Disabled community fighting systemic racism for better health outcomes

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into the health services and outcomes kaupapa was held last week at Papakura Marae. The hearing had a particular focus on disabled whānau.

Whānau Ora chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tate (Te Arawa) gave evidence before the tribunal on Friday saying systemic racism was the reason disabled whānau wanted access to the same services that “all New Zealanders are entitled to” but couldn't get.

“When you look at Pasifika and Māori families, they get the services provided by GPs and other health providers. Rarely do they get those services without having to advocate strongly because they’re in a position where they’re always having to battle to get really good services.

“That is, of course, if the system doesn’t take into consideration the disability that they have had for such a long time. It makes it so difficult for them.”

Raukawa-Tait says the disabled community wanted to be included, not excluded from the health sector.

Equities needed for disabled whānau, says Raukawa-Tait

“So often they feel like nobody really cares about them and they want to make sure they are living meaningful lives.”

Raukawa-Tait said that should disabled whānau get those services, as well as making whānau part of the process to paint a more inclusive picture, it would make a huge difference in their lives.

“It’s not rocket science,” she says. “It’s just that everyone wants the services that meet their needs. It’s never a one-size-fits-all. Don’t look at the person and see their disability first – look at them as a human being.

Though some health providers are meeting the needs for those disabled, she says it’s the majority that still has to advocate for better health equities.

“The battle is not over.”