Te Ururoa Flavell

WHĀNAU ORA: It was the way our people lived

Whānau Ora has always been in the hissing pit when it comes to NZ politics. Another example of Māori “Special Privilege”. Every jibe simply an attempt by the sneerer to reinforce their assimilationist predisposition and/or self importance. Much of the criticism is misplaced or exaggerated. And it can be quite distressing seeing Māori internalise that lack of faith in Māori systems. It’s implementation is by no means perfect, and sure there are certainly areas requiring vast improvement, but there is no denying that it has helped thousands of family in the four years it has been in operation as a matter of government policy. 

Two days ago, the Auditor General released a report on Whānau Ora. While it has been depicted in the media as a damning indictment, the Report simply sought to clarify what whānau ora is, where the funding has gone, and what Whānau Ora has achieved after four years. The Auditor General appraises Whānau Ora as “an example of innovation and new thinking in service delivery”. She also states that it provides “an opportunity for providers of health and social services in the community to operate differently and to support families in deciding their best way forward”.

Many people have commented that they are not quite sure what Whānau Ora is or does. I’m not convinced that’s due to a lack of information. Arguably,(in many cases at least) it is misunderstood as a result of passive ignorance.

What is Whānau Ora?

Whānau Ora is not a new concept. Like many concepts in Te Ao Māori, no group or individual can determine for others what it means. What can be generally agreed is that from a policy perspective it is an “inclusive and culturally anchored approach based on a Māori view of health that assumes changes in an individual’s wellbeing can be brought about by focusing on the family collective” rather than “focusing separately on individual family members and their problems”. In practice then it requires “multiple government agencies to work together with families rather than separately with individual relatives”.

Three key principles 

Professor Mason Durie emphasises that Whānau Ora is built on three key principles:

Integrated solutions

  • The idea is that “no single sector or discipline has all the answers” to meeting the holistic needs of whānau. This means that a Whānau Ora approach is “cross sectoral, inter-disciplinary, Whānau centred”.

Durie writes:

An integrated approach recognises that economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions are inter-related and one cannot be adequately progressed without the others.

Distinctive pathways

  • Whānau Ora recognises that “cultural worldviews are important to health”. As well as building on “Māori world views, language [and] culture, networks, [and] leadership”, Whānau Ora reaches out to cultures in all their diversity. The objective is to provide a framework within which all whānau can define their own distinctive pathways in accordance with their cultural practices and values to improve whānau outcomes.

Goals that empower

  • Whānau Ora values “human dignity, positive relationships, self-management and self-determination”.
  • It is about “addressing the impacts of whānau disadvantage as well as assisting families to be strong, capable, resilient and self-managing”. The goal then is not only providing services that address existing disparities, but to unlock potential to help whānau access opportunities and navigate their own futures with the tools they need to improve their whānau outcomes.

In a nutshell, Dame Tariana Turia explains that Whānau Ora is about:

…restoring to ourselves, our confidence in our own capacity to provide for our own – to take collective responsibility to support those who need it most.

See also Te Puni Kōkiri Fact Sheet.

Criticism

Following the Report, Whānau Ora and in particular, Te Puni Kōkiri has come under attack from opposition MP’s. The Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) have criticised the way that some politicians have bought into the “beat-up by politically motivated tirades which do nothing but bring this kaupapa into disrepute”. The ILG argue that as Māori we need to have faith in our own answers and be proud of the progress that has been made to enable whānau to date.  The group asks:

Why would we turn the spotlight on ourselves, and expect an initiative which is still evolving to rectify generations of neglect or indifference from the state?

Critique is to be welcomed. Evaluations ensure transparency and accountability. The Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell appreciated the report claiming it affirms “the value of taking an innovative public policy approach to supporting families in need.” He considers that the Report provides valuable lessons for “Ministers, government departments, commissioning agencies and providers”. Flavell highlights that:

Since Whānau Ora began in 2010, around 9,400 families have benefitted from whānau-centred service delivery which includes almost 50,000 people.

The problem with exaggerating the shortcomings identified in the report, as the ILG point out, is that it risks hurting whānau who have or could benefit from Whānau Ora services. The reason being that if the public perceive the services to be performing poorly or at least buy into the misplaced criticism by opposition MP’s, then it provides grounds for the government to withdraw funding despite the gains made to date and the future potential of the approach.

The main criticism refers to the amount of funding spent by Te Puni Kōkiri on Administration based on the Auditor General’s observation that:

…delays in spending the available budgets meant that some of the funds intended for whānau and providers did not reach them as originally planned. In our view, better planning and financial management were needed.

