ACC’s sexuality education won’t protect young Māori

09 Aug 2018 5:20 PM | Anonymous

Māori sexual and reproductive health promotion organisation Te Whāriki Takapou is highly critical of the decision by ACC to spend $18.4m on the ‘Mates and Dates’ programme rather than invest in culturally appropriate teacher-led sexuality education in schools.

Sexual violence, like so many forms of violence experienced by Māori, will not be reduced by programmes like Mates and Dates. The programme is unconnected to the realities of Māori and fails to draw on the wealth of historical and contemporary Māori knowledges and practices associated with healthy relationships.

What is required is an evidence-based national plan for culturally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education that includes consent and sexual violence. There are programmes underway in some schools where teachers are already addressing consent and sexual violence as part of comprehensive sexuality education. However, the road block to rolling out a national plan and programmes across all schools, including Māori-medium schools, is the lack of specific policy, funding and the political ‘will’ to lead the charge.

Political will may change given increasing international attention. This month the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an international treaty ratified by New Zealand in 1985, released its report on the government’s progress to eliminate discrimination against women. The report noted the high level of gender-based violence in New Zealand, especially domestic and sexual violence and very low levels of reporting of violence within Māori communities where only 20% of family violence and 9% of sexual violence is reported.

The report also highlighted the lack of culturally appropriate approaches and distrust in public authorities that prevent Māori and other ethnic minority women from seeking protection from domestic and sexual violence.

Dedicated Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health funding for sexuality education programmes, resources and professional development for teachers is a national disgrace.

Māori organisations like Te Whāriki Takapou spend around $100,000 per annum, almost half their contract, to research and produce evidence-based eight session programmes for teachers to freely download and deliver to students attending Māori-medium schools. These programmes use Māori knowledge and practices to support teachers to teach sexuality education and sexual violence prevention in culturally appropriate ways. The decision by government to spend $18.4m on the Mates and Dates programme and not redirect these funds to teacher-led comprehensive sexuality education is not justicable.

Te Whāriki Takapou supports the position that consent and sexual violence prevention is best taught by well-resourced and supported classroom teachers as part of culturally appropriate sexuality education.

Māori students benefit from sexual violence prevention programmes that are part of a well-resourced national cross-sectoral plan developed with Māori. Where Māori-medium schools are concerned, these programmes should be underpinned by Māori knowledges and practices.

Mates and Dates does not meet these criteria and despite funds of $18.4m, will not prevent sexual violence experienced by Māori students.

Te Whāriki Takapou – Alison Green, Chief Executive (MOB: 02102784821)

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Letter to the Listener 28 July 2017 in response to Fever Pitch (Listener 21 July 2017)

Catherine Woulfe’s thorough investigation of rheumatic fever brings to the surface a range of important questions not only about this cruel disease, but also wider issues about health policy. The Government’s bold initiative to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever as one of its 'Better Public Service' targets in 2012 certainly raised awareness of rheumatic fever for the general public as well as communities and families directly affected. But even when medical science and the public have a clearer understanding of the immediate causes of rheumatic fever, interventions like the $65m ‘sore throats matter’ still won’t stop the epidemic. 

Ramona Tiatia’s blunt description of the experience of affected families not only painted a picture of the impact on affected families and communities, it also highlighted the invidious choices our health funders face.  How much should we prioritise health spending between response to the urgent need of young people whose lives and potential can be devastated by the disease versus the expense of addressing the economic and social factors that underlie the reasons we have this epidemic at all?   

As several of the clinicians interviewed pointed out, it’s only when the poverty and over-crowded housing issues are addressed that we will make a real difference.

Rheumatic fever illustrates the contradictions in our health system identified in the recent American Commonwealth Fund report. Of the 11 countries the Fund monitors, the work our health professionals do is ranked among the highest. But our overall performance as a health system falls to the middle ranking because of our poor performance on access and equity. The Fund also notes that our per capita expenditure is among the cheapest. 

Failure to invest in real prevention - that is, poverty, housing, good nutrition etc. - will continue to drive conditions like rheumatic fever, whether the immediate cause is strep throat or skin sores, until we invest upstream.

Why not spend more on these conditions - the economic and social determinants of health? 

We all pay in the long run - the young people whose misery we tolerate and whose potential remains unfulfilled, the families whose sacrifices are unrewarded, and the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Ngā mihi,
Warren Lindberg

CE Public Health Association of New Zealand

                                            

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