Breadcrumbs

University of Waikato researchers are undertaking the first national survey to establish the extent of family and sexual violence for Māori.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has awarded over $2 million dollars in funding to the Waka Eke Noa. The research project is being led by Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute.  The first national survey or its kind is a critical part of the wider four-year project, which will provide an evidence based measure of the prevalence of family and sexual violence for Māori, and extend that to prevention and intervention grounded in Māori culturally defined programmes and initiatives.

The Ministry rated He Waka Eke Noa one of its top ten funded projects, and says it has the potential to reduce violence for Māori and non-Māori, as well as save resources in a wide range of sectors including health, justice, and corrections. ‘He waka eke noa’ refers to collective efforts toward achieving a goal. In this specific context it refers to collective responsibilities and obligations to stopping family violence within whānau, hapu, and iwi.

Māori communities continue to be over-represented in domestic violence statistics, but Dr Pihama says  policy and funding around sexual and family violence is being carried out without being grounded with any meaningful numbers. People have relied on police data. “That’s not good enough because there is significant under-reporting to police and other agencies. Globally, studies show that under-reporting is even higher for indigenous people. There are a range of reasons, like protecting community and whanau, and significant distrust of the police and justice system. People want to deal with violence but incarceration rates for indigenous people are high, and they often don’t want to engage in a system that does not work for them.”

Within the survey, researchers are not just asking how often violence happens.  Dr Pihama says they’re also asking what the best pathways are for people in terms of intervention and prevention. “We want a very strong kaupapa Māori approach. Numbers alone are useful in a policy frame and a resourcing frame, but they’re not really going to tell us what we need to do. That’s why we’re using a mixed method, and in-depth work on top of the survey.”

The project was driven by a need identified by Māori and Māori service providers who are also actively involved in the research process itself.  “This is what Kaupapa Māori research methodology expects, that it is Māori that define the issues and frame the questions that inform the work, and the entire research process is done collaboratively."  Dr Pihama is firm in her view that co-producing research is the best approach, and the close links with the community are part of the project’s funding success. The research team will also be bringing together work that has already been done in the area.

We want to be able to lay it all out for policy makers and others, in a way they can’t ignore. By year three we want to be able to say these are the clear indicators, and prove that we really need to have some policy shifts.

Economically, the impact of violence is significant, with economist Stephanie Snively in 2015 estimating it could be as high as $8 billion.  Dr Pihama says a lot of funding is going into programmes that are not working. “This one model that fits all, does not fit us. A lot of the work is imported from Britain or colonial America,  when we  have a really different context here. We need to be developing our programmes from this land up, not bringing them in. There’s a whole obsession about trying to adapt things, when we have really good ideas, powerful ideas, about how we can do things differently for all communities.”

And she is clear about the need for change:  “We must put forward processes of transformative behavioural change, healing and systemic change. Years of work indicating what we need to do has been ignored - and it has been really detrimental, particularly to Māori.”

The full research team: Leonie Pihama, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Shirley Simmonds, Rihi Te Nana, Ngaropi Cameron, Cheryl Smith, Herearoha Skipper, Bonnie Duran and community researchers from Te Puna Oranga (Christchurch) and Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki (New Plymouth)

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