Maatua Whangai o Otepoti- Reflections

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1 Maatua Whangai o Otepoti- Reflections Shane Walker Shane Walker is of Kai Tahu and Ngati Porou descent. He is currently a lecturer in Family and Community Studies at Otago University. He recently completed his Masters in Social Work looking at the topic of Maatua Whangai. Whakahokia mai te mana o te iwi ki te iwi, o te hapu ki te hapu, o te whanau ki te whanau, o te tangata ki tona rau kotahi. (W. Tibble, Submission 58, Hui Taumata 1984) Return the authority of the tribes to the tribes, of the sub-tribes to the sub-tribes, of the families to the families, of the individuals to the individuals, representing as they do the generations of the past and present. This article had its genesis in a thesis that explored discourses on Maatua Whangai (provision of foster-care through the Department of Social Welfare) from a Maori care-giver perspective. These discourses and other historical material defined Maatua Whangai provision and the power relationships within a colonial construct. The study further identified how dominance was achieved by the Department of Social Welfare officials and the consequent resistance to this dominance by caregivers. Maatua Whangai o Aotearoa Maatua Whangai set out to alleviate the care concerns of Maori children in alternative and institutional care in the early 1980s (Bradley, 1994). In doing this, however, the Department of Social Welfare captured and redefined what Maatua Whangai meant to Pakeha and Maori, moving it away from its original purpose. Maatua Whangai was repackaged to meet Departmental needs then sold back to constituent and stakeholder groups, that is Iwi/Maori. Initial response to Maatua Whangai was supportive as Maori caregivers saw the need for a dedicated foster-care scheme for Maori young people. In 1986 however, a strong critique of the Department of Social Welfare practices towards Maori was issued in the form of a report, Puao-Te- Ata-Tu. This report strongly criticised government institutions (considered to be mono-cultural and Pakeha) that usurped traditional Maori practices and left Maori with the bitter effects of personal, institutional, and cultural racism. The document challenged the State and its role in maintaining total control over Maori children in its care. My thesis utilised ideas generated by Puao-Te-Ata-Tu as a seminal document in order to present ideas that would shift dominance from

2 state control to a recognition of an iwi/hapu voice in matters regarding the care of Maori children. In some ways the underlying philosophy of the thesis could have been achieved by the State if it had implemented the recommendations of Puao-Te-Ata-Tu, especially those specifically referring to the Maatua Whangai programme and generally the care of Maori children. Maori knowledge and Maatua Whangai In the face of multiple understandings of Maatua Whangai and fostercare, the thesis sought to define and clarify the use of these contentious terms. To do this I utilised parts of the framework by Mead (1994, 1997) specifically; He Whare Ngaro, He Whakamahana, Nga Whanaungatanga, He Whare Pukapuka, He Waka Pakaru, He Whanau Pakaru. This framework speaks of Maatua Whangai using traditional concepts, thereby basing the care of Maori children within traditional whanaungatanga relationships and responsibilities. In addition to this framework the discourses of various Maori people are utilised and outlined to illustrate the framework. Each story is different. The beauty and love expressed in them is a common thread that makes them whai ora, that is living and flowing, especially to those who are whanaunga to those people. Maatua Whangai o Otepoti The design and conduct of this research collected discourses from individual caregivers within Maatua Whangai o Otepoti. A detailed record of these discourses was obtained through individual (kanohi ki te kanohi) interviews and through collective means by way of hui. These discourses explored five basic categories: 1. The induction into the Maatua Whangai Programme. 2. The meaning of Maatua Whangai for the participants. 3. The manipulation and use of the programme by the Department. 4. The effects of Maatua Whangai. 5. The future implications. The above categories were then summarised and analysed and fed back to the hui which confirmed the following emerging themes: That caring for these young people was the most important part of the mahi That this mahi had its costs in terms of our families, children and finances That support was negligible from the Department of Social Welfare (the Department ) That the Departmental (DSW) Maatua Whangai workers were supportive That we were our own support whanau and that our networks were what kept us afloat That the young people who were placed in our care were often really messed up Some of the relationships that developed have become long term. The analysis of these discourses has lead to possible solutions to the issues and concerns raised by the respondents within the above themes. These solutions are based upon tino rangatiratanga principles centred around concepts of iwi and hapu control and self determination, returning foster-care to a pre-colonial concept of Maatua Whangai and Tamaiti Whangai as traditionally used by iwi (Metge, 1995). Further, this movement to iwi and hapu control and development is located within