Te Puni Kōkiri

Te Puni Kōkiri is the government organisation tasked with “carrying out the Initiatives, for giving the Government policy advice about the Initiatives, and for assessing and reporting on the Initiatives’ effectiveness”.

The funding made available for their use was administrative “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora service delivery approach” in the 2010/2011 period and “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora commissioning approach” in the 2013/2014 period.

The total amount spent was $137.6 million, which was made up of:

$20.8 million (15% of the total) spent through the WIIE fund which “made funds available to whānau through some form of legal entity to enable them to prepare plans to improve their lives”

$67.9 million (49% of the total) spent through the Service Delivery Capability fund which “made funds available to providers, who used it to build their capability to deliver whānau-centred services”

$6.6 million (5% of the total) spent through the funds for commissioning agencies; and

$42.3 million (31% of the total) spent on administration (including research and evaluation).

In response to this criticism, Te Puni Kōkiri’s CEO, Michelle Hippolite, has responded that she can account for where all the funds clustered for administration are currently allocated and asserts that no funds have been misspent. While Minister Flavell acknowledges that there were issues “of design, development, and implementation” and money was allocated to “research, evaluation, and leadership programmes” to assist to that end without which “the administration spending would have been at a normal level for a Government programme”.

Conclusion

There is certainly good reason for being concerned that funding appears to have centralised in administration and bureaucracy. This is especially so when providers are always in need of additional funding to meet the needs of whānau. Former Minister Tariana Turia criticised this last October when she questioned why there was an underspend on Whānau Ora and sought answers to where the money had been allocated as she believed that more funding should have been directed to frontline services.

The Report most likely answers her question: much was tied up in Administration. The challenge going forward will be finding more efficient administration systems to ensure more funding finds its way to service providers and navigators.

The benefit of the Report is that it provides clear observations and recommendations that highlight for Te Puni Kōkiri in particular, where it needs to improve its effectiveness. After all, Whānau Ora is about being whānau centric, so any costing’s and financial planning must always be mindful of how whānau are centred in those plans.

However, Whānau Ora cannot resolve the effects of almost 200 years of colonisation in 4 years. This seems to be the crux of much of the criticism in an attempt to disband Whānau Ora and force a return to the shabby state services that have been in place for decades and have not been able to change outcomes for a large proportion of Māori. It is an undeniably unrealistic expectation to suggest that Whānau Ora would magically solve inter-generational disparity in under half a decade.

In saying that, Whānau Ora has helped numerous families to date. And that success should be celebrated. Although, it is currently geared toward Māori and Pasifika whānau to address the history of disparity in Aotearoa, the approach itself is applicable to all whānau and has the capacity to provide a new way of delivering health and social services to all whānau to improve outcomes and finds solutions for whānau self-determination.

See also Turia’s comments on the long term goals of Whānau Ora.

 

 

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Silence might imply what you want to avoid

With the first massive fallout from the release of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics Judith Collins has finally tendered her resignation as a Minister.

As Matt Nippert reports, her resignation was:

“sparked by a Fairfax investigation into a smear campaign by bloggers apparently backed by controversial financier Mark Hotchin” who “secretly paid bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers to write attack posts undermining the Serious Fraud Office, its director Adam Feeley, and the Financial Markets Authority, who were probing his collapsed Hanover Finance in 2011 and 2012”

Many commentators, pundits and journalists have extensively reported on what was uncovered in Hager’s book, and I presume most readers would have a fair idea about the extent of the claims and the subsequent evidence that has emerged since the books release, so I won’t re-cover it.

Interestingly, many predicted the release of the book would likely see a rise in the polls for the left bloc, but what has emerged is somewhat intriguing – NZ First (~6.3%) and the Conservative Party (~4.6%) [as reported on The Nation TV3] suggesting the possibility that both parties may exceed the 5% threshold to enter Parliament. Whether these results are related to Dirty Politics or a reflection of the success of both parties campaigns is arguable.

But the polls aren’t my concern in this post. My concern is about those parties who have remained to a large degree silent on Dirty Politics. NZ Labour, NZ Greens, New Zealand First, InternetMANA and the Conservatives have all been very vocal about cleaning up the  state of NZ politics through an independent inquiry and more robust processes to keep politics transparent and free of the collusion that appears to have taken place.

