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A.E. Thompson: See What’s Happening in our New Health System

A friend of a friend, a clinician in the health field whom we shall call Bruce X who does not speak Maori language beyond some well-known words, recently applied for a position with one of the two government health organizations now in existence. His experience provided insight into our new health system and the Ardern government that created it.


The new organization’s correspondence featured a letterhead showing a large name in bold black ‘Te Whatu Ora’ with a smaller, much less imposing ‘Health New Zealand’ underneath it in light green. According to its own website, the Maori name can mean ‘the weaving of wellness’ and something about a basket but they acknowledge that it might mean other things instead. Note that ‘Te Whatu Ora’ doesn’t provide a clear idea of the role of this taxpayer-funded body, even for that small percentage of NZers who would understand the words.


Bruce’s correspondence then addressed him with ‘Kia Ora Mr X’ and finished with ‘Nga mihi’. Why have the long-standing conventions of letter writing been abandoned when writing to those who speak English?


The letters then signed off with the author’s name and two versions of the author’s role, the first one in Maori and the second in English. Most disciplines working in health care come squarely from international science, knowledge and non-Maori roots, so requiring Maori titles for such disciplines (e.g. Otorhinolaryngologist, Clinical Neuropsychologist, Cardiothoracic Surgeon), none of which had any comparable role in Maori culture, is fake, disrespectful and amounts to cultural appropriation.


Next, the sender’s information, address etc was at the bottom of the page and this stated only ‘Te Whatu Ora’, dispensing entirely with any English name. Instead of ‘Phone’ it used the term 'Waea Pukoro' which apparently means 'cell phone' even though the number given was a landline. When corresponding with an English-speaking person, why use a latterly invented Maori term for a piece of technology that arose entirely out of English-speaking culture? Surely that tramples all over the honour of that person’s culture?


The letters ended with 'Te Kawanatanga O Aotearoa' emphasized in bold and printed above 'New Zealand Government' in much less prominent font. Our Government's use and prioritizing of a new name for itself that has never been agreed to by the taxpayers who enable its existence seems a serious wrongdoing. As does the claim in this new name that our Government is of 'Aotearoa' even though the country's name has never been changed formally and certainly not democratically, and the term 'Aotearoa' is a post-colonial invention for the group of islands that Europeans and British first combined into a singular entity. Note also that our Ministry of Health is now called ‘Manatu Hauora’, its logo showing ‘Ministry of Health’ only as a tiny subscript underneath the new Maori term. Who knew this? At least it can be translated directly into ‘Ministry Health’, but why do we need Maorified versions of words such as ‘Ministry’ and ‘phone’ when non-Maori are now berated for pronouncing Maori terms in non-Maori ways?


Emails sent to Bruce were signed only with ‘Te Whatu Ora’, suggesting that employees are now required to use the Maori name but not the English name. Our $52-million-bribed mainstream media already exclusively refer to ‘Te Whatu Ora’. Why, when there is now a health body totally devoted to Maori health services, does the other health body supposedly serving the rest of us also need a prioritized Maori name? Does this indicate that the government’s intention is to have our whole health system controlled by tribal representatives and their particular idea of a ‘Maori world view’? Read the web sites of the two new health bodies and you will see that’s exactly the intention.


Bruce was then interviewed for the job by a selection panel. The non-Maori panelists introduced themselves in Maori language and one said a Maori prayer that included reference to ‘Atua’ (Christian god) and concluded with ‘amine’, a Maori way of saying ‘amen’. Bruce felt patronized by the Maori greetings he understood little of and he would have preferred his particular cultural origin to be acknowledged, but there you go. Also, Bruce is an atheist and was very uncomfortable being put in the position of passively supporting god worship in an office of secular government, but he wanted the job so he politely tolerated this gross disrespect for his beliefs.


Initial sections of the interview seemed sensible, concerning qualifications, experience, particular insights gained in previous roles and so forth. Then the panel introduced a section on cultural safety and announced that Te Whatu Ora (no mention now of that annoying English name) had identified Maori Health as a priority, and he was questioned around how he might handle a particular scenario involving a Maori family. Why, when we now all pay for an expensive health body exclusively for Maori, does the health service meant for everyone also prioritize Maori? Regardless, it seems that only Maori deserve cultural safety in our new health service even though Bruce’s extensive education had taught him about cultural safety for patients from many different races. A weird irony here was that Bruce’s own cultural safety was totally disregarded by the Maori greetings, prayer and absence of any gesture or communication showing interest in or respect for his culture or beliefs.


The panel then asked Bruce what was his understanding of Te Tiriti O Waitangi and its relevance for Maori Health. He could almost recite by memory the authoritative translation into English in 1922 by Sir Apirana Ngata (1874 – 1950) who will have known some of the chiefs who signed it or at least people who had been close to those chiefs, and who will have had a much better idea of what was understood by those chiefs than did any of the more recent Treaty revisionists. However, Bruce wanted the job so he ignored the wording of the Treaty and trotted out the requisite recent nonsense about it creating a partnership in government, guaranteeing Maori ‘equity’ with British subjects especially in how much they access and benefit from health care available to everyone, and promising that healthcare services would provide treatments according to some version of tikanga and a Maori world view.


The next question put to Bruce by the interview panel was how he would apply a Treaty of Waitangi framework to his practice if he got the job. Treaty of Waitangi framework?!! The bureaucrats who came up with this were clearly straining to conform to the ideological demands from on high. What intelligent person would believe that the Treaty of Waitangi has a framework or could guide medical practice? Bruce thought of suggesting one might consult Te Tiriti to help decide between a diagnosis of ear infection vs broken leg but thought better of it and instead talked about such things as removing potential barriers to Maori access to and trust in healthcare services even though there’s nothing suggestive of that in Te Tiriti.


Bruce scored well in his interview by being disingenuous. It seems a very dangerous predicament when government requires people to lie and to feign agreement with false propaganda in order to contribute their training and experience to our country. It’s totalitarianism, in our case racist, socialist totalitarianism. Who wanted this?


A.E. Thompson is a working, tax-paying New Zealander who speaks up about threats to our hard-fought rights, liberties, egalitarian values, rational thinking and fair treatment by the state. This piece was originally published at Breaking Views.

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