Mana Tamariki

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New Zealand in recent years has been rocked by a number of child homicides in the Maori community, and several commentators have asserted that the violence towards children derives from the nature of Maori society and culture.

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This article by Dr Rawiri Taonui, published last month in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, explores the origins and issues of violence towards children in Maori society.

While disproportionate abuse of Maori children undoubtedly exists, this is not limited to Maori and, indeed, there are higher absolute numbers of non-Maori child homicides which the media do not cover to the same degree as Maori cases.

Dr Taonui also examined pre-European Maori attitudes towards children through early accounts written by European missionaries. These sources show that violent chastisement of children was much less than perceived and even frowned upon in pre-European Maori society.

The paper argues that there are clear links between colonization, via urbanization, and intergenerational and periodic cycles of poverty, and subsequent rising levels of violence and abuse. For instance, Maori child abuse rose significantly in the period after Rogernomics.

Research for this paper showed that during the mid-2000s the accelerating Maori renaissance was directly related to rates of violence towards Maori children decreasing twice as fast than those of non-Maori.

But this article recognises that a problem exists, and calls for culturally based solutions, devolved from central systems. Dr Taonui also calls for campaigns to reduce stereotyping Maori families and for the recognition that violence is a symptom of colonization and poverty with solutions can be found in re-enculturalization through initiatives such as Whanau Ora.

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Details:

Dr Rawiri Taonui is a Maori political commentator, writer and researcher. His fields of expertise include matauranga Maori, kaupapa Maori, oral traditions, whakapapa, Treaty issues, indigenous peoples, human rights and counter theory.

AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples is a scholarly peer-reviewed journal published by Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, New Zealands Maori Centre of Research Excellence. The journal presents international indigenous research and worldviews from indigenous perspectives to an international audience.

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