Launch of Te Ara Whakapiki Taitamariki (Results from the Youth 2012 Survey - Maori Students)

  • Tariana Turia

I want to thank Nikora Lanifole and the roopu from Hato Petera who have welcomed us here today who provided a perfect foundation from which to launch this report.

Thank you also to Stevie Davis-Tana, for your fine work in hosting this hui today.

I want to also mihi to Dr Matire Harwood - the Director of Tomaiora, Te Kupenga Hauora Maori and although she is not here today, the Tumuaki and Deputy Dean Maori for the Faculty of Medical Health Science - Dr Papaarangi Reid.   Both these women have helped to chart a new course in advancing our health and wellbeing and I want to publicly acknowledge your leadership and commitment.

This is a fantastic day in the history of tangata whenua, indeed the history of Aotearoa.

For today is the day that the breaking news will read: 

·        the majority of Maori students (91%) reported feeling ok, satisfied, or very happy with their lives;

·        92% of taitamariki Maori felt cared about a lot by their parents;

·        and a massive 98.8% of taitamariki thought that it was important or very important to their parents that they attended school.

I can’t wait for the headlines - “Overwhelming endorsement of education from Maori parents.”

It is a day that the fuller picture will be known - a story that rarely sells newspapers but an important story nonetheless.     For this report reveals that nearly 70% of taitamariki reported that they had fun with their whanau ‘often’ or ‘a lot’.

I dare to suggest, however, that the lead story on the news tonight will NOT be that our rangatahi are feeling ok, having fun with their whanau or are generally happy with life.

But you know what - WE will know it - the parents and schools that opened their doors for this study will know it - and most importantly of all the tamariki who entrusted their stories to the research team and everyone who reads this research will know it.

We will know it - we will believe it - and we will be better off because of that.

Today then, is an extremely important day in reframing the discourse to tell the world that this research proves a range of positive trends, including that young Maori are making good life-decisions.

I want to firstly acknowledge the wealth of expertise and experience that has been gifted to this study.

I want to thank all thirteen members of the Adolescent Health Research Group.   Investigators on the Youth 12 project were led by Terryann Clark as the Principal Investigator and Sue Crengle who was the lead author and data analyst for the report.

The other researchers named as authors of this report include Terry Fleming, Pat Bullen, Ben Dyson, Elizabeth Robinson,  Simon Denny, Sarah Fortune,  Roshini Peiris-John, Jennifer Utter, Fiona Rossen, Janie Sheridan, and Tasileta Teevale.

Alongside these authors a Maori advisory group provided the benefit of their wise advice and I want to also name those people - Ruth Herd, Suzanne Pitama, Belinda Borell, Rawiri Wharemate, Teorongonui Josie Keelan, Callie Corrigan and Raukura Amoamo.

I have taken the time to identify this rich cast of players for two reasons.

Firstly I believe all credit where credit is due - and that all of you should be proud of the difference you are making simply by getting this information out there.

But the second reason - and this might be a message geared particularly to the Youth 12 project manager, Sarah Masson - I now officially declare you all Youth Champions.

You are well equipped now to promote the opportunities and the challenges confronting our rangatahi in the broadest possible terms of health and wellbeing.   We must hear their voice, we must be reminded of their views.

The Te Ara Whakapiki TaiTamariki Youth 12 report is then, a very important study from which to understand the trends and priorities for our young people.

This is New Zealand’s largest and most comprehensive survey of the health and wellbeing of taitamariki Maori in high schools.  The report reveals a wide range of insights impacting on the healthy development of taitamariki Maori, including whanau, community, education and social environments.

What is wonderful about this report is that gives us an indepth insight into the lives of over 1700 students who reported being of Maori ethnicity.

There is, however, one very important exception - and that is that the survey represents the views of 12 to 19 year old Maori students who were attending general stream secondary schools - and did not include those young people who attend wharekura.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the education section of the report that we couldn’t contrast and compare between general schools and wharekura - I am sure the differences would have been fascinating.  

So what did we learn of life in general education?   The results show that just over half of all the students surveyed said they liked school a lot and only 25% of taitamariki felt that people at school cared about them a lot.

Those results are very disturbing.  When we talk about Maori education I absolutely support the aspiration of Education Minister, Hekia Parata, that we settle for nothing less than 100 percent.  

Actually I was delighted to also hear out of the East Coast that Te Whanau a Apanui iwi are also striving for a 100 percent achievement rate for its students by 2017.   There’s nothing like aiming for the stars when it comes to our tamariki & mokopuna.

Hekia often talks about five out of five Maori students succeeding at school.   To think that out of 1700 students, only one in four of these students felt someone at school cared about them is a shocking indictment on the education workforce - or the ways in which our schools are being structured.

The report goes further to reveal that less than half of the students felt teachers were fair or had high academic expectations of them.   What is worse is that the report notes there have been no changes or little improvement in these areas since 2001.

Despite these odds then, it is perhaps incredible that 83% of our young people have the spirit of determination and belief in themselves that leads them to know they will complete Year 13.  So where does that confidence come from?

I think this is one of the groups of findings that I am most excited about in the report - the finding that there are increasing numbers of rangatahi stating that they are proud to be identified as tangata whenua, know their iwi, and understand te reo Maori.

I was particularly interested with the results around the pride of being Maori.  In areas of low deprivation sixty percent of our students reported being proud to be Maori - twenty percent points lower than Maori living in areas of high deprivation.

This is a really interesting finding.   So often researchers assume that when we talk about poverty, we are talking about disadvantage and doom in all regards.   

And yet variable after variable through this study, showed that in terms of feeling it was important to be recognised as Maori, in the ability to speak and understand te reo, to know their iwi, or to be satisfied with their knowledge of te Ao Maori, students in high deprivation areas outperformed their peers in low deprivation areas.

Putting it another way - rangatahi from high socio-economic homes consistently reported lower levels of engagement with their Maori identity than those in high deprivation households.    We might call this poverty of culture.

There is another dimension of poverty revealed in the report - and that is poverty of time.   Only about half of the rangatahi were able to state that they got enough time with their parents.   That is a very sad finding which I am sure will provoke many more research questions in its own right.

There is an extremely rich pool of data evident from this report - and I cannot finish without recognising the very real concerns that emerge in this report where Maori students continue to have worse outcomes or are exposed to greater risk than other students.     I know that we will shortly receive these findings in more detail - suffice to say, despite significant improvements over time, Maori still lag behind their peers in far too many indicators of wellbeing.  

And there is absolutely no reason why we should be continuing to see findings that access to primary healthcare and social services is a significant barrier for many rangatahi compared to Pakeha.  No reason at all.  This is system failure - and we can and must do something about it.

Today, however, I do not want to focus all our attention on these disparities - and overlook the very positive results embedded right through this report.

I believe that perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. We must believe and commit ourselves to perpetual optimism on behalf of and in the best interests of our young people.

We must fulfil the wish of our elders, to lift our young people up, to benefit from the legacy of our ancestors beyond us.  

We must work on all fronts - whether it be in the research community, the public sector, in schools, in the health system, in parliament or in the whanau home.  

This report - Te Ara Whakapiki Taitamariki - will provide us with a vibrant platform from which to build our future pathway in a way which will truly bring out the best for all our young people.  

Thank you to everyone for your leadership - your inspiration and your excellent report.