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Talking Not Taking - Crossing the Cultural Divide

Talking Not Taking - Crossing the Cultural Divide

New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists’ Conference
“Imagining the Other” – Waitangi April 16-20, 2008

WAITANGI: 18 April 2008

The challenge of Maori Pakeha relations continues to provoke anxiety and misunderstanding, at personal, professional and governmental levels. Nowhere has this been more powerfully demonstrated than on the grounds of Waitangi during recent Waitangi Day commemorations.

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists’ 2008 Conference, Imagining the Other, currently being held at Waitangi, will provide a fresh lens through which Maori and Pakeha can understand each other’s perspectives. The combination of psychological and cultural focus points for the four day conference will set a platform for offering the tools of psychotherapy to help improve cultural relations.

Psychotherapy offers expertise in considering the psychological processes that underpin New Zealand’s often fraught cultural conversations. As a therapeutic discipline, offered by nearly 400 practitioners across the country, psychotherapy assists development of personal coherence and identity. Once in place, this enables the individual to develop a more mature understanding of others, to appreciate rather than fear difference and to embrace diversity and complexity in interpersonal and cultural spheres. As Dr Jonathan Fay, a conference contributor, observes; “Psychotherapy aims at the development of an imaginative partnership that can acknowledge difference and replace ignorance and intolerance with recognition, reciprocity, and respect.”

The 2008 conference will explore how we can build more robust bicultural partnerships. And it will deliver a call to action. The conference will invite fresh insights into viewing the world from the others perspective; to value rather than fear and reject how others see the world. The conference title “Imagining the Other” sums it up; by imagining what life is like from the other’s perspective, we deepen our understanding of each other.

Noted Maori broadcaster and media commentator Haare Williams, and psychotherapists from Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas, will be addressing the challenges and opportunities psychotherapy has to more publicly contribute to the bicultural and multicultural conversations in New Zealand.

Assisting both Maori and Pakeha to develop true partnership is an essential task if we are to address the serious discrepancies in Maori mental health and well being. With social statistics demonstrating weekly that Maori are not on a level playing field, the conference will be charged with identifying what needs to be considered and actioned to address these inequities. A challenge of absolute importance not only for governmental and institutional stakeholders, but for us all, in building a future based on deeper cultural understandings.


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