3 the current emancipatory approach of Maori. There are a number of underlying issues that are implicit within the above themes that have practice implications for those involved in maatua whangai type practice today. A. Caregivers or workers either with Child, Youth and Family directly or indirectly, through a community based Child and Family Support Service or Iwi Social Service, have a responsibility to be very clear in terms of personal views on child protection and the policies and procedures of the agency or employer. Is there congruence between personal beliefs and the agency you work for? Who is your client? Is the primary client the child and your secondary client the whanau or vice versa? It is very easy to say that you support the paramountcy principle: the welfare and interests of the child are of paramount concern, or mandatory reporting: the compulsory reporting of abuse by professionals. But do you? This type of issue is something that you must come to terms with. The stakes for child protection are high and botch ups, especially those seen to be by Maori, are objectified by the media in a way that makes them more visible and still treats Maori pedagogy as something that is exotic or extra (Puao te Ata Tu, 1986). If this is the case, who is more likely to get hung out to dry? The Maori worker or caregiver (in this case) at the bottom of the food chain. B. The role of Maori workers within agencies is critical. There is the need to rejuvenate from within (Walker, 2002) the agency or group you work for. The respondents in this research spoke very highly of the Maatua Whangai workers who were employed by the Department in Otepoti at the time. The dual accountability required by both Maori and the agency you work for (especially those who have prescriptive Crown contracts to provide services) means that Maori workers often have to walk a fine line between two worlds. This is not problematic if you have figured out where you fit and what your priorities are. If not, you end up being tossed about between the two accountabilities and a binary logic develops that can only end in a polemic division between the two, which is a great way to develop ulcers. C. The respondents were very critical of the system under which the programme was delivered. They were at the bottom of the food chain fulfilling the emergency management (Matahaere-Atariki, 1998) agenda of the Department while being relegated to sub-altern roles. They had very little say or real power in terms of decision making and for that reason they were at great risk of being used. As caregivers they were approximately 50% Beneficiary and Single Parent Families. Yet in one of the whanau roopu the material support received from the Department was pitiful. One of my respondents commented, How much money went back into the main putea that was flagged for Maatua Whangai? I think we tried to work out once how many cents per child they paid us over the years. Per head per child per day and we are talking cents. It was pathetic. If I remember rightly it was seven to nine cents and that was only the Pine Hill whanau (Walker, 2001: 105). Is this the kahawai and the shark, where the shark says lets be bicultural and then eats the kahawai. The respondents in this piece of research were willing and keen because their practice models and ways of doing things were being valued and acknowledged, but they did not expect to get swallowed up and eaten. Does the shark know how to behave any better in 2002? It has learned a lot about its own eating habits and the issue is one of trust and respect of relationships,