It might be expected that the ACT Party and United Future would keep a relatively low profile, given they have openly stated a preference for working with the National Party post-election. Notwithstanding, that both parties claim to be principled and support the role of an open and accountable government. But the big silent elephant in the room is the Māori Party and this has not gone unnoticed by the public at large. Critics and many supporters (potential and actual) are left wondering why, a party that claims to be an ‘independent Māori voice’ in Parliament has been absent from the general media coverage on this issue. However, Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-Leader of the Māori Party and Waiariki candidate, told the Rotorua Daily Post that:

 I can’t comment on the book because I haven’t read it. But what I do know is that there are individuals across the political spectrum in New Zealand that engage in dirty politics. It’s not something that the Maori Party has ever done or condones. Manaakitanga (respecting and looking after others) is one of our foundational values and we have always conducted ourselves in a way that reflects this principle. We’re interested in party policies and how we can work with others to effect change. The hacking of emails is not a new phenomenon but it compromises the interactions between MPs and constituents and is a breach of privacy. In that regard we are deeply disturbed”

It is a fair comment given that Flavell hasn’t actually read the book. However, he implies an argument that has been met with much resistance for good reason: that it happens across the political spectrum.

Most would agree that attack politics and possibly even this dirty politics is pervasive, but that in my mind is even more reason to make a statement in strong opposition to its practice. The hacking of emails too is an important issue, but the more pressing issue missed in Flavell’s statement was the collusion and corruption between a Minister of the Crown, bloggers, and other public officials. This may just be a result of not having read the book and not having the contextual grounding to form a stronger opinion or to take a firmer stance.

Flavell also indicates the party’s resistance to commenting in any detail on the claims made in the book also centres around the party’s strategy to reorient the election focus on promoting policies. His mention of manaakitanga, suggests the party want to avoid being part of the dirty politics machinery so are intentionally distancing the party and candidates from being caught up in the negativity of the dirty politics media coverage.

However, an important part of any political campaign involves responding to issues of public importance, such as the very serious claims that are still emerging following the books release. It is possible to make a strong statement that censures the behaviours of dirty politics without being drawn into the negativity while still focusing on promoting the party’s policies. That is part of the balancing act required by political campaigns. Because no matter how well-intentioned the Māori Party are in steering clear of the ‘dirty politics’ coverage, it has brought into question for many potential Māori Party voters whether or not the party are an ‘independent voice’ for Māori or whether they are the silent friend of National. One of my worries is whether there exists an unspoken sense of obligation to the National Party because of the invitation to work in government despite not being ‘needed’ (in a numbers sense anyhow) to form the last two National led governments.

In my view,  it would be incredibly unwise if such a feeling existed because it would undermine the credibility of the party’s ‘independent voice for Māori’ message. Sure, it is a tight rope to walk when you are a party who has openly expressed its willingness to work with whichever party can form the government and not wanting to rock the boat so much that your own waka capsizes. But being independent means being just that: standing on your principles and holding to account those who have wronged no matter what political party is responsible or implicated in the wrongdoing.

For supporters of the party navigating conversations on social media has been particularly difficult absent the strong guidance from leadership on this issue.  In my view, if the Māori Party want to overcome the perception that their silence is an act of support in favour of the National Party, then they will need to make a clear and firm statement that they oppose collusion, corruption and abuses of state power and perhaps even offer some guidance as to whether the party will support an inquiry and other measures to help purge our political system of all anti-democratic practices.

ADDENDUM: 

I’ve been receiving feedback from various comment streams about my approach in this post. And I agree that I haven’t here placed as much emphasis on manaakitanga as is necessary to understand the Māori Party’s position. For a full outline of Māori Party kaupapa see: Ngā Kaupapa o te Pāti Māori

Manaakitanga is behaviour that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own, through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

By such behaviour, all parties are elevated and our status is enhanced, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

The Party must endeavour to express manaakitanga towards others – be they political allies or opponents, Māori or non-Māori organisations – taking care not to trample mana, while clearly defining our own.

Tikanga of the Māori Party derived from Manaakitanga

To be recognised by Māori as a political organisation that does manaaki the aspirations of Māori.

To ensure that relationships between the Party and whānau, hapū, iwi, and other Māori organisations are elevating and enhancing

To promote a fair and just society, to work for the elimination of poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is important

To ensure that members agree to work together, treat each other with respect, and act with integrity in their party work

To involve all peoples in the process of rebuilding our nation based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships.

I maintain that public opinion/perception is important but my main concern is that threats to democracy in NZ must be dealt with head on because without democratic processes, such as accountability, then the political parties and the people they represent cannot be guaranteed free and fair representation under the Westminster system we have.

