Te hohounga: Mai i te tirohanga Māori The process of reconciliation: Towards a Māori view

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Whānau as the focus

One of the most important sign posts pūrākau provide in the area of conduct problems is how the whānau is the focus. Pūrākau centre on whānau dynamics, whānau relationships and whānau separations. The story of our ancestors is all about a family coping with change, loss and grief. All behaviours and feelings have to be considered within this context.
In contemporary society, the importance of whānau is reflected in the Māori Health Strategy, He Korowai Oranga. The overall aim is for whānau ora: the ability for Māori families to achieve their maximum health and wellbeing (Ministry of Health, 2002). He Korowai Oranga acknowledges that effective health services for Māori need to be co-ordinated around the needs and realities of whānau and incorporate Māori cultural values, beliefs and practices.
The recommendation by TRK that conduct problems be viewed from a whānau perspective (TRK, cited in AGCP, 2009b) and not just from an individual perspective is in line with tikanga Māori, and with recommendations by the AGCP (2009b) about the need for multi-faceted interventions. In many forms of Western family therapies, especially in child and adolescent family therapy, the child/ client who has been referred is often viewed as the symptom bearer for the whole family. The ‘problem’ behaviours are conceptualised from a family systems perspective rather than at an individual level.
Recently the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPS) was asked to respond to the government’s planning sentencing option of sending youth offenders to military-style boot camps. NZPS responded by asking that the government support evidence-based approaches which encompass prevention, rehabilitation and restorative justice. The president, Jack Austin, was quoted as saying, ‘interventions that focus on the individual are much less likely to be effective than interventions that also focus on the family, involve the school and community resources’ (NZPS, 2009).
In working with Māori in the area of addictions, the Kina Families and Addictions Trust (KF&AT) presents a model that highlights the centrality of whānau to the individual and shows how the individual is a part of a bigger system:




Whakawhanaungatanga is the foundation and refers to practising the principles of whakawhanaunga (acknowledging the interconnectedness and interdependence of an individual and all members of the whānau, immediate and extended family, community and bigger society), whanaunga (relatives), whānau (immediate and extended), and au (me – the individual) (KF&AT, 2005).3 While this model is presented in relation to working specifically with Māori, their guidelines refer to a general practice when working with all individuals with addictions of ‘family inclusive practice’; in essence, involving family members as partners in the treatment process of an individual.
In Kaupapa Māori services, the inclusion of whānau is standard practice. The related concept of whakawhanaungatanga (making connections) is described by Gilgen (2008) as being ‘one of the, if not the most important tool in a Kaupapa Māori clinician’s toolbox’.4
Durie (2005) also advocated for whānau to be used as an early intervention strategy to the area of conduct disorder. Whānau in this context could include the child, principal caregivers, other family members, the school or early childhood centre and peer groups, primary health care, education sector specialists (special education advisors) and the inclusion of specially trained whānau therapists who work across all sectors.5 Durie referred to research undertaken on a cohort of Christchurch 18-year-olds. Māori males were the group with the highest rate of disorders (conduct and substance abuse). The strongest predictors of disorders were not socio-economic factors but related to the person’s immediate social environment (family, school and peers) (Durie, 2005). In order to reduce the rates of conduct disorder in Māori tamariki and rangatahi, he states that interventions need to focus on:

Integrated and multi-compartmental prevention programmes that could address school, family and social factors with culturally appropriate interventions. (Durie, 2005:5)
In conclusion, the focus on whānau as highlighted in pūrākau, but also present in health strategies and other programmes working with Māori, has to be considered an essential component of a Māori view of conduct problems.

Towards a Māori view

Members of Te Roopu Kaitiaki (TRK) met on 9 June 2009 to begin to discuss the issue of conduct problems within a Māori context. From this discussion, the following diagram was designed. It was stressed that this model was a starting point for Māori to further discuss, expand on and refine.

Figure 1: Mai i te tirohanga Māori: Towards a Māori view
There are four major tenets of the model:

  1. Whānau ora is the goal for Māori tamariki, taiohi, whānau, hapū and iwi experiencing conduct problems.

  2. At a macro level, whānau ora is influenced by sociological factors such as housing, income, employment, rates of incarceration, health status, educational experiences, identity and connections.

  3. At a macro level, whānau ora is also influenced by the political environment, including legislation, funding, sharing of power and resources, political good will and institutionalism.

  4. Whānau ora has the potential to be influenced by practitioners, providers and policy makers where the focus is on enhancing identity and connections. Kaupapa Māori services and sectors such as health, education, social development and justice will be responsible for these programmes.

In addition the following points were made by members in relation to a Māori view:

  1. Conduct problems and raruraru (unsettledness) is a expression of things gone wrong in the child or young person’s world.

  2. Kōrero pūrākau highlight how separation resulted in a state of turbulence and that a state of balance is what is needed today.

  3. Disconnection and loss of identity have impacted on whānau ora.

  4. It is important not to marginalise Māori tamariki and taiohi by separating them off with the conduct problem. They are a part of a whole system; whānau, hapū, iwi, community and country.

  5. Returning to a state of whānau ora is the optimal goal. By achieving whānau ora, Māori tamariki and taiohi are provided with the opportunity to thrive.

  6. The political and policy contexts in Aotearoa New Zealand will impact on attaining whānau ora, including past and present issues of colonisation, racism, discrimination and institutionalism.

  7. Reducing the degree of separation from where whānau currently are and whānau ora is the role of practitioners, service providers and policy makers.

  8. If the issues identified at a macro level are not dealt with, recommendations put forward about enhancing service delivery at a micro level will be less effective in achieving whānau ora.

  9. There needs to be shared responsibility in political, policy and provider contexts in addressing conduct problems.

  10. Māori want accountability and to know which programmes make a difference for Māori tamariki, taiohi, whānau, hapū and iwi; both Kaupapa Māori and generic programmes.

In conclusion, TRK emphasised that a Māori view of conduct problems needed to include both a macro and micro understanding. At the macro level are sociological factors. At the micro level (but related to sociological factors) is the need to enhance identity and connections. This is where service providers and practitioners can influence. However, TRK stated that if the macro levels were not addressed for Māori, issues at a micro level would be rhetoric.

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