Since Whānau Ora was introduced more than a decade ago, there has been a long line of reviews and reports supporting the Whānau Ora approach and providing further evidence of what we already know – that we, as Māori, are in the best position to do for ourselves.
On Thursday, another report, this time released by Te Hiringa Mahara – the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, came to the same conclusion.
Exercising rangatiratanga during the Covid-19 pandemic found that Māori-led initiatives were instrumental in protecting the health and wellbeing of all communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Māori knowledge, skills and resources were critical to keeping early Māori infection numbers low, despite forecasts.
The report draws on 2020 research Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu commissioned and participated in, An Indigenous self-determination social movement response to COVID-19, by Sacha McMeeking, former Pouārahi Helen Leahy and Cath Savage, which you can read here and also this work by Sacha and Cath.
The ability to adapt quickly, the rapid adoption of online communications tools, the wide and quickly mobilised networks, the phone trees set up to check on whānau, the networks used to deliver care, hygiene and kai packs on a scale not seen before, the adaption of tikanga and kawa and the development of tailored pandemic plans – the report covers a long list of achievements.
It also covers “learnings” for the Crown, including that iwi and Māori communities should be recognised as self-reliant and strong in the face of myriad adversities, not vulnerable, and that tino rangatira “should” be recognised, respected and supported.
As we all know, and as the latest report pointed out, Māori have been exercising tino rangatiratanga in the face of challenges throughout history; and the COVID-19 pandemic was no different.
How many more reports, learnings and recommendations do we need to be heard? Whānau Ora Commissioning Agencies have been trusting and investing in whānau solutions for a decade now. Whānau Ora works and it works because Whānau Ora is not about programmes, services and government departments creating KPIs for whānau, or about them. Whānau have the answers and must no longer be absent from decision-making.
I want to acknowledge the mahi of all whanau, hapū, iwi, marae, Māori health providers and other Māori organisations throughout Te Waipounamu, including the many entities, we work with, for doing what they do, looking after one another, not just in the pandemic, but every day.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Sacha and Cath’s research, which sums it up nicely: “The Māori response to Covid-19 … was not created by the threat of the pandemic. Rather, the pandemic response unveiled and accelerated an already existing self-determination social movement within Māori communities.”