Big grants to study Māori child rearing and Māori men’s health

18 June 2012

University of Waikato researchers have been awarded research grants totalling more than $1 million dollars to study Māori men’s health and Māori child rearing.

The research grants were announced today by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga – the Auckland-based Centre of Research Excellence that undertakes and invests in Māori community research.

Māori child rearing study

Researchers from the Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato have been awarded a $520,000 grant for a two-year study of Māori child rearing.

Dr Leonie Pihama, senior research fellow at Te Kotahi, is principal investigator for the research that will take a multi-pronged approach to study traditional forms of child rearing and how that might be applied in a contemporary environment.

Whānau focus

“It’s a project that seeks to provide knowledge and information to whānau, hapū, iwi, Māori providers and agencies that work with whānau across a range of sectors,” says Dr Pihama.

The project is called Tiakina Te Pā Harakeke: Māori child rearing within a context of whānau ora. Te Pā Harakeke is a metaphor for whānau wellbeing. “Harakeke, meaning flax, and the way it thrives and grows from the inside out, is how we see the wellbeing of tamariki and whānau.”

Research team

Joining Dr Pihama on the project is Donna Campbell, internationally renowned weaver and faculty member of Waikato’s School of Māori and Pacific Development, Māori language lecturer Heneitimoana Greensill, postdoctoral fellow Ron Ngata, and Dr Jenny Lee, director of Māori research and publishing company Rautaki Ltd.

Dr Pihama says she’s wanted to carry out this research for a long time. “The anti-smacking debate and subsequent legislation really focussed me on it. Smacking doesn’t align with traditional ways of bringing up children; that was a learned behaviour. Whānau is the cornerstone of a healthy and functioning society, economy and culture, but due to a range of reasons there’s been a disruption in the intergenerational transmission of mātauranga [knowledge] and tikanga [culture] for many whānau and we need to fix that.”

Māori men's health study

A two-year University of Waikato study into Māori men’s health has also received funding, worth $650,000.

Led by Mohi Rua and Professor Darrin Hodgetts in the School of Psychology, the project will look at the everyday lives and positive relationships of Māori men in the context of men’s health by exploring supportive relationships and positive social interactions among three diverse groups of Māori men.

Wellness and relationships focus

“The majority of research on Māori men is illness focused, reflecting the abundance of negative health and social statistics, but presents very few answers,” says Mohi Rua. “This project is not about illness however, it’s about wellness and the relationships that are necessary for sustaining it. This study will extend our understanding of human relationships as a resource for optimising Māori men’s health and wellness.”

The research will study Māori men engaged in traditional practices in their home settings, those who have migrated to an urban centre and work to maintain links back home, and those who are experiencing street homelessness. “These groups reflect some of the complexity and diversity of Māori men in Aotearoa today,” says Rua.

Official launch

The official launch of these two projects takes place at the International Indigenous Development Research Conference 2012 in Auckland on 27-30 June.

Latest stories