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Waikato University Maori Psychology Students Spch

Hon Tariana Turia
Wednesday, October 10, 2001 Speech Notes

Waikato University Maori Psychology Students Seminar Series, Hamilton


We are all aware that members of whanau, hapu and iwi are substantially over-represented in institutions where psychologists work yet are under-represented among psychologists.

Our people typically access psychological services later, have more critical needs at intake and are more likely to be re-referred at a later date following contact.

Psychologists are primarily employed in the education, corrections and health sectors. Statistics show that tangata whenua are negatively over-represented in all of these sectors.

To help us deal with this we must keep asking ourselves why.

Why are there less of us in the profession?

Why are we negatively represented within institutions where mental health workers are employed?

Why do psychological practices more often than not fail to meet the needs of whanau, hapu and iwi?

It is time, I believe, to be more proactive in addressing these issues.

This is why I believe you are so important.

I also believe, that there are two issues for our people, in the practice of psychology in Aotearoa and I wish to lay a challenge before you.
Firstly, we need to very clearly identify our customary psychological practices and processes and determine their appropriateness for society, as we know it today.

I would suggest to you, that much of what our ancestors did in terms of psychology, would still be relevant today.

Our old people knew of subliminal learning - why do you think oriori were chanted, karakia recited, and stories told on the cusp of that time between sleep and waking, or the period before succumbing to slumber?

Why did our old people talk and sing to the child in-utero?

Why are certain rituals performed, during the process of dying and upon death?

We know the institution of the tangihanga, with all its ritual and oratory does have overt psychological benefits.

Tangihanga, does not relate solely, to the psychological benefits for the living. Tangihanga has economic, social and political purposes.

The tangihanga also has practical (a burial) and spiritual (preparing the spirit for its departure) purposes.

Through all this, we are "nga taonga a te mate" (the prizes of death) and the evidence can be found in whaikorero.

Whaikorero where we recognise our immortality with the words "i whanau tatau ki te mate" literally "we are born to die" which, of course, is the inevitable journey of life and a time where we mourn a passing and we celebrate a life.

Often, I hear people saying, we do not have a literature base and yet we do.
Just think of all the waiata, which can be found in four volumes of Nga Moteatea.

That is an amazing literature base for a start - why not use it?

There are also, the many oral histories stories, from which students on a psyche course such as yours, can access.

The issue I suspect is that in institutions like this one, there is a lack of staff within the Psychology Departments who have Maori language skills to take advantage of the literature base, to which I have referred.

While not as fluent in the reo as I should be, I believe language ability amongst students is also an issue.

If we are determined enough, I believe this issue can be overcome and I would suggest, that if we are serious enough about our indigenous hapu and iwi psychological processes, perhaps a requirement for such a course would also entail enrolment in the Maori language courses here at Waikato.

At the same time, I believe the designers of clinical psyche courses must, also, ensure that their courses, reflect a reality which is not confined to anglo-european perceptions of psychology.

Only then, I believe can we, address the next issue I want to raise and that is the number of the uri of whanau, hapu and iwi people working in the profession.

Increased numbers of us studying and working in the field of psychology is, but one way of ensuring the discipline will change, in ways that reflect whanau, hapu and iwi ways of thinking.

I do caution, however, that in the process of becoming qualified, we take care we are not seduced, to the extent, that we lose sight of the essence of whanau, hapu and iwi paradigms.

I believe the focus on the individual, in the search for identity is central to why the mental health services have trouble addressing our needs.

The idea of forming an identity aside from our whanau, our hapü and our iwi is not one that comes easily to us, nor is it one that we should desire.

The issue lies, not only in identifying who we are, but also, in identifying where the problems lie, and in identifying how they can be solved.

Our mental well being is inseparable from our physical and spiritual well being.

When conversing about psychological health, we obviously cannot isolate psychological well being from all other areas of our lives – our education, our physical health, and our spiritual awareness.

The solutions offered also need to be far broader.

They need to involve our whänau, our hapü and our iwi.

Mental health practises in Aotearoa need to work, in a way that reflects our population and our heritage.

These problems do not stand-alone.

The Western mode of thought, including psychology, has continually defined intelligence and success in an exclusive way.

These definitions have shaped our whole education system.

They have significantly impacted on tangata whenua inside this education system.

These definitions are finally being rethought.

We must continue to re-define what makes us valuable. This is a crucial issue when we discuss whanau well being.

When we enter into these discussions we must also recognise the existence of diversity amongst whanau, hapu and iwi. We are by no means, all the same. We have many different needs and many different ways of looking at the world.

One of the fundamental issues raised in Mason Durie’s opening address was the importance of recognising this diversity, at the same time, as finding what tangata whenua have in common.

We must find ways for our education system to offer different methods of teaching and different measures for evaluating knowledge and intellect.

A variety of paths must be open for tangata whenua students at all levels of education.

The news is not all bad. Progress has been made. I am heartened to witness the beginning of a new chapter in the whakapapa of psychology.

I see an emergence of passionate, innovative and dedicated psychologists who are tangata whenua.

I also see a growing awareness of the importance of whänau, hapü and iwi, when talking about solutions.

I see the development of university psychology courses, where an awareness of the tangata whenua needs have become more than just, an add-on.

There is a growing commitment to a holistic approach to well being – a significant step toward aligning the tradition, in a way, that is inclusive of tangata whenua needs.

I am sure the issues I am concerned with are not new to you.

I am sure you have been dealing with them in your studies already.

I am proud of all of you for being here today and for undertaking the study of psychology.

I would like to congratulate you for the role that each of you has played and will continue to play in this new chapter of psychology in Aotearoa.

I wish to stress to you how important you are in this chapter.

You each have a path to follow.

I am confident that all of your different paths will lead you to help many other people in following their paths with strength and dignity.

You will find your whänau, hapü and iwi invaluable along your journey.

Firstly, you will help simply by being involved in our system. Whanau, hapu and iwi need their own members, to help them find their way forward.

We have seen again and again, that just we as do, other indigenous people progress further and more quickly, when in charge of our own development.

I cannot stress enough, how important it is, that hapu and iwi drive this new chapter.

You will also stand as role models.

You will be instrumental in teaching others, how to start working in different ways – ways that exist outside the Western paradigm.

This Western paradigm often doesn’t make sense to, or work for me, as a descendant of the awa of Whanganui.

Hapu and iwi ways of doing things will not necessarily make sense to, or work for, others.

I have faith that you will teach and guide other people in Aotearoa, in a way of thinking that is new to them. An inclusive way.

I also feel very strongly that these ideas, need to be determined by you and by all whanau, hapu and iwi.

It is crucial that they are not soaked up by Western academic structures, that remain abstract and removed from most indigenous people's lives.

We must not only be in charge of the practise, but in charge of the concepts.

These concepts must be carried out in a practical way at a local level.

In 1986, Puao-Te-Ata-Tu was written. This was an advisory report for the government on social welfare practice. Hapu and iwi centric people wrote it.

The reason I am raising it today, is that it is still recognised by many of us, as the most complete social policy document that truly reflects the values, and aspirations of whanau, hapu and iwi.

It is an inclusive document.

Let us not forget that report and its aspirations. Let us work together for local solutions.

Solutions, which have their whakapapa deeply, embedded within the structures of our whanau, hapu and iwi.

Na reira tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatau katoa.


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