Current approaches to address ethnic inequalities: Whānau Ora
Whānau Ora is the most recent cross-agency initiative to try and address structural discrimination, particularly in respect of Māori whānau (although the Prime Minister emphasised in 2010 that the service was open to all New Zealanders).44 Initiated after the 2008 election, as part of the National-led government’s confidence and supply agreement with the Māori party, Whānau Ora is still a relatively new programme, so assessment of its success or otherwise is premature. Nonetheless it represents a systematic attempt to tackle inequalities, particularly for Māori.45
The Whānau Ora programme, informed by the 2010 report of the Taskforce on Whānau-Centred Initiatives,46 asks government agencies to “commit to a new way of working with whānau that includes an outcomes focus and working with other agencies.”47 The premise of Whānau Ora is to overcome structural barriers by tying social services together so that they can be accessed more easily for whänau in need, while at the same time empowering whānau to provide for their own development.48
The following factors can be identified as key to the programme’s potential:
Whānau Ora is intended to be community-led, with support from government agencies.
There is a clear expectation that the voice of whānau is not lost as Whānau Ora develops. Whānau Ora asks government agencies to adopt the “default setting” of asking “what difference will this make for whānau?”
Government agency leadership is engaged with community leadership. The Governance Board consists of government agency chief executives and community leaders, allowing for an efficient flow of ideas.
Although Whānau Ora is a national programme, it also allows for strong regional direction. Whānau circumstances vary across the country. Regional leadership groups reflect Māori leadership in each region and will help ensure Whānau Ora services are developed to reflect the circumstances in each region.
In the interviews people involved with Whānau Ora, the Commission heard that it has “the potential to be responsible for the revitalisation of whānau, just as Kōhanga Reo did for te reo”.
One message that emerged from the workshops is that the Treaty of Waitangi has a place in any discussion of structural discrimination. Although there are areas of disagreement between the English and Māori texts of the Treaty of Waitangi, there are important areas where the texts do agree. All three articles concern the recognition of rights and identification of responsibilities. These rights and responsibilities are central to addressing structural discrimination. They include:
the rights and responsibilities of the Crown to govern (Article 1 - kāwanatanga/governance)
the collective rights and responsibilities of Māori, as Indigenous people, to live as Māori and to protect and develop their taonga (Article 2 – rangatiratanga/selfdetermination)49
the rights and responsibilities of equality and common citizenship for all New Zealanders (Article 3 – rite tahi/ equality).
The Commission found in its 2010 report on Human Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi that the guarantee of equal rights promised in the Treaty remains unfulfilled today, as systemic disadvantage remains to be fully addressed.50
Modern interpretations of the Treaty emphasise partnership or power-sharing between the Crown and Māori arising from the common principles of kāwanatanga (governance) and rangatiratanga (self determination) in articles one and two. These concepts can provide a foundation on which to identify and address structural discrimination, particularly in respect of improving outcomes for Māori.
The Commission’s Treaty framework offers one tool to address structural discrimination. Based on an extensive programme of community engagement beginning in 2003, the Commission launched its Treaty framework in 2010; at its heart is the “promise of two peoples to take the best care of each other.”51 This framework sets out the rights and responsibilities that the Treaty conferred on both the Crown and Māori, not least in ensuring equality for Māori and other New Zealanders. It also recognises that ensuring equality for Māori involves the protection of rangatiratanga.52
As part of this work, the Commission has collected case-studies of existing Crown-Māori relationships and analysed them for elements of success, particularly in providing more positive outcomes for Māori. Examples include: Manawhenua ki Waitaha and the Canterbury District Health Board, and Ngāti Kahungungu and the Ministry of Education.53
The Commission’s analysis found the following common elements, among others, in successful relationships and positive outcomes:
entering into relationships with a genuine desire to improve outcomes for Māori and to provide redress for past actions
regular dialogue to strengthen relationships and understand each other’s issues and aspirations
foundational agreements: usually formal e.g. Memorandums of Understanding based on acknowledgement of status, role, authority and obligations of each. All effective relationships were based on the recognition of rangatiratanga
shared decision-making as the norm at both high level and service level engagement
recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi
valuing Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge): this was particularly valuable where education was the focus of a relationship.
More recently, the Waitangi Tribunal’s 2011 report Ko Aotearoa Tēnei poses solutions to inequalities based on a fundamental shift in philosophy, attitude and approach by the Government. The tribunal stated:
Unless it is accepted that New Zealand has two founding cultures, not one; unless Māori culture and identity are valued in everything government says and does; and unless they are welcomed into the very centre of the way we do things in this country, nothing will change. Māori will continue to be perceived, and know they are perceived, as an alien and resented minority, a problem to be managed with a seemingly endless stream of taxpayer-funding programmes, but never solved.54
In order to address this imbalance, the tribunal recommends the development of genuine partnership bodies at the governance level and the reform of law, policies or practices relating to (among others) health, education, resource management, conservation, the Māori language, arts and culture, heritage, and Māori involvement in the development of New Zealand’s positions on indigenous rights. This includes recognition of and support for traditional Māori approaches in each of these areas.
Specific tribunal recommendations related to health and education include:
establishing a Crown–Māori partnership entity in the education sector. The tribunal suggests that Māori representatives be chosen via an electoral college to sit on it
developing some specific indicators around mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) in order to properly gauge its Māori-focused activities
recognising that rongoā Māori has significant potential as a weapon in the fight to improve Māori health. This will require the Crown to see the philosophical importance of holism in Māori health, and to be willing to draw on both of this country’s two founding systems of knowledge
incentivising the health system to expand rongoā services, for example, by requiring every primary health care organisation servicing a significant Māori population to include a rongoā clinic.55
In the tribunal’s view, not to give serious consideration to its recommendations and work towards “perfecting the partnership” could lead to:
the growth of an ever-larger cohort of poor and unproductive working-age Māori, who are perceived, and know they are perceived, as a problem to be managed with a seemingly endless stream of taxpayer-funded programmes. This is the path of ongoing Māori anger and non-Māori resentment.
The tribunal’s alternative pathway – one which structural discrimination and inequalities for Māori – leads to a different future:
It provides Māori with a positive platform from which they can address social issues and contribute to national prosperity; it moves the Crown/Māori relationship from one based on grievance and negativity to one based on mutual advantage; and it provides the basis for a future which all New Zealanders can look forward with optimism.56
Taking the tribunal’s detailed Treaty analysis more widely, drawing on diverse cultural values and practices to inform more responsive social services that cater to the needs of different communities is a central part of addressing structural discrimination.