As stated earlier in the introduction to this report, the findings and feedback presented provide additional areas of consideration for the Commission as it moves to prepare its final report, ready for release in 2023.
“My whānau is well when we are all secure in our wairuatanga; they know who they are and where they belong”.
Suggestion for the inquiry
- The Commission broadens its scope and definition of ‘Mauri Ora’ and acknowledges the difference between this idea and the idea of ‘Thriving’.
The wānanga clearly highlighted and reinforced the differences in the Māori view of wellbeing compared to commonly used western definitions. Basic necessities such as housing, financial security, and being healthy (physically and mentally) were all discussed and supported. However, the conversations across the wānanga quickly moved to consider broader elements and themes that were relevant to the overall wellbeing of Māori, such as one’s cultural belonging, their identity, their mindset, having access to their whakapapa, participating on the marae, and having family near by with the ability to spend time together.
Sub-theme: ‘Mauri Ora’ and ‘Thriving’ are two different things
The Commission’s draft report sets out its ‘Mauri Ora' framework based on the four dimensions of wellbeing set out in The Treasury’s He Ara Waiora framework1. The He Ara Waiora framework is adapted by the Commission by using the concept of mauri ora (thriving) to describe the wellbeing and productivity outcomes the Commission is seeking for Aotearoa New Zealand.
A key area of feedback received across the wānanga was that the concept of ‘Mauri Ora’ and the idea of ‘Thriving’ are not one and the same. Mauri ora takes the idea of thriving to the next level as individuals could be in a state of thriving without necessarily being in a state of mauri ora. The concept of mauri ora also takes into consideration an acknowledgement for both the tangible and intangible factors that affect our wellbeing, including our right to occupy land, and having access to our waterways, our language, and our cultural identity. Mauri ora was also described as being about the collective wellbeing, and derives from a drastically different value base than that of western society. This difference contributed to the difficulty participants had in being able to derive an appropriate English translation for the idea of mauri ora, as no word was able to encapsulate this idea in its entirety.
Vertabim comment: “Mauri ora would include being able to live a life without intergenerational trauma, where we have access to our land, where we know our language, and where we are comfortable and confident within our own individual and collective wairuatanga.”
Verbatim comment: “The relationship to our ngahere (forest) and to our moana (ocean) shows that we have a different value base and view on what it means to be in a state of mauri ora. The western view is based on wealth by money and places individualism at the centre.”
Whānau, hapū, and iwi around the country may also have different definitions regarding the indicators of when someone is thriving and when someone is in a state of mauri ora. This may be due to whānau, hapū, or iwi having differences in priorities relating to a range of environmental, economic, and social factors, such as the individual and collective financial position, location, cultural connectedness and so forth.
Verbatim comment: “It should be okay for different communities to have different definitions of wellbeing, as might be the case with thriving and mauri ora. Whānau need to be able to define this for themselves.”
“Many of our whānau in disadvantage don’t know who they are and where they are from”.
Suggestions for the inquiry
- The Commission acknowledges that individuals and whānau in disadvantage can move between different stages of mauri (including mauri mate).
- The Commission considers a broader definition of ‘income poor’ which considers the idea of an individual in disadvantage being ‘resource poor’ instead.
The Commission’s definition of disadvantage aligns with the idea of ‘mauri noho’ and contains three inter-related domains2:
- income poor (income poverty or lacking prosperity)
- doing without (deprivation/material hardship or lacking aspiration and capability)
- left out (exclusion or lacking identity, belonging and connection)
Persistent disadvantage is when the disadvantage outlined above is ongoing. Participants in the wānanga were asked to consider all aspects of disadvantage and the feedback presented below represent key aspects of disadvantage participants felt they were unable to see within the Commission’s current definition of disadvantage.
Sub-theme: Those in disadvantage can be in different states of mauri, not just ‘Mauri Noho’
According to participants, there are multiple stages of mauri, including mauri ora, mauri noho, and mauri mate and individuals and whānau can move between these different stages of mauri depending on their situation.
