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Child Poverty Rates in New Zealand
New Zealand is an island nation in Oceania that, according to the United Nations Happiness Index, boasts a reputation as one of the world’s happiest countries. The government currently holds especially high esteem in the international community, credited for an exceptional job in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. However, beyond these glowing numbers is an escalating crisis: child poverty. Child poverty rates in New Zealand highlight disparities that have otherwise been overlooked.

New Zealand’s Poverty Rates

New findings released by Statistics NZ and the Salvation Army’s State of Nation show gaping disparities among children facing poverty. 19% of Māori and 25.4% of Pasifika children live without all of the basic household needs, compared to the state standard rate of 11%. The issue of indigenous inequality is nothing new. Māori and Pasifika populations have faced historically disproportionate challenges that impact their quality of life.

Child poverty rates in New Zealand were identified as a policy target for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s administration back in 2018. Until the pandemic hit, the government was making progress in accomplishing the Child Poverty Reduction Act. This was a three-year plan to reduce the rate to 10%. However, the plan was disrupted once COVID-19 became a widespread issue. There is now a data gap, as the collected numbers are only updated as far as March 2020. As New Zealand has managed to control the spread of COVID-19, it is important that Arden and her administration shift its focus to supporting Māori and Pasifika populations who have fallen behind.

How to Close the Gap

Until 2018, there had been both a lack of incentive to collect demographically based data and a caliber for poverty calculation. Now, a census team conducts household economic surveys to calculate the disposable income of each home. The government must prioritize diversifying its numbers to show an accurate representation of indigenous populations. There are challenges to this — a legacy of colonialism has left indigenous communities with little trust to partake in census participation — but existing efforts to collect Māori and Pasifika data now include grassroots outreach.

There are also a variety of hardships that disproportionately impact Māori and Pasifika populations. These include imprisonment rates, houselessness and weather changes. Throughout the pandemic, many indigenous populations have signed up to receive more benefits and welfare payments. The government must continue to ensure these communities receive the support they need.

Another important step to eradicate child poverty is to improve diversity within the government. Increasing Māori and Pasifika representation at the public-sector level would give voice to the people who best understand how to tackle the child poverty crisis in New Zealand.

Many nonprofit organizations are also working to alleviate child poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group holds a series of campaigns to address different poverty-related issues and calls for action in policy advocation. It also provides a number of resources that make navigation among different available services easier. At the community level, food banks support struggling families and provide warm shelter during cold weather.

Looking Ahead

Though the government has taken some promising steps to reduce child poverty rates in New Zealand — such as its new policy requiring schools to offer free period products — its priorities must include the representation of the Māori and Pasifika in poverty statistics and initiatives. Alongside nonprofit organizations and Māori and Pasifika leaders, New Zealand has the ability to reduce child poverty.

– Danielle Han
Photo:Flickr

Indigenous Healthcare in New Zealand
New Zealand has a large population of indigenous people. According to New Zealand’s 2013 Census, 15% of the population are Māori (indigenous New Zealanders), and 7% of the population are Pacific Islanders. Of the five million people who live in New Zealand, 894,546 people identify as Māori or as a Pacific Islander.

New Zealand is recognized around the world for its efforts toward indigenous relations. New Zealand first established a treaty with the Māori people in 1840, to which, over time, all indigenous and Pacific Islander communities have agreed. The treaty outlines that all Māori and Pacific Islander people are to have equal rights and opportunities across New Zealand. It has also allowed New Zealand to provide extensive healthcare to all indigenous people across the country. However, there are persisting health discrepancies between indigenous and non-indigenous New Zealanders.

Indigenous Health Challenges in New Zealand

In 2012, New Zealand reported that across the country, indigenous children aged zero to 15 years old were considered to be in overall good health. The discrepancy in overall health between indigenous and non-indigenous people came to light in adulthood. For instance, Māori and Pacific Islanders have higher rates of diabetes and obesity when compared to non-indigenous New Zealanders, with 44% of Māori people reportedly suffering from obesity.

