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ANZASW statement for Waitangi Day

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) joins members, the social work profession as a whole and all New Zealanders in celebrating our National Day.

ANZASW views Waitangi Day as an opportunity to reflect on Te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi, the commitments that were made back in 1840 to Tangata Whenua and the challenges this nation has faced since that time.

The Social Work professional is guided by ethics and principles that prompt us to support justice and recognise the values and beliefs that are uniquely Māori.

Social work practitioners and colleagues in associated professions have long advocated for the rights of Tangata Whenua for many years, using Te Tiriti as a legal basis for these claims. The fingerprints of this movement can be seen in such government-commissioned seminal reviews and studies as Pūao-te-Ata-Tū (1988), Te Punga (1994) and Te Pounamu: manaaki tamariki, manaaki whānau (2001), which had a lasting impact on the relationship between Māori and state agencies.

ANZASW member and Auckland University Academic Dr Liz Beddoe told the Association that “to me, the treaty absolutely embodies a commitment to human rights and to social justice.”

‘What we see is that the treaty is a living document- it may be a piece of fading paper- but it is in actually embodied in the everyday relationships between Māori, Pakeha and other peoples in Aotearoa,” she added. Dr Beddoe argues that the principles of the treaty should be honoured through addressing inequalities between Māori and non-Māori that continue to persist.

“It does require us to be constantly cognisant of things like health inequality, inequalities in participation in education- and the dramatic increase in Māori children in care...the differences in life expectancy,” Dr Beddoe noted.

With such inequalities in mind, ANZASW recognises the strategic vision of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy as a step in the right direction; the requirement for Government Departments to report on the outcomes those organisations for Māori may go some way to address the inequity that is present in our communities.

The Association is mindful there has been some progress made in addressing the injustices, but also the need for much more investment and support for Maori whanau and their communities to flourish and be self-determining.

ANZASW member Kohi Waihi commented that “there have been number of things that have been achieved over the years, but the sense I get is that, I don’t think this happened to the fullest extent, particularly in the social service setting.”

“From a funding perspective, the investment in Maori Organisations to build the capability and capacity of these services has not been enough. The under-investment is in spite of the statistics which say that we [Māori] make up most of the client group,” he observed.

This Waitangi Day, the Association celebrates the fact that Te Tiriti unites Tauiwi and Māori in partnership and provides Tangata Whenua with a legal means through which to seek justice, as well as to assert their Tino Rangatiratanga (sovereignty).

ANZASW wishes its members and all New Zealanders a happy Waitangi Day and hopes that the commemoration of our National Day will bring the peoples of these islands together as a community, moving forward toward a future of greater justice, equity and pai ora.

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