In my view, Māori have been on the receiving end of a history of dirty politics particularly through intentional breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our culture and rights as indigenous people being legislated against, ongoing institutional racism, and the manipulation of public opinion that has oppressed us as a people. It was the fight of our tupuna that allowed us to be heard and the fight of our many activists (in their many forms) that gave Māori the strength and ability to assert kaupapa Māori politics to counter the forces that work against us. That fight is not over and the struggle goes on.

I do consider that manaakitanga is very important and I wholly commend the Māori Party’s commitment to that kaupapa. My personal view, is that a fair and just society requires (as mentioned in the post) accountability and I truly believe this can be done without ‘trampling the mana’ of others but through co-operation with others to build an environment that is ‘based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships’.

One of the key things that I believe would assist in helping others to understand kaupapa Māori politics is more education on the concepts and providing practical examples. I do think the Māori Party show us how kaupapa Māori works, but I wonder if the public might be better informed if there were more coverage of these concepts, what they mean to Māori and how they can enrich the lives of Pakeha too.

I appreciate that the relative silence I talked about in the post is an expression of manaakitanga, and also resultant from a lack of media interest because the party’s comments that have been made weren’t perhaps as controversial as other parties. I just personally feel manaakitanga can be expressed in other ways too. I don’t here presume to speak for all Māori, this is my opinion, and I wholly respect that others may disagree with my views on this matter and many others.

Māori Party online communication needs some attention

Recently (as in the past week), I became a member of the Māori Party. For transparency, it cost me $2 and I gave an $8 koha. Having never been a member of any political party before I was somewhat dubious. I joined because I wanted to participate in the discussions around Māori economic development and self-determination as well as see how they are going to run their 2014 election campaign.

Whether or not I will cast my vote in their favour on election day will depend on a number of factors, particularly since I have a huge aversion to the State and I want to see how intensely the Māori Party are going to back the kinds of regulations, or taxes on certain things that I view as wholly undesirable, e.g. the awful sugar or fat tax, which I see as a paternalist tax on the poor, and also what kind of stand they will take toward the Greens progressive pro-choice policy. Of course, there are numerous other things that I will consider, but at the moment those two things come to mind.

Unfortnately, I have stumbled across a wrinkle that quickly needs ironing out – online communication and social media.

Matthew Beveridge (as many will know) authors the Social Media & The 2014 General Election website. On it, he compiles the statistical usage of MP’s, Candidates and the Political Party’s on Twitter and  analyses their level of genuine engagement. He also looks at the graphics, timing and context of when and how tweets are sent. As expected, his blog suggests that the Internet Party are doing an astounding job of tweet traffic as are the Greens. In respect of the Māori Party, Te Ururoa Flavell is putting in an epic effort to increase his genuine engagement. While the effort is admirable, the party as a whole must do more. If consdiering other newcomers to Twitter, e.g. Internet Party Leader Laila Harre has made a valiant effort in that regard, one of my favourites being the content linked to in this tweet:

I by no means expect the Māori Party to be tweeting ,gifs of that kind, by the way, but I do expect prompt responses on Twitter or Facebook or by email from the Party account and some humour wouldn’t go astray. Having had the pleasure of being in a room when Dr Pita Sharples is giving a presentation humour certainly exists as part of the culture of the party.

Going back to my initial point, when I joined the Māori Party, I expected at the very least an automated email saying Thanks for joining  and some general info about contact information and some graphic that indicated the Māori Party were preaparing for campaign mode. But nothing, except a username and password which I’m not quite sure what to do with at the moment.

I appreciate that the traditional kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face/eye to eye) approach is favoured by the Māori Party, and I agree that it is and will always be very important. But I also think if the Māori Party want to make it through this election they must increase their online presence through genuine engagement. As Beveridge noted in a twitter conversation, social media would enable the Māori Party to tap into a market of under 25 year old Māori. Currently, Mana have a monopoly on that demographic on Facebook, and the Internet Party are increasingly appealing to them on Twitter.

Mike Treen, an IMP advocate writes:

The Maori Party needs to be taken out as a National support party

Once the campaigning really starts, if the Māori Party are largely absent in social media, they will not be able to counter the influence that will attempt to undermine the party as National lapdogs. This doesn’t mean responding with eye for eye attacks, the Māori Party should be able to rise above that level of politicking, but should also emphasise their independence as a party that can and is willing to work across the spectrum. I note that the Māori Party have a Facebook page that has a mere 2,039 likes and a Twitter following of a meagre 1481 followers. If the Māori Party have a dedicated Social Media person, then they need to take the Party to the next level of engagement. If not, they need to get one, and now.