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Dem Maaris sure can sing!

22 November 2006
Dem Maaris sure can sing!

Comments about Maori drug addiction this morning from Professor Doug Sellman, Director of the National Addiction Centre, unfortunately demonstrate how Maori are more likely to suffer from gross generalisations than other New Zealanders, Green Party Maori Affairs Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

Professor Sellman has analysed Ministry of Health research into mental health disorders among more than 2500 Maori and concluded that Maori are twice as likely as non-Maori to become addicted to drugs. He speculated on National Radio this morning that a "range of cultural differences" including "Polynesian generosity, their ability at singing, their talent on the rugby field" could make Maori more prone to addictive problems.

"I don't doubt the finding that Maori are twice as likely to suffer from addiction than non-Maori, but attributing it to genetics and referring to the 'natural' of ability of Maori to sing and play sport is intellectually negligent and deeply offensive," Mrs Turei says.

"Addiction is an enormously complex issue for everyone who suffers from it. Social and economic factors as well as the impact of colonialism and racism must be seriously considered in analysing this data."

A 2002 Christchurch School of Medicine report on arrests and convictions for cannabis related offences shows that while Maori have a higher rate of arrest and conviction for these offences, simply being Maori increases the likelihood of being stopped and searched. A 1996 Ministry of Health report on drugs and public health says that while the rate of Maori mental illness is high, filters in the health system mean they are more likely to be identified and labelled as mentally ill than non-Maori.

"These examples show that there are always more complex social and structural forces at work when ethnicity is cited as a risk factor for anything.

"This morning's comments were simplistic and unfair. For such research to have beneficial impacts for Maori, the analysis of causality needs to be far more sophisticated," Mrs Turei says.


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