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Strategies to address Maori and Pasifika child poverty

Neighbourhood-specific strategies needed to address Maori and Pasifika child poverty

Prominent Maori academic Dr Cindy Kiro told the Public Health Association’s annual conference at Pipitea Campus, Victoria University, Wellington today that geographically-specific strategies are needed to address Maori and Pasifika child poverty.

“Reports on child poverty in New Zealand have consistently highlighted the disproportionately high numbers of Maori and Pasifika children living below the poverty line,” Dr Cindy Kiro told conference delegates.

“Maori and Pasifika families tend to live in high need suburbs with poor infrastructure and high levels of socio-economic deprivation. These neighbourhoods require higher services investment and resources than other more established neighbourhoods.

“The grouping of risk factors in these neighbourhoods increases the chance of family violence – and poor health, social and educational outcomes for these families. Parental involvement and engagement is low and security concerns are high, such as children bringing knives to school. There are few positive male role models for boys or girls.

“Early childhood education and childcare which is effective and timely, along with low cost primary health care is essential – especially for young children and their parents.

“We know that compared to other countries in the OECD New Zealand’s investment in the early years is poor. We have also experienced a demographic shift and it is the ageing population who’s interests are prioritised. There has been an attendant rise in individualism which means people are very are fearful of their own position and entitlements.

“In the long term, we must lift Maori and Pasifika families out of poverty however, and this means focusing on employment in our most derived neighbourhoods. Many of the industries that have traditionally employed unskilled and semi-skilled Maori and Pasifika – like forestry and manufacturing – have contracted. Consequently our families have borne the brunt of the economic recession.”

Dr Kiro also believes that a disconnection with traditional cultural values has contributed to high levels of family violence in Maori whanau.

“We are soul-sick when we lose touch with our whenua, our whanau, our mana, wehi, ihi. Only those who have become soul-sick can abuse and hurt those we love most – our partners, our children, our parents and other whanau members.

“An eco-social response requires us to respect our natural world and place in it. This must be coupled with a commitment to social justice that respects the inherent rights of each of us as whanau, as hapu, iwi and indeed, as individuals within these collectives.

“Understanding what the risks and potentialities are also provides us with a powerful tool for preventing family violence in the future. It is possible to re-write the script of Maori lives by starting young.

“Understanding the link between early experiences, parenting practices, the way in which intimate partner relations shape and are shaped by our childhood and children’s experience, and the social context within which these behaviours occur and are interactively shaped by this experience, all contribute to a pathway forward.

“Primary prevention of family violence relies first and foremost on the whanau as the centre.”

Ends

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