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The voices of Maori living with a disability

The voices of Maori living with a disability to finally be heard: New Zealand Maori Council welcomes Waitangi Tribunal direction

“This is an opportunity for the voices and stories of Maori living with a physical or intellectual disability to be heard. No more shall our peoples only live their lives in the shadows forgotten by many. This is their time to come forward and to have their stories influence a system they are involved in designing as opposed to someone else designing it for them.” Matthew Tukaki

The New Zealand Maori Council has welcomed the Waitangi Tribunals approach to ensure that Maori living with a disability and those who are aging will finally have their voices heard within the landmark Waitangi Tribunal Health Claim. The Tribunal released directions to claimants last week that cover disabilities, mental health, alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse. Council Executive Director, Matthew Tukaki welcomed the fact that Maori and their whanau with a disability would finally have a voice.

“When I sat in the Tribunal a fortnight ago and listened to the impassioned voices of our people living with a disability you could not be more supportive of the direction this Inquiry will now take into stage two. The fact is all of our people must be heard no matter where they are from or their affliction.”

“Māori had a higher disability rate than non-Māori, regardless of age, in 2013. Older people had higher disability rates generally. Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the self-reported prevalence of diabetes among Māori was about twice that of non-Māori in 2013/14. It also shows that there are much higher disparities between Māori and non-Māori for diabetes complications. As a direct result Lower limb amputation is another complication of diabetes. Similarly, rates of lower limb amputation with concurrent diabetes for Māori were over 3 times that of non-Māori in 2012–14. Therefore, among people with diabetes, lower limb amputations among Māori can be estimated as 1.7 times that of non-Māori. And yet the question has always remained about what more could have been done in terms of prevention which in turn – if we get this right then why would we not also reduce the cost to the health system over all?” Tukaki said

“Then there are our people living with an intellectual disability – those who may have the body of a fifty-year-old but the mind of a child. Just last week I met with a group of intellectually disabled Maori ranging in age from 50 to 60. We yarned about fun stuff and what was happening in their day but I was always mindful of the fact they had younger minders and were constantly referencing whanau members who had obviously now passed. The question is who are we caring for these people – are the right models of care in place, are they still involved in a whanau approach to care as opposed to the current system that may not be fit for purpose? And then there is the growing population of Maori, and all New Zealanders, who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. The thing about these Kaupapa Inquiries is it brings to the fore the stories of those living the journey around disabilities from the individual to the whanau and it provides all of us with the insight into what more needs to be done to build a better model, a better system – one I would argue needs to be Maori led and designed for Maori by Maori.” Tukaki said

“I also welcome the fact that the second part of the Inquiry will focus on mental health and, more importantly, addictions such as Tobacco, Alcohol and Substance abuse – but let me be clear, the New Zealand Maori Council will also be leading a push to ensure that vaping is also included – we must ensure that vaping is not left out given the damage that is already being found in other jurisdictions.” Tukaki said

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