Te Roopu Kaitiaki estimates that the prevalence of conduct problems among Māori tamariki and taiohi is approximately 15% of the population. Māori are over-represented in admissions for conduct problems and are more likely to enter the youth justice system (Durie, 2005).
In a recent radio release (Radio New Zealand, 9 June 2009) the principal youth court judge, Andrew Becroft, described the latest statistics on crime committed by young Māori as a ’national scandal’. Figures released from the Ministry of Justice included that:
Māori children are five times more likely to be apprehended by police
the national average of Māori as a percentage of all youth appearing in the youth court is 50% with higher percentages in certain areas (75% in Waikato and 90% in Rotorua and Tauranga)
60% of the offenders held in youth custody or police cells are Māori.
As noted by Elder (2009):
…rates of offending and behavioural disturbance that violates the rights of others are higher in Māori tamariki and rangatahi than non-Māori. Associated information such as Māori being approximately 80% of the Adult Forensic mental health population, the very high proportion of Māori in the prison population and the majority of those facing Youth Court charges being Māori show the severity of the impact of severe behavioural disturbance for Māori whānau. (p. 1) In 2008, a review of social and emotional needs of infantsin South Auckland (highly populated with Māori and Pacific Islanders) estimated that 15% of 0-3 year olds in that area have significant behavioural problems Severe behavioural disturbance early in life has been identified as high risk factor for the development of severe conduct disorder (Merry et al, 2008). The high rates of conduct problems experienced in the Māori community highlights the need for effective engagement of Māori into programmes aimed at reducing the incidence of disorder and improving health outcomes for those tamariki, taiohi and whānau in distress. Because of the prevalence of Māori conduct problems and the fact that Māori are at increased risk of conduct problems and related disorders (AGCP, 2009a), it is imperative that practitioners, providers and policy makers work collaboratively to provide the most effective and culturally enhancing programmes and interventions possible.
The ways in which identity and connections can be enhanced at a practitioner, service provider and policy level are discussed. Specific Māori protocols such as powhiri (formal welcome) and values such as aroha (love) and manaaki (support) are presented to highlight ways in which identity and engagement of Māori can be strengthened at a practitioner level. Examples of some programmes and service providers for Māori tamariki, taiohi and whānau experiencing conduct problems are given. Finally, we outline a review of policy that influences the way in which practitioners and service providers work.
Identity and connections
I kore au e ngaro; te kākano i ruia mai i a Rangiatea.
I will never be lost for I am a seed sown from Rangiatea. This traditional whakatauki highlights the importance of identity to one’s wellbeing. In contemporary society it is postulated that a secure identity can protect against poor health (Durie, 1995; Durie, 1999a). As noted among indigenous populations worldwide:
Deculturation has been associated with poor health where as acculturation has been linked to good health…cultural identity is considered to be a critical prerequisite. (Durie, 1999a)7 The initial findings of Te Hoe Nuku Roa, a longitudinal study of Māori households, indicate that Māori who have a more secure identity experience better health (Durie, 1995). Promoting a secure identity is seen as an essential component of best practice when working with Māori tamariki, taiohi and whānau experiencing conduct problems (TRK, cited in AGCP, 2009a). The importance of hononga (connections) is strongly related to the concept of whakawhanaungatanga (relationships and connections) which in turn relates to a secure identity. As noted:
The concepts of whānau and whakawhanaungatanga highlight a sense of belonging and a sense of relating to others within a context of collective identity and responsibility. (Macfarlane, Glynn, Grace, Penetito & Bateman, 2008: 187) In Te Pae Mahutonga, a model for health promotion (Durie, 1999a), one of the main tenants is mauriora; access to te ao Māori, which rests on a secure cultural identity. As noted by Durie; ‘too many are unable to have meaningful contact with their own language, customs or inheritance…Identity means little if it depends only on a sense of belonging without actually sharing the groups cultural, social and economic resources’.8 Facilitating access to te ao Māori, and thus a secure identity, includes access to language and customs, culture and cultural institutions such as marae, economic resources (land, fisheries and forests), social resources (whānau, Māori services, networks) and societal domains where being Māori is endorsed (Durie, 1999a).
TRK were of the view that disconnection from self, whānau, hapū, iwi and lack of identity contributed to poor wellbeing both spiritually, physically and mentally. Elder (2008) summarised research and highlighted how poor mental health stemmed from insecure identity. In addition, a secure identity was seen as a protective factor for Māori youth and suicide attempts (Coupe, 2005). The relationship between connection with culture and reduced rates of offending was noted by the principal youth court judge, Andrew Becroft, who identified recent research suggesting that young Māori who are involved or connected with their culture do not offend at any greater rate than any other person (Radio New Zealand, 9 June 2009).
Colonisation and alienation from land initially contributed to disconnection with whānau and identity. The effects of these are seen as key factors that have placed Māori at increased risk of conduct problems (TRK, cited in AGCP, 2009a). In considering the role of identity and connections, Macfarlane (2009) notes:
Connecting with culture is actually a means of validating individual’s identity and whakapapa - who they are and where they come from. It is a process that values relationship building, and which 'speaks' about providing a safe environment within which individuals can feel a genuine sense of belonging and value – for who they are as Māori. It enables individuals to be who they are and to feel safe in doing so. (Angus Macfarlane, email communication, 20 April, 2009) Therefore, enhancing identity and connections is seen as paramount in considering a Māori approach to the delivery of conduct problem programmes for Māori tamariki, taiohi and whānau. The song, ‘Music has saved me’ by contemporary Māori artist, Tiki Tane, highlights the importance of connection and changing a way of living. In this song, music was the connection, which is a form of connection for Māori taiohi today.
Lyrics from ‘Music has saved me’ by Tiki Tane
For me, I know when I heard it, it was like this is a connection here and it was a struggle…I had been this young Māori kid growing up in a white world