Dr Matire Harwood wants racism addressed in health system

By Jessica Tyson

Dr Matire Harwood is one of six people chosen for a steering group tasked with deciding who will govern the interim Māori Health Authority.  In her new role, she says would like racism against Māori addressed in the health system.

“I’d love to see things like tino rangatiratanga actually enacted in our health system. I’d love to see a health system that addresses those wider determinants of health, one that is anti-racist and doesn’t tolerate racism wherever that occurs throughout our health system,” she says.

Harwood, of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rangi, Te Mahurehure, Ngāti Hine is an associate professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Care at the University of Auckland and works as a GP at the Papakura Marae Health Clinic.

“As a GP I see every day how broken the system is. We have whānau who have difficulty accessing just the basics of healthcare including housing, ability to afford things like seeing and getting medication because of poverty.”

She says she wants Māori whānau to feel valued through every step of the health system and solutions need to be “driven from the roots, from our marae, from our whānau right up to the decision making in those funding decisions with government and the Māori Health Authority rather than having a "chop down approach where they think they’ve got the solutions for us.”

The members of the steering group were chosen by Sir Mason Durie given their knowledge, background and mana across Māori health, Whānau Ora, iwi leadership and governance roles. They are Harwood, Parekawhia McLean, Tā Mark Solomon, Rāhui Papa, Kim Ngārimu, Amohaere Houkamau and Lisa Tumahai.

The steering group will decide on their engagement process and will  reach out to iwi and the Māori sector on identifying candidates for the interim Māori Health Authority board, supporting ministers in appointing that board with a mandate from Māori and providing advice on appropriate options for governance and accountability arrangements for the Māori Health Authority.

Minister Peeni Henare says, “The Māori Health Authority is about enabling Māori to exercise meaningful leadership and control over their hauora. I have no doubt that the considerable collective experience and connections of this group will allow them to determine the ideal mix of rangatira Māori to steer the interim Māori Health Authority forward, including its establishment and how it exercises rangatiratanga within the wider health system. It is exciting to move to this next stage of the process.”

The steering group will run from May to July 2021.