Sunday Star Times - New Zealand May 29, 2011
Research debunks Maori abuse
by MARIKA HILL
A new parenting programme targeted at Maori tells them they are inherently loving and nurturing caregivers and family violence has arisen only because of European missionaries.
The Office of the Children's Commissioner is releasing its "Maori Parenting" report on Thursday in a bid to curb violence.
Prior to Europeans arriving, the report says children were considered gifts from the gods and whanau shunned child abuse.
The researchers suggested abuse arose only after Maori were introduced to corporal punishment in missionary-run classrooms.
Te Kahui Mana Ririki, the child advocacy group which commissioned the research, has reported a reduction in child abuse after running workshops based on its findings.
Chair Dr Hone Kaa said Maori parents were able to see themselves in a much more positive light. "It will serve to demonstrate to Maori they don't have to believe they're inherently violent," he said.
Maori children were taught by Europeans that bad behaviour should be punished by physical violence, he said. This steered away from the traditional idea children were tapu and discipline should be avoided because it tamed the child's spirit.
Te Kahui Mana Ririki director Anton Blank said Maori should be taught to revert back to these traditional child-rearing practices. He said this model moves away from Pakeha-determined programmes for Maori families. "Maori people want to see their own culture reflected in programmes. This is uniquely Maori and is based on our history and legends. It gives us a whole lot of values that possibly many of us didn't realise we had."
Plans are under way for Plunket to pilot the programme in Hamilton. The report researched the treatment of children using oral histories, poems, and European observations.
It traced Maori history from the separation of Ranginui the Sky Father and Papatuanuku the Earth Mother through to early Europeans' reports of children's relationships with whanau.
Researchers found children were treated with loving care and indulged. "The father was devotedly fond of his children and they were his pride and delight," the report found. "Children would entwine themselves around their father's neck for an entire day, asleep or awake, as a constant companion." This instilled love, security, and confidence into Maori children.
Lead researcher Margaret Mountain Harte hoped the findings could be introduced in school curriculums to educate Maori teens. "It's empowering for me. The whole warrior culture was balanced by the nurturing one," she said.
However, the report has been criticised for painting too rosy a picture of pre-European times. Maori history professor Paul Moon, of Auckland University of Technology, dismissed the idea abuse began after the Europeans came. "The proposition that missionaries introduced violence, it's one of those allegations that entered the historical bloodstream and once it's in that bloodstream, it's hard to get out. I would want to see evidence."
He cited the fact Maori girls were sometimes killed because they were considered less useful than males. "If children were treated as sacred items, how do you explain female infanticide?" Moon said the report's reliance on oral histories and lullabies also raised doubts over its reliability.
This article was found at:
Rapid growth of evangelical Christianity in Africa responsible for torture and murder of thousands of kids denounced as witches
Corporal punishment slows the intellectual growth of children: researchers
Line between spanking and abuse difficult to determine
Controversial new study on spanking contradicts abundant research that it is counterproductive
Six more members of Wisconsin house church to be charged for beating children according to biblical dictate
Pastor of Wisconsin house church charged for beating children with rods says he was just using biblical punishment
For fundamentalist Christian group there is No Greater Joy than biblically beating kids into religious submission
Child rights advocates in Philippines call on parents, guardians, and other authorities to end corporal punishment