• Georgina te Heuheu
Associate Minister of Health


I am very pleased to be here today to launch these Standards for Traditional Maori Healing.

This initiative has arisen from a long history. Today's launch marks a formal recognition, and a step along the way, to acknowledge the validity of traditional healing practices.

Maori have been committed to traditional healing practices since time immemorial.

It is timely to re-emphasise that there is a place for Rongoa Maori in New Zealand's health sector.

In terms of modern medicine, often where they can today, doctors are recommending natural remedies in conjunction with, or sometimes in place of, orthodox medical practices such as chemical drug treatments.

Internationally, every community in the western world has access to well qualified herbalists and natural healers. Internationally, indigenous health sysems and practices are being discussed and debated. In particular, questions are being asked about how traditional health systems can contribute to better health; improve health status and quality of life; and enhance service delivery.

The numbers of Mäori consumers who are choosing Traditional Healing, as an alternative or complementary service, is testament to the value people place on this care and the benefits they see that traditional practices offer to them.

These Standards are an explicit tool to help ensure that people receive quality services.

In launching the Standards today, we are recognising the value that continues to be placed on traditional healing as part of the spectrum of health care which people choose to use. The Standards are designed to ensure that there is consistent practice in clinics throughout the country

I would like to emphasise the importance of complementary approaches to care, especially if that means people seek help for health problems early. Too often our Mäori people are frightened to go to hospital or the doctor and this can lead to heartbreaking circumstances, if they seek advice too late.

Increasingly in recent years, GPs, traditional healers and Maori nurses have been working alongside each other to provide a range of services that people feel confortable in using.

This approach has been very important for Maori in the area of mental health, because of the strong focus on spiritual healing.

Having health services Mäori people feel comfortable using is an important part of addressing the disparity in health statistics between Mäori and Pakeha. If the availability of traditional Mäori healing clinics encourages people to seek advice early, that is a very good thing for everyone.

Where have we come from, to be here together today?

Recognition of Traditional Mäori Healing as a legitimate health service has its genesis in a number of initiatives.

In the mid 1980s, a Department of Health policy statement sanctioned Kai Awhina (healers) to visit their patients in hospitals. This was to overcome the practice of healers secretly attending them, away from the critical eye of the medical fraternity.

Then in 1995 the Core Health Services Committee report began developing a Crown position on traditional Mäori healing. The Committee recommended that: "regional health authorities purchase aspects of Maori traditional healing, in conjunction with other primary health services".

This publicly validated the work of existing traditional Maori healers and encouraged them to adopt a higher profile.

The launch of the Standards today further acknowledges the place of traditional healing.

The Standards are just the first step in what will be an important process for you as healers. Like all other practitioners in health, in the future you will need to think of ways you can monitor yourselves to ensure consistency in practice standards nationally, and how you can audit and report on the outcomes of your work.

The Standards are focused on practical actions that clinics (or Whare Oranga) can implement to enhance service quality and delivery.

They cover referrals to other health services, record keeping, rights and responsibilities of the patient, staff training, networking with other providers and the safe preparation, storage and labelling of medicines.

Ultimately we hope that these Standards will achieve improved health gains for our people. They are intended for existing and developing clinics, or Whare Oranga, and are designed to guide establishing services and enhance service delivery.

This is a living document. It is not a ‘be all and end all' to the development and recognition of Rongoä Mäori, but a basis from which we within the health sector, can build.

I would like to acknowledge all those who had a hand in developing the Standards. They arose out of many discussions held with a number of traditional healers around the country.

They were developed by Ngä Ringa Whakahaere o te Iwi Mäori (the National Body of Traditional Mäori Healers) with support from Peter O'Connor, a former Chief Executive of New Zealand Healthcare Standards, in association with the Ministry of Health and the Health Funding Authority.

I trust that these Standars will assist you as healers to enhance the work that you do, by ensuring the quality and safety of the services you deliver.