4 otherwise you can only have what Friere (1972) refers to as false generosity. Perhaps much of the government rhetoric about a Treaty partnership is obscuring new forms of social control (Spoonley,1990) and any attempt to soften the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their generosity the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well (Friere, 1972: 21). This is not a moan session about the former care practices of the Department workers within State Departments but it is important to consider the impact on whanau of the policies under which they work. As a worker do you take subaltern roles that are in turn used to disenfranchise Maori, while under the guise of protecting children. I realise we have to earn a living, but of late I have been very aware of the parts of my own work that serve Pakeha interests without benefiting Maori, either specifically or generally. D. The Tikanga surrounding Maatua Whangai was appropriated and became the intellectual property of the Department by being enshrined in the CYP&F Act They incorporated the structure of Maatua Whangai into the Act which is that family group conference structure. Because if you remember what it was like beforehand, a child would get into trouble and your family had no control, no participation in the process. A social worker would determine, the police would get involved or a school headmaster. But you actually had no part of the process until you went to support them with, say, going to court. Whereas with Maatua Whangai we would sit down and we would hui together. We d have our korero and we d come up with some solution. And those departmental workers that came in, watched this. I think they watched it right throughout the country and then incorporated it into that new piece of legislation (Walker. 2001: 105) E. The child protection starting point was based on western approaches to foster-care and traditional Maori tikanga was overlaid to make the programme palatable to Maori. In a discursive field, such as the understanding and perception of caregivers regarding their role in the Maatua Whangai programme, there are competing discourses with some discourses having greater power than others (Weedon, 1987: 35). The power to dominate such a discursive field is constantly under challenge- nowhere more so than in a new field or where new powerful players enter a field. That was Maatua Whangai practice and their theories of child protection. It is, therefore, necessary to examine the discourse of the respondents to identify their version of the truth, and the way that such truth is embedded in institutions, in this instance the Department or Official version. In conceiving discourses as knowledge s that compete for the status of truth within the regime of truth (Foucault 1980) we accept that discourses function as true not because they are demonstratably true in an objective sense but because they come to be accepted as true (Elizabeth,1997). Discourses also offer differing ways of composing the same concept or object, in this case the difference between foster-care and tamaiti atawhai. Within any discursive field some discourses have greater power than others to dominate that field (Weedon 1987 & Elizabeth, 1997). In addition the power of a discourse to attain and maintain such dominance is constantly under threat. I can remember one lot of funding. A whole years youth and adolescent funding, it went to one particular place instead of being spread out amongst the people that were doing the work. So they got our korero,

5 they got our structures and shut the door. The Department and the social services were never realised and they still don t realise to this day that Maatua Whangai is a taonga of our tupuna, it is our way of life and there s nothing that can take that away from us. They ve bastardised it, but for us as people it will still go on. The only difference is, at one stage it was easier because there was funding and we could actually clothe some of these kids, meet these children s needs (Walker, 2001: 105). Conclusion Reforming the relationship between Maori and the State is essential to the development of Iwi based services to care for Maori children in Otepoti and more generally in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Sub-altern roles by programmes and individuals within Government agencies are being challenged and are no longer being tolerated by Maori. Further, these roles have led to a continuing disenfranchising of Maori as seen in the Closing the Gaps report (Te Puni Kokiri, 2000). A new solution must be found that attempts to equalise the power relationships between the parties of the Treaty and returns power to those who actually do the work. This must be undertaken in a way that validates traditional knowledge and tikanga rather than commodifying it under the guise of prescriptive contracting between Maori and the State. References Bradley, J. (1994). Iwi and the Maatua Whangai Programme. In R. Munford and M. Nash. Social Work In Action. Dunmore Press Ltd: Palmerston North, Elizabeth, V. (1997). Something Old. Something Borrowed. Something New. Heterosexual Cohabitations as marriage Resistance? A Feminest Deconstruction. Ph D Thesis, University of Canterbury. Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings Pantheon Books: New York. Friere, P. (1972). The pedagogy of the oppressed. Penguin: Middlesex. Matahaere-Atariki, D. (1998). Treaty Rhetoric. Unpublished paper. University of Otago. Mead, M. (1994). Tamaiti Whangai: The Adopted Child: Maori Customary Practices. Adoption: Past, Present & Future Conference. P. Morris. Uniprint: Auckland: Mead, M. (1997). Landmarks, Bridges and Vision : Aspects of Maori Culture. Victoria University Press: Wellington. Metge, J. (1995). New Growth From Old The Whanau in the Modern World. Victoria University Press: Wellington. Ministry Advisory Committee (1986). on a Maori Perspective to the Department of Social Welfare Puao-Te-Ata-Tu (Daybreak). Government Printer: Wellington Spoonley P. (1990). Critical Issues in New Zealand Society Racism and Ethinicity. Dunmore Press Ltd: Palmerston North. Te Puni Kokiri (2000). Progress Towards Closing Social and Economic Gaps Between Maori and Non-Maori. A Report To the Minister Of Maori Affairs. Walker, R. (2002). Oral Source, Te Wananga o Raukawa, Degree Accreditation, February. Walker, S. (2001). The Maatua Whangai Programme O Otepoti From A Caregiver Perspective. Unpublished masters thesis, University of Otago. Weedon, C. (1987). Feminist Practice and Post structuralist Theory. Blackwell: Oxford.