Racist Plunket has 'no place' in hauora overhaul - Dr Rawiri Jansen

By Will Trafford

A Māori health expert has taken aim at Plunket branding it as racist and saying it has no place in a government overhaul of the newborn to five-year-old health screening and advisory programme Well Child (Tamariki Ora). 

Dr Rawiri Jansen told Waatea News the organisation's controversial founding by Sir Truby King means racism permeates within the organisation even today. King was a vocal proponent of the discredited eugenics (racial improvement through selective breeding) movement.

"He [King] was a white supremacist. He was in favour of the white population and originally only had a contract serving white babies. Plunket gets $60 million a year and is not delivering for Māori, Pacific and the disabled. " Jansen said 

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall announced the overhaul of the Well Child programme this week following a report which called it "outdated and inequitable".

Māori enrollment rates trail the 87 per cent of babies from the general population enrolled and the report says the Ministry of Health is failing to meet its obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Verrall says the programme had failed to keep up with the impacts of poverty and housing challenges, as well as mental health and drug dependence.

White  supremacist whakapapa condemned

“These visits and checks as pēpi grow are to identify whether a child’s health or family would benefit from early intervention services, and provide support. But the data shows there has to be more consistency in referring tamariki (children) on to specialist services when a need is detected,” Verrall said.

Well Child (Tamariki Ora) was launched by Royal New Zealand Plunket in 1907. Despite now being overseen by the government, Plunket continues to be the primary provider for the programme.

Jansen says he met the Plunket board last year and told its members they needed to acknowledge its history and structural bias by transferring its contracts and assets over to a new organisation.

"I told them, this your whakapapa, you are grounded, you were established by a white supremacist. They wouldn't do that, they refused to do that. They want to hang on to that racist history." Jansen said.

Speaking to RNZ, Plunket's chief executive Amanda Malu acknowledged the programme has "failed Māori and Pacific families" and committed to an overhaul.

Dr Jansen says he applauds the bravery of the ministry and minister Verrall in producing the report but added: "We've got to see a change ... and I do not think Plunket should be part of our future."