Another health challenge for indigenous people in New Zealand is the heightened rate of smoking. Māori adults are 2.7 times more likely to smoke than non-indigenous New Zealanders. Additionally, 24% of the Pacific Islander population in New Zealanders are smokers. This is two times higher than the national smoking rate of 12%. The Smoke-Free Organization of New Zealand also reports that adults who smoke are more likely to have poor mental health.

A 2018 health survey found that indigenous people are more likely to experience psychological distress and be diagnosed with a mental health disorder than non-indigenous citizens. It is estimated that around 50% of the Māori population will experience a mental health disorder throughout their lifetimes. Of this 50%, only half will seek professional attention concerning their mental condition. By comparison, non-indigenous people are 25% more likely to receive professional attention for mental disorders than indigenous New Zealanders.

Access to Indigenous Healthcare in New Zealand

There is currently a challenge when it comes to healthcare accessibility for indigenous people in New Zealand. The government reported that only 61% of indigenous patients had their primary healthcare needs fulfilled in 2012. This highlights a large portion of the indigenous population that does not have sufficient access to primary healthcare. For example, many indigenous New Zealanders encounter barriers when seeking after-hours healthcare. In 2012, of the indigenous adults who needed after-hours medical attention, 14% were deterred due to the cost of care.

Indigenous Healthcare Initiatives

Improving indigenous healthcare has been a major focus for the local government. The New Zealand government emphasizes the importance of having accessible Māori health providers. These healthcare providers were first established in 1991 with the aim of increasing the accessibility of healthcare to indigenous people. Māori healthcare providers ensure that patients receive quality primary care with a focus on cultural relations and communication between the government and the local indigenous community.

Another initiative being established to improve indigenous healthcare in New Zealand is the cultural safety education training provided to nurses and midwives. This training places emphasis on the fact that healthcare professionals play a role in a healthcare system with obstacles and barriers that inhibit people from accessing healthcare. The training also ensures that professionals consider the cultural, historical and political context of each patient when providing care.

 

Overall, indigenous healthcare in New Zealand is of a fairly high quality. Despite having some health discrepancies, the New Zealand government has promptly established initiatives to target and improve the health situation for Māori and Pacific Islander people. Countries such as Australia and Canada are currently modeling their own indigenous healthcare initiatives on New Zealand’s due to the success of indigenous healthcare in New Zealand.

– Laura Embry

Photo: Flickr

New Zealand Education
Beyond its stunning landscapes, New Zealand education is among the best in the world. The New Zealand Herald claims New Zealand falls within the top 10 education systems of the world. Therefore, New Zealand is what is called an “education superpower.”

According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), New Zealand has the highest total public expenditure on education out of 32 countries. The public school system is extremely well funded and education is free until the last year of high school for citizens and permanent residents.

New Zealand Now says New Zealand education is also extremely good because of Kiwi culture. Kiwi is a term that refers to the people of New Zealand. In Kiwi culture, it is important to give everyone a fair chance and access to the same opportunities — including education.

New Zealand Educational Institute spokesman Paul Goulter told the New Zealand Herald that for Kiwi teachers, “The profession is about teaching children and doing it not for the pay, but for them.” This outlook on education has reaped success. In the 2015 Expat Explorer Survey by HSBC, 70% of parents said their children were more confident and well-rounded after studying in New Zealand.

Education in New Zealand also promotes acceptance and respect for different cultures. According to the New Zealand government, “Our education system reflects our unique and diverse society. We welcome different abilities, religious beliefs, ethnic groups, income levels and ideas about teaching and learning.”

Unlike education in Hawaii, where native languages and culture were not an integral part of the education system until recently, New Zealand promotes the conservation of Maori culture. The Maori people make up 14.6% of New Zealand’s population and can attend Kura Kaupapa Maori.

The Kura Kaupapa Maori are schools that teach in Maori and provide an education based on Maori culture and values. These schools have their own curriculum that focuses on Maori philosophies. Students who graduate from Maori schools then have the opportunity to attend Wananga (Maori teaching and research institutions).

Education in New Zealand is a success story. Schools are not only excellent and accessible to all; they also promote multiculturalism and diversity by emphasizing the importance of maintaining Maori culture. Other regions of the world where multiple cultures coexist should learn from New Zealand’s success.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr