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Maaori Health Crisis Will Continue Unless Society

7th December 2000

Maaori Health Crisis Will Continue Unless Society Changes

Ten years ago, a small but determined group of Maaori women set up an organisation committed to improving the sexual and reproductive health of Maaori. In 1989, the Family Planning Association formally acknowledged Maaori had limited access to sexual and reproductive health services and endeavoured to support the development of an independent “for Maaori by Maaori” organisation. This week, Te Puawai Tapu celebrates it’s 10th anniversary. The organisation provides national policy advice to health and government stake-holders and it runs sexuality education programmes aimed at Maaori youth.

Medical advisor, Dr. Papaarangi Reid says “Ten years later we’re a lot wiser about sexual and reproductive health in respect to how we’re framing the issue. We’re moving away from victim-blame focussing on individual behaviour. We have to move towards understanding how society and it’s values impact on health behaviours and outcomes.”

Convenor of Te Puawai Tapu, Irihapeti Ramsden says the high rates of teenage pregnancies, STIs (sexually transmitted infections), abortions and un-protected sex among Maaori are the statistical results of a system which is failing Maori. “There will be little improvement in the grim health statistics until all institutions start becoming more responsive to Maaori. The sexual and reproductive health crisis faced by Maori is a reminder of the multi-layered struggle for survival in a system that continues to prohibit Maori existence, and inhibit the inherent right of Maaori to health and wellness “

Dr. Papaarangi Reid says limited access to appropriate health services, an education system which has failed to excite Maaori children about learning and society’s view of Maaori all impact on the status on Maaori sexual health. She says one of the greatest challenges for Te Puawai Tapu is to shift the public debate on Maaori sexual and reproductive health. “We need to resist Maaori vicitm blame analyses, mitigate the effects of racist policy, politics and politicans and undo the effects of 160 years of colonisation.”

Tumuwhakahaere, Pania Ellison says Te Puawai Tapu is also aware of the challenge facing non-Maaori service providers. “It takes genuine commitment to re-orientate a service or a national group to become more accountable to improving Maaori and sexual reproductive health.” Te Puawai Tapu has worked hard with national groups like the FPA who are now incorporating many pro-active strategies in to their national plan.

Te Puawai Tapu will be celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with the expansion of it’s modest premises on Wellington’s Courtenay Place this Friday. (8th December at 5.30pm) A new seminar room has been leased to accomodate the growing demand for the organisation’s sexuality education programmes. Associate Health and Associate Maaori Affairs Minister, Tariana Turia will be the key note speaker.

Please contact Sandi Barr to arrange media interviews and for further information.

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