Survey: Māori continue to experience government agencies' 'violence'

By Marena Mane

A survey, He Waka Eke Noa: Māori cultural frameworks for violence prevention and intervention, has highlighted continued state 'violence' against Māori. The survey's data shows a large proportion of Māori continue to experience many forms of violence from the state and its agencies.

Some 1500 Māori adults who live in Aotearoa and who identify as Māori took part in the survey.

Kaupapa Māori epidemiologist Shirley Simmonds (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāpuhi) says those surveyed provided critical insight, “We've taken a wide definition of violence so it looks at it in terms of the state experiences of neglect, failure to protect, abuse and abuse of power, racism and breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

For Professor Leonie Pihama (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Māhanga) the violence identified in the research wasn’t just physical, “We are talking about psychological, spiritual, cultural, what people call symbolic violence, which would be something like, when you walk into a space and nothing about you is present."

The survey was by Ngā Wai A Te Tūī Māori researchers at Unitec. Data collected revealed over 80% of respondents experienced racism within state agencies and organisations. Just over half, 52% of all respondents, indicated that they have experienced police violence within their lifetime.

Not new news

“We need to remember that these are not new,” Pihama says. "If you look at Puao Te Atatu  (the 1988 report of the ministerial advisory committee on a Māori perspective for the Department of Social Welfare) and our advocacy from the 1980s, there was a whole range of reports on state violence being continued through legislation, continued through systems, agencies."

The research also revealed whānau were unlikely to return to those services for help.

“If you have a social security agency that is supposed to serve people who are most vulnerable and in need, and they stop going because of racism, abuse of power, or marginalisation, then you have a problem. We are talking about major agencies that have a significant impact, education, health, WINZ, the police, ACC, Oranga Tamariki and Justice.”

Researchers say Māori advisors in government agencies are not enough.

Self-determination solution

“We've had many reports on the social service sector in the past 40 years that have indicated an add-on of Māori advisors and Māori advisory information institutions does not make a Treaty relationship and will never make a Treaty relationship. So, we can have all the advisors we like inside organisations but, until we get that kind of structural transformative change, we're not going to see the change and it's highly unlikely we're going to see a lot of change in terms of these kinds of figures.”

Recommendations include an opportunity for self-determination.

“We as Māori need to be where we can be rangatira of our lives and be empowered to make our decisions for our future,” Simmonds says.

Pihama says the survey indicates a need for a Kaupapa Māori approach.

“We have to have Kaupapa Māori services that are fully resourced, fully funded, that have the same status, have the same recognition and have the same capacity as the Crown entities.”