Source: New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Despite stated commitments to equity and rangatiratanga, neither Labour’s health policy nor Māori Manifesto indicate any substantial, Tiriti-based change for Māori health. Māori nursing advocate and Kaiwhakahaere of Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, Kerri Nuku, says these policies fail to dismantle the racist systems that oppress Māori and perpetually harm their wellbeing.
“For a health policy with an ‘increased focus on equity’, the first thing we should see is a commitment to closing the 25% pay gap between Māori and Iwi providers and DHBs, a clear plan to grow the Māori nursing workforce, and a vision that ensures Māori nurse leadership.
“However, Labour’s only Māori-focused health policy is its vague commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Health and Disability Review,” she said.
Ms Nuku says that it has long been recognised that the best approach for Māori is one led by Māori. However, establishing a Māori Health Authority means very little if the Crown continues to hold power and exclude wāhine Māori.
“Just as we saw with the first wave of COVID, it was only because of Māori mobilisation that we had the lowest rate of transmission out of anyone in Aotearoa. Our Māori nurses were on the frontline of that response.
“Until we see the commitment to wāhine Māori, we’ll keep having the same systems operating under different names, just like with Oranga Tamariki. We need to see that the Crown truly understands the impacts of colonisation by upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi. That means sharing power in a meaningful way so that Māori can exercise rangatiratanga.”
After all, Ms Nuku asks, how does Labour imagine it will deliver on its promises?
“Who will achieve the outcomes Labour is promising? It will be our wāhine Māori. If it is equity, if it is honouring Te Tiriti, if it is a Māori Health Authority that actually works for Māori, who will drive that on the ground? That will be wahine Māori.
“If Labour is seriously committed to those things, they need to give us the space to lead, and we need material support to continue and grow our crucial work among our communities.”