Indigenous | Health

Forty years since the Hui Whakaoranga, the birthplace of modern Māori health strategies

Many Māori are concerned about the disestablishment of the Māori Health Authority but revered Māori health exponent Sir Mason Durie says what happens next is in the hands of Māori.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the first hui whakaoranga held to discuss Maori health outcomes. It was at this hui where Sir Mason Durie first presented his famous Whare Tapa Whā Māori Wellbeing Model.

Durie says that on the one hand he was disappointed by the disestablishment. “On the other I saw an opportunity, and the opportunity is if the government doesn’t want to do it, why don’t we do it ourselves. Why don’t we establish a health entity, in a broad sense, an entity which we own, which we govern, which is not dependent on the government and which looks at health in a broad sense,” he says.

The first Hui Whakaoranga was held at Hoani Waititi Marae in 1984, and was noted as a gathering of Māori doctors and health practitioners to come up with health initiatives for Māori.

Notable people who were there were Paretene (Pat) Ngata, Eru Pōmare and Dr Rose Pere.

This anniversary marks the first time Sir Mason has been at the hui since the gathering 40 years ago, and he reflects fondly on the gathering with glee.

“There were many people who came to the hui thinking it was going to be about diabetes and asthma and gout. They were never mentioned at all, there was no mention of that. So the hui was important because it shifted the focus away from sickness to health.”

What came from the Hui Whakaoranga?

Word spread fast of the strategies that were born at the first hui whakaoranga. The ’by Māori, for Māori’ approach to health, and Te Whare Tapa Whā were both conceived at the gathering.

Durie says he admires how people continue to execute these strategies as a foundation for Māori health clinics.

“The health professionals themselves were concerned about the prospect of Te Whare Tapa Whā when it first came out. They’ve changed. They now see that what they do if they’re treating someone in a surgery, if they’re treating someone for an operation, that that is not the end of the story - there’s another part to health.”

But for the next 40 years to come, independence is Durie’s ultimate desire.

“Māori are much more involved with their health than ever before. There’s still a long way to go but much more involved with our own health and that in the end has got to be the goal that, when it comes to your health, you’ve got to be your own doctor, your own psychologist, your own social worker. You have to do it yourself in the end and I think that’s what is beginning to happen. Here we are 40 years since 1984. The next 40 years are bit hard to predict but I think what will stay the same if we want it to is that the principles underlying mātauranga māori and the princples underlying Māori health will continue.”

Durie hopes that one day Māori will be capable of fending for themselves in health, sticking to the principles of ‘by Māori, for Māori.