Oranga Tamariki, womens' health and te reo: what Māori students want government to focus on

By Jessica Tyson

Māori university students have spoken out about what they want the government to focus on after the election.

University of Auckland students held their annual Māori day, Te Rā Māori, on Wednesday which included political panels, workshops, kai and performances.

At the event, they shared their biggest concerns related to Oranga Tamariki, te reo Māori, women’s health, employment and a lack of Māoris voice within Parliament.

Oranga Tamariki

Ngāti Whātua descendant Jerry Daniels, who is studying a bachelor of property, says he wants Oranga Tamariki to have more of a “community focus”.

“With the Oranga Tamariki Act and the 7AA attached to it [requiring the state agency to annually report on its progress], and all the reports that have come out, basically how I see it is that there’s all this resourcing is going to kids but in terms of it physically manifesting, the reports are saying that it isn’t happening.”

Daniels says he has a challenge for Oranga Tamariki.

“It’s one thing to throw money at an issue but it’s another thing to actually do something with it and I’d like to see them do something with it and work with communities. Less of a centralised system. More of a community focus to help tamariki because at the end of the day if you don’t help our kids then the leaders for tomorrow are going to be stuffed."

Te reo Māori and womens' health

Sarai Mckay, of Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Rongomawāhine and Ngāti Porou is studying Māori studies and English. She says she would love to see te reo Māori compulsory in schools.

“That’s something that I’m really passionate about and something I’m wanting to pursue in my career as well is te reo Māori especially for our tamariki.”

As a woman who suffers from endometriosis and other health issues, Mckay says she’d like more support for women’s health in government policies.

“I don’t think that there are enough policies in place at the moment that support and protect women’s health.”

Tamahauiti Potaka of Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Hauiti who is studying a conjoint degree in science and commerce says he hopes the government will continue to create jobs for Māori.

“I’m happy with the Provincial Growth Fund and how it’s provided economic stimulus to more rural communities within places like Te Tai Tokerau and Te Waiariki, helping those small communities with higher Māori populations and just creating jobs for those places.”

Internal changes to parliament

Māori Student's Association co-president Mamaeroa Merito says there need to be internal changes to the way Parliament works to ensure leaders on the Māori seats are looked after and listened to.

“I don’t think they’re truly valuing Māori voices and that leaders such as the Labour Māori caucus, in response to the Covid lockdown were very quiet at a time when their people needed them to be loud for them," says Merito, of Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Awa.

That doesn’t necessarily mean new politicians but Māori leadership needs to be stronger, she says.

“It means Māori representation in that governance level of parliament to be able to effect the meaningful change for our whānau and communities and our hapū.”

The general election will take place on September 19.