Importantly, there is a stage beyond mauri noho which participants acknowledged, and which some referred to as mauri mate. This was evident particularly in individuals and whānau who experienced long-term, enduring, and intergenerational disadvantage. Some participants talked about a state of mauri mate being evident in those who are so entrenched in the cycle of disadvantage (as a result of both tangible and intangible factors) that their frame of mind will no longer enable them to strive to attain mauri ora. Essentially, they are someone who has ‘given up hope’ where their mental model does not allow them to see beyond their current state.
The following questions posed themselves as areas of consideration:
- How do we support individuals, whānau, and communities across all stages of mauri (including mauri mate)?
- How do we ensure that those in disadvantage who are currently in a state of mauri noho don’t find themselves in a state of mauri mate over time?
Wānanga participants felt that it was when individuals found themselves in a state of mauri mate that lasting generational impacts of persistent disadvantage would be most felt, and significant effects would be felt by both individuals and whānau.
Sub-theme: ‘Income Poor’ vs. ‘Resource Poor’
Verbatim comment: “Income should be considered a resource rather than just income, because we have land, we have water, we have fishing rights. There are other things that make us rich, its just the fact that the way we do it doesn’t bring income, but rather, it feeds our whānau.”
The Commission’s definition of disadvantage offers three distinct areas, one of which lies around the notion of the individual being ‘income poor’. Being income poor for the purposes of this inquiry is defined as being ‘when income is equal to or less than 50% of median equivalised taxable family income per persons before housing costs’3.
Participants across the wānanga offered many lived experiences and examples of those who were income poor, yet didn’t find themselves within the ties of disadvantage as they were often ‘resource rich’. This further lead the conversation to consider a wider and broader application of the Commission’s definition of being income poor where taxable family income is better classified as a resource due to many assets that Māori consider significant in the context of wellbeing. These resources include both tangible and intangible assets such as our right to occupy land and having access to our waterways and the ngahere (forest) which provide a source of food and rongoa (medicine), all of which contribute to our overall wellbeing and keep us from a state of disadvantage.
Sub-theme: Other areas of disadvantage
Other areas of disadvantage thought to not currently be encapsulated in the Commission’s current definition:
- Lack of understanding around Aotearoa New Zealand’s history: Many grow up in Aotearoa New Zealand with no understanding of the country’s history. This lack of understanding leads to many of the issues identified within this report, such as a lack of identity and a lack of appreciation for the intergenerational trauma carried by many of those in disadvantage.
- Being denied your culture and identity: A key theme which continues to be relevant to those who find themselves in disadvantage is not having a sense of belonging or identity. Being connected with one’s culture facilitates a sense of worth, tradition, confidence, and knowledge transmission which participants agreed lead to Māori feeling a greater sense of expectation on them to succeed and create something for themselves and for their mokopuna.
- Operating within a poverty mindset: As a result of generations of trauma and colonisation, many Māori operate with a ‘poverty mindset’ where it becomes difficult to take a positive, strengths-based mentality to their overall wellbeing and economic standing. Further information on this is presented in a later part of this report.
Verbatim comment: “Me āwhina tātou i ō tātou whānau. We need to help our whānau shift from a poverty mindset to a positive strengths-based mindset. If we can do this, we’ll see our whānau take advantage of opportunities which encourage growth amongst our people”.
Barriers Within the Public Management System
Suggestions for the inquiry
- The Commission further elaborates on the role of cultural disconnection and intergenerational trauma within the current public management system, particularly as an aspect of the Commission’s current barrier – ‘Discrimination and the ongoing impact of colonisation’.
- The Commission across its four ‘system shifts’ considers the impact of a poverty mindset and looks at how we might move to address this issue in the context of persistent disadvantage.
The Commission in its report identifies four barriers which contribute to some people in Aotearoa New Zealand experiencing much more disadvantage in their lives than other people and inhibits the ability for the public management system to address persistent disadvantage. These barriers are4:
- Power imbalances
- Discrimination and the ongoing impact of colonisation
- Siloed and fragmented government
- Short-termism and status-quo bias.
The feedback provided below contains considerations for the Commission moving forward regarding these barriers.
