Delivering better social work for Māori – a
personal Matariki reflection
Kia ora koutou katoa
Today is the beginning of a period known as Matariki, heralded by the sighting of seven stars in the Matariki cluster, which can usually be spotted during atapō (before dawn), north of the constellation Tautoro.
Matariki can mean a variety of things for Tangata Whenua and/or Social Workers; however what it does for me is it signifies the Māori New Year: hope, reflection and a new beginning. The opportunity to reignite the fires and yearning in my heart to help improve health and social services within Aotearoa with a specific lens on Māori equity and intelligence. With a view of improving our abhorrent health statistics for Māori by whatever means possible albeit political, economic, socio-cultural or technological interventions.
One way we can bring about positive changes is to provide social work services and practices that conform and incorporate Te Ao Māori philosophies. For me, Te Ao Māori and general social work would definitely include cultural competence as a natural indicator of meeting the needs of Māori, Pasifika or any other group or kaupapa for that matter. It will use not only clinical but traditional values, beliefs and practices as a platform with allotted ‘time’ and ‘space’ for such interactions and interventions to take place. In turn this will enable the notions of Mātauranga and kaupapa Māori philosophies and practices to flourish.
What does cultural competence look like? This can be quite broad and there are many excellent examples to use in Aotearoa. But for me it is about a Māori or Pasifika led process and responding respectfully to a Māori or Pasifika worldview, philosophy, needs and aspirations. Then applying and continuously reflecting on these in actual practice, measuring and improving the standard of cultural competence to an accepted level of understanding and performance for all participants.
Te Ao Māori social work would also involve an alternative view of well-being and practices that are rooted in our Kaupapa. To deliver this, a form of social work practice would freely avail the ‘spaces’ for Te Reo Māori me ōna Tikanga. The use of traditional knowledge and rongoā Māori, koroua, kuia, Tohunga practices, mirimiri, karakia, kaupapa kōrerorero, trips to the Moana and ngahere, and other natural therapies used as part of our healing processes.
I want to add that Matariki is an important time to be thinking and reflecting about our collective responsibilities to whenua, especially involving the principle of kaitiakitanga in practice and protecting our ‘taonga tuku iho’ treasures handed down by our Māori ancestors, which includes the principles in action and meaningful Tangata Whenua participation according to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Aotearoa.
Te Taiao, our environment, as global warming is an international catastrophe waiting to happen throughout the world, everyone needs to be responsible and play their part in protecting Ranginui and Papatūānuku and their children’s children. Our precious Tupuna environments, water ways, flora and fauna, simultaneously thinking about and providing for the future ‘mō ngā uri whakatipu’ on account of our future generations yet to come.
I wish to end by noting that this year’s social work theme is about the importance of human relationships. As this applies to Māori and to social work in general, I believe as a profession we must increase our efforts to engage with and make use of all indigenous forms of cultural practice and competence that naturally strengthens and enriches human relations worldwide.
If I could sum up this kaupapa it would be: “What’s good for Indigenous culture and intelligence is good for the entire world”.
MHAS Family / Whānau Advisor/Cultural Lead at Bay of Plenty District Health Board