National | Indigenous

NZ should learn from Māori resilience - Meng Foon

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.  Photo/File

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon wants New Zealanders to amplify the resilience of Māori whānau and communities on today's International Day of Indigenous Peoples, a Human Rights Commission media release this morning says.

The theme for the day is ‘Covid-19 and Indigenous Peoples’ Resilience’, which celebrates the leadership and strength shown by Māori and other indigenous peoples in the face of the global pandemic.

In Aotearoa, this has been demonstrated in the exercise of rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga and manaaki by Tangata Whenua, Foon says in the statement.

Like other indigenous peoples, Tangata Whenua have led innovative responses to the pandemic by adapting tikanga, distributing care packages, caring for vulnerable whānau and establishing checkpoints to protect communities.

“Māori are speedy and effective when responding to an emergency. Their responses show their existing strong leadership, networks and infrastructure that will quickly spring into action. The government funding and support that fell in behind these kaupapa recognised the effectiveness of iwi Māori-led responses,” says Foon.

Te Puni Kōkiri’s website has reported these stories of resilience, while Tangata Whenua responses were highlighted in a recent report to the UN by the Independent Monitoring Mechanism for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Foon says, “Arā atu anō ngā wero – Tangata Whenua still face challenges in employment and education.”

“To meet these challenges, authentic Tiriti partnership and the enabling of rangatiratanga and Māori leadership will be crucial. Collectively, we need to ensure that inequities Māori already face are not further worsened by the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 – as we are witnessing overseas.

“In the Commission’s report on the Covid-19 response, we urged Government to ensure that Te Tiriti and internationally recognised indigenous rights play a central role in all planning and decision-making.”

Foon says as critical decisions were made about the ongoing response and recovery, it must be made clear how both Tiriti partners would be at the table, sharing decision making.

“Ensuring the contribution of Māori to the recovery must become the new normal.

“The early responses to Covid-19 demonstrated the capacity of Māori communities to lead an effective response. On this Day of Indigenous Peoples, let’s remember that Te Tiriti rights and indigenous rights held by Tangata Whenua are key parts of our decision-making.

“The Māori pandemic response has demonstrated that these rights are critical in an effective national response. I urge New Zealanders to learn about these responses, and to celebrate them.”

Foon congratulated Aotearoa on its success in flattening the curve.

“This was achieved by 5 million of us. Our success stands in stark contrast to other countries who have recurring outbreaks. We wish them well as they battle the virus."