Sub-theme: Cultural disconnection and intergenerational trauma
Verbatim comment: “A whanaunga of mine who is still a young adult doesn’t know who he is, what his whakapapa is, and where he is from. This has resulted in him feeling inadequate as a father as he is unable to pass any of that on to his daughter. He carries that hurt of not having any reo, tikanga, or mātauranga Māori.”
Across the wānanga, cultural disconnection and intergenerational trauma were highlighted by participants as being one of the biggest barriers of the public management system inhibiting the ability for Māori to create a fair chance for themselves. Many Māori today still remain subject to intergenerational trauma coming as a result of discrimination and the ongoing impacts of colonisation (such as language loss), with many of the tangible effects being reflected in the inequitable statistics regarding Māori today.
Further to this, it is clear that the effects of this cultural deracination include both economic and social factors, with many participants highlighting the significant mental health impacts on Māori. Participants shared that many Māori develop feelings of shame, with some highlighting imposter syndrome as a resulting effect of not being confident in one’s identity, often resulting in personal exclusion, further compounding the cycle of persistent disadvantage.
Verbatim comment: “Many young Māori who I’ve met don’t feel as though they are ‘Māori enough’, as they haven’t grown up in an environment that has enabled them to learn their language and their culture. For some of them, this has resulted in them feeling a sense of imposter syndrome when moving into other spaces later on in life.”
Sub-theme: The ‘poverty mindset’
Verbatim comment: “We need to help our whānau move from a poverty mindset to a positive mindset. This will help us all take advantage of the opportunities and will stop prohibiting growth amongst our people.”
Poverty is most obviously seen in its economic impact. Along with this, poverty can also be seen across multiple facets of an individual’s wellbeing, such as their own sense of self-worth, their identity, and their aspirations for the future. The idea of a ‘poverty mindset’ is one that has long been carried by Māori and has influenced behaviours and tendencies, including the ability to take advantage of opportunities and the tolerance for risk. This mindset has become embedded across generations of those faced with disadvantage and has proven itself to have had a substantial impact on the capabilities and aspirations of our people.
This has further seen many Māori rejecting our current public system, due to a lack of trust, and has left many choosing to be ‘disengaged’ from the system rather than being engaged and having assistance. One participant discussed how this mindset has caused her whānau to remain both in unsafe housing and refusing financial assistance. For many, this has remained the reality across generations, making it difficult to take a more positive outlook on life.
In the context of the proposed system shifts, any shift in the public management system needs to consider the appropriate provision of assistance to both individuals and whānau bound by the ties of disadvantage to make the shift from a poverty mindset to both a positive and strengths-based mindset.
Sub-theme: Other feedback (barriers of the public management system)
Other areas of feedback provided regarding the barriers of the public management system are presented below.
- Barriers within the New Zealand education system: The current education system in Aotearoa New Zealand has long been based on a western structure which has prohibited Māori success, and in the past, rejected the use of the Māori language through the native schools system5. This has long created a systemic bias and a power imbalance that young Māori moving through the education system still feel the effects of today. There continues to be many capable Māori students who aren’t presented with opportunities to attend private schools or engage in extra-curricular learning. As a result, they drop out as they don’t have the expectation behind them to succeed, further compounding the cycle of disadvantage.
Verbatim comment: “So many of our kids get told they won’t amount to anything, and teachers continue to make assumptions that Māori won’t want to go to university, so they don’t even get informed of the options.”
Verbatim comment: “My child didn’t even want to go to their school prizegiving due to how often their name gets mispronounced.”
Verbatim comment: “In our mainstream kura, there are special hui held for Māori who are failing NCEA. You get made to feel silly because you get called in to stay when everyone else doesn’t. It creates gaps and it leaves our tamariki not feeling so good about themselves.”
Verbatim comment: “We have had some tamariki at our kura this year who we suspected had learning difficulties. Through the public system we were told that we would have to wait for three years for them to be assessed. We decided to go down the private route which cost $1300 per child to assess, but they couldn’t provide anyone who could assess our tamariki in te reo Māori.”
