The New Zealand Prison system: Who are the real criminals?

post by Hollie Oswald

Another year has gone by and the New Zealand prison population continues to rise at a devastatingly fast rate. With one of the fastest growing prison numbers in the world the ‘tough on crime’ attitude Aotearoa has adopted seems to be failing us. Contrary to popular belief, prison does little towards rehabilitating inmates and instead rates of re-offending increase after being incarcerated (Corrections, 2017). We currently have 10,695 citizens sitting in prison cells, which not only has astronomical costs on society, but also inhibits individual’s opportunities to contribute to communities (Corrections, 2017). The prison crisis facing the nation is a longstanding problem that has seen similar punitive solutions throughout the different governments. Yet we seem to invite the wool to be pulled over our eyes so we can continue to ignore the structural and circumstantial drivers of crime. Continue reading “The New Zealand Prison system: Who are the real criminals?”

Social work: The colonial project lives on through us

post by an Unwilling Coloniser 

Sitting opposite to a whanau in distress, my stomach churned as my colleague asked me to put a cross through the square on my page. I looked at the square, it looked back at me. It wasn’t just a square; it was a husband, a father, a grandfather. I glanced up at the family and felt shame. The identity of their loved one was suddenly subject to the nasty strokes of my insistent blue pen.

Continue reading “Social work: The colonial project lives on through us”

Is unconscious racism hard-wired into Aotearoa New Zealand society?

post by Annie Summerfield 

Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand (Aotearoa), disproportionately feature in the country’s most negative statistics across social, economic and political platforms.  Whether the disparities are in the areas of crime, education, health, homelessness or socioeconomic disadvantage, Māori feature strongly.  With Te Aniwa Hurihanganui reporting Māori youth are particularly at risk for committing suicide  , Sarah Monod de Froideville reporting on the over-representation of Maori in the youth justice system , and Māori being significantly more likely than non-Māori to be placed in state care, and to experience homelessness, for example, this arguably suggests the problem is not with Māori but, rather, as Dr Ian Hyslop points out, a result of institutional bias . 

Continue reading “Is unconscious racism hard-wired into Aotearoa New Zealand society?”

Are you Māori?!

post by Jessica Leaming

Ko Jessica Leaming toku ingoa

Ko Kay King toku mama

Ko Mark Leaming toku papa e mate mai

Ko Richard King toku Tungane

Ko Ngapuhi ki Whaingaroa toku Iwi

Ko Ngati Pakahi toku hapu

Ko Mataatua te waka

Ko Emiemi te maunga

Ko Mangaiti toku marae

Ko Tau Te Rangimarie te whare hui

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

My Name is Jessica. I am white skinned, with blue eyes and brunette hair. I also am Māori. I have a keen interest for whakapapa and as a result have a wide knowledge base of my tupuna, marae and genealogy which I can trace back to my three wakas. I thank my mother for taking me back home to Totara North/Kaeo every holiday’s since I was a baby, so I was able to learn who my extended whanau are and learn about our whanau values and histories. I consider myself grateful for these experiences as I am aware not all Māori are as fortunate.

jess leaming pic

My colourful whanau

My mother has five other siblings. Out of those siblings my mum is the only one with fair skin and blue eyes, therefore it’s fair to say when my family is put together we are a colourful one and often receive the comment, ‘we didn’t know you were Māori’ as if to say you can only be Māori if you have brown skin. Nadine Millar shares a similar experience stating that she is often asked how much Māori blood in fact she has in her as if this is a determining factor on what makes you a Māori (E-Tangata, 2015).

Growing up I have always felt the need to prove and over compensate for being so fair skinned but the true extent of what it meant to be Māori but contain all European features didn’t become clear to me until I began my degree at university. I can vividly remember the day I was made to feel as though I was not ‘Māori’ enough and did not have the right to wear my pounamu that my father who had passed away earlier in the year gifted to me. I was on the train and a middle-aged Maori woman proceeded to tell me how beautiful my pounamu was, at first, I was delighted and thanked her. She then took it upon herself to ask me if it was real as she reached to touch it, feeling the need to explain to me that was I aware how lucky I was to have a pounamu and was I wearing it for the right reasons and who gave it to me. I remember thinking if I were brown skinned would you have questioned me on if I knew the importance of owning a pounamu and question me on my reasons of wearing one? Or would you assume if I was brown skinned that you wouldn’t need to tell me what it meant to own a pounamu as special as mine? According to Marae (2018) 72,000 people identified as Māori on the last census but could not identify their Iwi. My point here is there are Māori who ‘look’ very Māori but do not know their whakapapa where as I do. Skin colour in not an indication of how Māori you are and how much you know about Te Ao Māori or tikānga Māori. Percentages were used by the government in the 1970’s to determine how Maori an individual is, whether they were an eighth or a quarter was used to determine which roll an individual could vote on. Under the Maori affairs act the blood quantum concept was used in 1953. The issue with this is that is assumes culture and identity are biological traits, where-as for Maori identity is dictated by the upbringing one has had. The use of the blood quantum contributed to undermining one’s sense of self identity (Pickering, 1996).

It seems these ideas of needing to justify how much Māori is in you have carried through the years. Kanoa Llyod has a great response to this in that ‘Māori is Māori’ despite the percentage (The spinoff, 2018). So, what does this mean for me heading into the field of social work? Personally, and professionally I see it as a strength. My knowledge of Te Ao Māori and of my own whakapapa stands me in good steed for knowing exactly who I am and what I am capable of. I can relate to both Māori and European because of having to walk in both worlds all my life. I’ve always felt the need to prove my Māori heritage to people until recently. I know I am Māori, I know where I come from and I know where I belong.

References:

E-Tangata. (2015). So you think you’re Māori?. Retrieved from https://e-tangata.co.nz/news/so-you-think-youre-maori

Marae. (2018). Sunday 6th May. Retrieved from https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/marae/episodes/s2018-e7

The Spinoff. (2018). How to tell if you’re Māori. Retrieved from https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/02-03-2018/cheat-sheet-how-to-tell-if-youre-maori/

Moeke-Pickering, T. (1996). Maori identity within whanau: A review of literature. Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato. Retrieved from https://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/464/content.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y