrimination in the health system 32
The links between racism and health 33
Culturally-specific health provision 35
Manifestations of structural discrimination 37
Health workforce diversity 38
Health equity position statement 42
Responses to structural discrimination in the Health System 43
Case Study 1: Cultural Competency and Cultural Safety Initiatives 43
Factors for Success 46
Case study 2: Whānau Hauora Village, Te Matatini 47
Factors for success 49
Structural Discrimination in the Education System 50
Case study: Te Kotahitanga 57
Factors for Success 59
Structural Discrimination in the Justice System 61
Māori in the criminal justice system 63
Pacific peoples in the criminal justice system 68
Developing successful responses to structural discrimination 69
Responses to structural discrimination in the Justice System 72
Case-study 1: Neighbourhood Policing in Counties Manukau 72
Factors for success 74
Case-study 2: Rangatahi and Pasifika Youth Courts 75
Factors for success 77
Case-study 3: Māori Focus Units 78
Factors for success 80
Structural Discrimination in the Public Service 81
Responses to structural discrimination in the public service 85
Case study: New Zealand Police Ethnic Strategy Towards 2010 85
Factors for success 86
Common elements: Structural discrimination across systems 88
Common elements: Promising responses to structural discrimination 89
Final comments 91
Contact the Human Rights Commission 92
Introduction: A fair go for all?
The notion of everyone getting a fair go is a deep-rooted principle of New Zealand society. This perhaps arose from New Zealand’s migrant origins in seeking a better life, and certainly finding early expression in the Treaty of Waitangi’s promise of an equal entitlement to the rights and privileges of British subjects. But do all New Zealanders, regardless of the colour of their skin, ethnicity or national origin, get the same opportunity for good health, a good education, decent work and an adequate standard of living? The figures clearly say no, and the question to ask is what are the barriers to people of different ethnicities and cultures getting the same start in life, having the same opportunities, and collectively having broadly similar outcomes.
There can only be two reasons for the kinds of inequalities experienced in New Zealand: either people of different ethnicities have different capabilities (which is not supported by the evidence), or people of some ethnicities face greater barriers than others to the achievement of good health, good education, decent work and an adequate standard of living. The first reflects a “deficit theory”, i.e. that inequality is somehow the fault or in the nature of those who experience disadvantage. The second presents a “social model”, which leads us to consider what kinds of barriers lead to the persistence of inequalities between ethnic groups.
Given that there have been a myriad of programmes to address ethnic inequalities without significant success, this paper asks whether the systems, processes and practices of public agencies are themselves responsible. There is local, as well as “international” evidence that this is indeed the case, whether it is called structural discrimination, systemic discrimination or institutional racism.
This paper looks at some of the evidence, as well as some of the initiatives for systemic change that appear to be working.
In 2012, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights identified structural discrimination causing inequalities in New Zealand and urged the Government to address it. The Committee recommended that the Government:
strengthen its efforts aimed at eliminating the disadvantages faced by Māori and Pasifika in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by addressing structural factors and ensuring that relevant measures effectively benefit the most disadvantaged. The Committee also recommends that the State party set specific equality targets by year and closely monitor their achievement.1
Key social indicators point to significant inequalities between ethnic groups in New Zealand. These inequalities are not new; they are persistent and entrenched. Additionally, inequalities disproportionately affect Māori and Pacific populations. Some well-cited examples include:
the life expectancy rate for Māori men it is 70.4 years and for non-Māori men it is 79.0 years. Life expectancy for Māori women is 75.1 years and for non-Māori women it is 83.0 years. Although life expectancy rates for both European and Māori have improved, the difference has not narrowed. Pacific peoples have experienced the least improvement in life expectancy over the past 20 years2
the unemployment rate for those classified as “European” was 5.6 per cent in the March 2012 quarter. That compares with 13.9 per cent for “Māori”; 16.0 per cent for “Pacific peoples”; 14.1 per cent for “MELAA” (Middle Eastern/Latin American/African); and 9.4 per cent for “Asian”3
European people comprise 33 per cent of the prison population, although they make up 68 per cent of the overall population. By contrast, Māori account for 49 per cent of prisoners, despite being only 15 per cent of the national population.4 Pacific people comprise 11.31 per cent of all prisoners yet only make up seven per cent of New Zealand’s population.5
Although the frequent citation of negative statistics about inequality can have the unintentional impact of further perpetuating negative messages about Māori and Pacific communities, statistics do provide an evidence base for analysing structural discrimination and encouraging government action. Te Puni Kōkiri is one government agency, however, that has taken a different approach. It has created a macro-modelling tool, the Loss of Māori Potential Model, which draws on these statistics to model alternative futures based on different scenarios. Altering some variables – such as educational achievement, youth employment, and recidivism – makes a discernible improvement in the numbers of Māori in custody or community sentences over the next 15 years, as well as making improvements in Māori employment, Māori incomes and tax contribution.6 This model demonstrates that there are wider social benefits to improving inequalities.
Embedded social disparities do persist despite numerous interventions over several decades. The Commission’s annual review of race relations, Tūi Tūi Tuituiā Race Relations in 2010, noted:
Despite the many efforts of communities and successive governments, social and economic inequalities, accentuated by the economic recession, remain unacceptably high. An unrelenting focus on the elimination of racial inequalities is needed, so that future generations of New Zealanders are free from this blight. It is also time to examine whether there are still systemic or institutional barriers to racial equality that need to be addressed to make other interventions more effective.7
The review lists “identifying and working to remove any structural or institutional barriers to racial equality in the enjoyment of civil, political, social and economic rights” as one of the top ten race relations priorities. This discussion paper is one way the Commission is showing its commitment to addressing structural barriers to ethnic equality.
Given that in many of these areas disproportionate disadvantage is experienced by Māori, Pacific peoples and ethnic communities, it is imperative that the Government address structural discrimination as part of a successful strategy for meeting these targets.
The paper begins by clarifying and defining structural discrimination and offers historical background on government responses to ethnic inequalities and structural discrimination. It then focuses on manifestations of structural discrimination within four key systems – health, education, justice and the public service – drawing lessons and further means of identifying structural discrimination across systems. Each systemic analysis is followed by a case-study or studies that highlight promising initiatives in addressing this issue. The paper concludes by offering key insights and identifying common elements for success.