Our project is guided by the whakataukī, “kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua” (I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on the past). We engage with a past/present/future kaupapa, guided by the FoA values framework and informed by Vision Mātauranga, to ensure that this research endeavour is relevant to Māori and respectful of Māori tikanga.
Covid-19 is having a dramatic impact on all communities across Aotearoa. It is, and is likely to continue, however, to have a disproportionate effect on Māori due to factors such as enduring health inequities (Ministry of Health 2018), the ongoing effects of structural violence including disproportionate use of force in policing – a major concern during Covid-19-related lockdown (Aikman 2020), long-standing struggles over tino rangatiratanga, including (but not limited to) issues of governing community access during Covid-19 (Graham-McLay 2020) as well as the erasure or side-lining of Māori perspectives and voices in determining and publically presenting government responses to Covid-19 (Jones 2020). There is also the need to be attentive to the historical legacy of previous medical emergencies in Māori communities, in particular the devastating impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic during which the Māori death rate was 7.3 times the death rate of Pākehā (Wilson et al. 2012). Notably, Wilson et al. (2012) found that more recent influenza outbreaks have similarly involved ethnic disparities in death rates: “In the 1957 pandemic, the Māori death rate (40/100,000) was 6.2× the [Pākehā]/European rate. In the 2009 pandemic, the Māori rate was higher than the [Pākehā]/European rate.” Understanding pandemics of the past, present, and future, and actively rethinking political, societal, and economic responses to them, is thus a vital facet of endeavouring to promote hauora and te oranga hinengaro.
The “Pandemics – Past, Present and Future” research hub draws together a diverse range of scholars and includes members with long-standing commitments to and engagements with collaborative research partnerships with Māori and other indigenous communities and in the use of Kaupapa Māori research methods. Our approach to engaging with Vision Mātauranga is shaped by the expertise of Ms. Rochelle Lee Menzies (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Kahungunu), a Research Fellow at Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures; Dr. Lara Greaves (Ngāti Kuri, Ngāpuhi), a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations; and Ms. Miriama Aoake (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Mahuta, Tainui), from Social Anthropology. Ms. Menzies is about to submit her thesis (PhD in Health Sciences) for examination (main supervisor, Professor Tracey McIntosh) and is the Koi Tū representative on the hub. She has extensive experience working as a Māori health researcher, and engaging Kaupapa Māori methodologies, in health-focused research. Since March she has worked on multiple Covid-19-related projects bringing a Māori perspective to the impacts of pandemics. Dr. Lara Greaves has expertise in New Zealand Politics, Māori Politics and Public Policy, and is engaged in research in the political implications of Covid-19. Ms. Aoake is currently in the midst of conducting her MA research in Social Anthropology, under the supervision of Hub Team Leader, Assoc. Prof. Susanna Trnka (primary supervisor) and Prof. Tracey McIntosh (co-supervisor). Ms. Aoake’s project, “Pandemaurium: Māori Responses to State Management of a Pandemic” is an examination of Māori perspectives on and debates over the government’s handling of Covid-19. All three scholars will provide invaluable insights and guidance to the hub on how best to approach our understandings and examinations of Covid-19 and pandemics more broadly in culturally-relevant and appropriate ways.
The activities of the hub have the potential to significantly contribute to understandings of the swift responses of Māori communities to community and political engagement in responses to the crisis, and thus potentially provide guidelines rooted in mātauranga Māori to inform future national pandemic preparedness. They will also assist in documenting the negative impacts of Covid-19 on Māori communities (especially tamariki and rangatahi), particularly the impact of lockdown, and provide necessary avenues for exploring how to negate or ameliorate these impacts during the post-Covid-19 recovery period. It is thus envisioned that the hub’s endeavors will contribute to providing living resources for future consultation and offer a pluralistic record of responses from whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations that align with transformative outcomes and inter-generational benefits sought by Māori as constitutional partners, contributing to the values of mokopunatanga and kaitiakitanga – the resourcing of generations that are yet to come.