Māori led research needed to better understand poverty determinants - Meihana Durie

10:09 pm on 23 February 2024
Professor Meihana Durie at his office, the books are bound PhD thesis from a range of Māori scholars.

Massey University deputy vice-chancellor Māori, Meihana Durie. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

The government should be focusing on the causes high poverty among tamariki rather than dismantling the work of past Māori leaders, an academic says.

Stats NZ released its annual data on child poverty on Thursday for the year ended June 2023.

The data is based on nine measures set out in the Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018. It is gathered through a mixture of interviews with households and data.

For tamariki Māori, Pacific children and disabled children there was no significant change on 2021 to 2023 year.

Massey University deputy vice-chancellor Māori, Meihana Durie, said there were concerning signs in the data but it did not show the full picture.

"I think it's important to also bear in mind that the statistics and data that we're seeing probably only tell us a small part of the bigger story and the bigger narrative in terms of the things that are really contributing to abject poverty."

Stats NZ said as there were "inconsistencies" in the data for the 2021 to 2023 year due to Covid-19 lockdowns, it was difficult to determine whether an annual change had occurred.

Durie said a Māori led research project would be better placed to understand the determinants which leave many whānau locked in a cycle of poverty.

"What we know from Māori led research projects is that the data that reveals itself through Māori led research is incredibly accurate. Why? That's because our people have very good levels of access to our communities and to our whānau and if anything I would strongly encourage that approach be taken again."

Minister for Child Poverty Reduction Louise Upston said the coalition government's focus on reducing the cost of living would help bring the number of children living in poverty down.

But Durie said the government should focus on the determinants which support whānau to flourish, that includes health, Māori education options, community cohesion as well as better connection to whakapapa and Māori culture.

When all people see is the disestablishment of kaupapa that Māori have worked hard to build, it sends a message that Māori don't matter, he said.

"What we're seeing is a strong desire to dismantle so much of the good work that was championed by outstanding and incredible Māori leaders across recent decades, I mean one only needs to look at the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora."

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