Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whanau Ora - a cautionary note

Though frustratingly little is known about whanau ora it is safe to say that it is about Maori solutions for Maori problems. Doing things the Maori way.

But I am reminded of one of Professor Fergusson's papers released last year. The emphases are mine;

The Role of Cultural Identity

To explore the possible role of cultural identity in mediating associations between ethnicity and childhood maltreatment, the group of Māori respondents was subdivided into those of sole Māori identity and Māori/other identity. The data were then re-analysed to examine the premise underlying current theories in New Zealand that claim that strength of Māori cultural identity mitigates the risk of young Māori people being exposed to child maltreatment. Following adjustment for socio-economic and family functioning factors, this re-analysis revealed a complex set of relationships between cultural identity and risks of childhood maltreatment.

In terms of childhood sexual abuse, those of sole Māori identity had the lowest adjusted rate of exposure. Although these differences failed to reach statistical significance, the findings provide some support for the view that being of sole Māori identity may be a protective factor that reduces risks of exposure to childhood sexual abuse. However, quite the opposite pattern was observed for exposure to childhood physical abuse and exposure to inter-parental violence, with those of sole Māori identity being at greater risks of these outcomes. The results suggest that sole Māori identity may be a risk factor for exposure to physical child abuse and inter-parental violence. The findings are in general agreement with research by Kukutai (2003), who suggested that the degree to which an individual identifies with Māori cultural identity may be associated with increased risks of social and economic disadvantage.

These findings, however, are not consistent with the assumptions underpinning influential theories, social policies and a number of intervention guidelines (Department of Social Welfare 1988, Ministry of Social Development 2002, Balzer et al. 1997, Stanley and Thompson 1999, Kiro 2000, Stanley 2000, Kruger et al. 2004), which claim that strengthening Māori identity and links with traditional Māori cultural practices will lead to reduced rates of child abuse among Māori. To the contrary, while the findings of this study suggest that this approach may lead to reduced risks of childhood sexual abuse, it may also be associated with increased risks of childhood physical abuse and exposure to inter-parental violence. These findings do pose a challenge to current policies aimed at reducing the over-representation of Māori children in rates of child maltreatment, which emphasise “identity interventions” that are not evidence-based and are largely ideologically driven. Even though such policies are no doubt well intentioned and observe statutory requirements unique to the New Zealand context, following the view expounded by UNICEF (2003, 2007), they must be exposed to ongoing critical scrutiny and empirical evaluation.


Manolo said...

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read John Key's pathetic definiton of Whanau Ora. If our head of government cannot articulate what it is in simple terms, what can you expect?

Lindsay, is it a sop to the maori Party as many have said?

Lindsay said...

Manolo, Whanau ora is part of the support agreement the Maori Party signed with National.