Systems Change and the Four ‘System Shifts’
Suggestions for the inquiry
- The Commission gives further consideration to the meaning of ‘mauri ora’ across the four system shifts – with particular regard to how this affects the proposed wellbeing approach.
- The Commission further considers the role cultural disconnection, intergenerational trauma, and the poverty mindset has across the four system shifts, with particular regard to the overall system settings.
In the context of systems change, and to break down the barriers outlined in the section above, the Commission’s draft report sets out some interim recommendations – ‘system shifts’ – which it believes will contribute to the achievement of a fair chance for all. These recommendations are based around the design and operation of our current public management system as it is believed that fundamental change to the ‘macro’ level settings of the system provides us with the best opportunity to make the biggest difference to those living in persistent disadvantage. The application of He Ara Waiora is a core thread across these shifts. The system shifts that the Commission identifies are7:
- Re-think the overall system settings to prioritise equity, wellbeing and social inclusion
- Re-focus public accountability settings to activate the Wellbeing approach
- Fully realise the Wellbeing approach across policymaking and funding frameworks
- Enable system learning through monitoring and evaluation.
It was clear throughout the duration of the engagement that the idea of ‘systems change’ is something that is very well supported. None of the participants disagreed with the idea that we need systems change, nor were there any concerns regarding the Commission’s proposed four ‘system shifts’. It is noted that participants felt that complete systems change would be difficult to achieve given the current Westminster system of parliamentary government along with the three-year governmental cycles. However, it is noted that this commitment, despite the political party in power, is necessary if we are to see any change which provides a fair chance for all.
Below are some general supporting comments regarding the idea of systems change and the recommended system shifts proposed in the interim report.
Sub-theme: Our current system is too complex
The experiences and challenges that Māori have faced over generations and continue to face today make navigating the current Westminster system complex and difficult. Wānanga participants felt that this is further complicated by the clash in ideals, with the current public management system being based on individualistic ideals, something that is not aligned to the collective ideology held by Māori. This led participants to agree that the current system is too complex for the needs of those faced with disadvantage and that change to the broader system structure, including the overall system settings, was needed if we are going to address the issue of disadvantage in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Verbatim comment: “Our current public management system is inherently complex, and the issue is that the government doesn’t see the system as complex because it’s so far removed from its users, particularly those of us who need help.”
Sub-theme: Trust and accountability within the public management system
Verbatim comment: “Colonisation has made us dependent on the system, when really, we want to be able to do things independently.”
The Commission’s second ‘system shift’ looks at re-focusing the current public accountability settings to activate a wellbeing approach. It is clear that the traditional public management model and system in place today is based on hierarchical arrangements between those in power and those engaging with the system. It was clear throughout the wānanga that keeping the system and those in positions of power accountable, and ensuring appropriate consequences in the event of fault remains important. We refer to a section of our ‘Māori Perspectives of Public Accountability Report’ prepared for the Office of the Auditor-General to reinforce this notion:
‘If these concepts [contained within our pūrākau] are applied to the context of public accountability, they suggest that for Māori, when trust or promises are broken and expectations are not achieved, there needs to be tangible and visible consequences that acknowledge and address the fault and work to achieve resolution.8’
Too often we continue to see our public management system measuring inputs and outputs rather than measuring the appropriate outcomes for Māori, and this has long driven the short-term bias and short memory seen in our current public system – particularly when it comes to those in disadvantage trying to access services. Participants throughout the wānanga highlighted several lived experiences where services they were accessing didn’t meet their needs as the wrong outputs were being driven and measured, re-enforcing the need to refocus accountability settings to support collective outcomes.
Verbatim comment: “The WINZ system conditions our whānau to present themselves at their worst to receive help. If we were to go and say we need help, they would say that we don’t qualify because it’s not that bad. This puts whānau in a position of shame too. The system only focuses on the negative and where the quick wins are.”
Verbatim comment: “We provide whānau services, but the hospitals are always having to deal with the social service failures. There is minimal accountability around these services that are supposed to help people before they get into a state of requiring hospitalisation. Too many Māori whānau come into hospital for mental health reasons and the weight of all the accountability failures is having to be carried by that individual.”