Ministry of Health statistics show Maori are almost three times as likely as non-Maori to have experienced unfair treatment on the basis of ethnicity.
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says the statistics demonstrate why agencies need to do more to respond to racial discrimination.
Mihi Engagement Consulting director Ellis Bryers. Photo: Bruce Barnard.
The Ministry of Health has released its 2015 Maori Health Chartbook, Tatau Kahukura, which shows 12.4 per cent of Maori reported unfair treatment in the areas of health care, housing or work between 2011 and 2012, compared to 4.2 per cent of non-Maori.
Dame Susan says the figures were not surprising and organisations needed to take action to tackle discrimination.
“We need to understand the genesis of these problems,” she says. “They’re institutionalised, and organisations and agencies in particular need to address these issues.
“Sometimes it’s not even done intentionally – you know the care and treatment that’s offered to Maori is different to non-Maori.”
Dame Susan says some agencies were already responding, such as the New Zealand Police Force, which understood the likelihood of young Maori to be offenders was much higher than non-Maori.
Mihi Engagement Consulting brings non-Maori and Maori businesses together to share their expertise and achieve their objectives. Director Ellis Bryers says he is always saddened to hear of ethic discrimination.
“Especially in a country so culturally diverse as ours here in New Zealand,” says Ellis.
While these statistics show many Maori experience unfair treatment, he believes the statistics will improve over time as the nation celebrates its unique identity.
Ellis says the feelings of inequality could be put down to a generational way of thinking as we work through the last stages of the impacts of colonisation.
“As all New Zealanders move more and more to accepting ethnic and cultural diversity, it’s my hope that these type of statistics will continue to ‘level off’
“Historically, the statistics indicating things like health and education haven’t been great for Maori compared to non-Maori. However, over time the stats are getting more towards the positive.
“I think that is because we as Maori are going from strength to strength in our capabilities and development and how we celebrate who we are, not just as Maori, but also as New Zealanders.
“I believe there are more and more quality role models coming through that are empowering not just our Maori people, but also teaching all New Zealanders just how fortunate we are to live here.
“It’s my hope that this will only continue to grow into the future”
Statistics in the Chartbook also showed Maori were more than 1.5 times more likely to have experienced ethnically motivated physical or verbal attacks, with more than a quarter of Maori men, or 26.9 per cent, having experienced such attacks.
Dame Susan says she congratulated Maori who had reported discrimination and urged more people to come forward as the Human Rights Commission could not take action if people did not complain.
“It’s really hard,” she admits. “I’d also urge people that are on the side-lines witnessing it to do something too and not to be bystanders, but to actually stand up for people who are being abused.
“Most of us don’t like to complain. It’s often very difficult to complain because you’re either humiliated, embarrassed or hurt and often the victim feels they are to blame.
“But I think we need to bring this out into the open because it’s really important that all New Zealanders who have experienced discrimination have an avenue to talk about it so the rest of New Zealand understands.”
Overall, 27 per cent of Maori adults reported having experienced racial discrimination compared to 14 per cent of non-Maori.
The Chartbook used data from the Ministry of Health’s 2011/12 New Zealand Health Survey.
Analysis in earlier health surveys have shown that experience of racial discrimination is associated with poor health outcomes and has an impact on a wide range of risk factors.