Rongoa Maori and Healthcare

As an ex nurse I look forward to the day where Rongoa Maori is acknowledged and fully utilised in this country; where Maori practitioners no longer operate on the fringes, are respected and stand alongside Doctors. The most you will see thesedays is a little rongoa clinic at the back of a hospital or General Practice running on 'koha' with no access to resources or funding! These types of clinics and the people who work in them are never valued, treated as 'alternative', always struggling to treat people adequately and keep their doors open!

I remember bringing an Aunty to one of these clinics at the bottom of Rotorua Hospital years ago - There were Kaumatua who worked there and they successfully treated her Matepukupuku (cancer) with Kawakawa from Mokoia island (ironic right as she refused chemotherapy at the hospital right above them). The hospital had given them the space to use but eventually and sadly they asked for it back. As well as adding they didn't meet certain 'health and safety' requirements as they were using an old bathtub at the time (perfect for use you would think!) and other equipment donated to the clinic because they didn't have any putea to buy what they needed! Keeping in mind these people were successfully treating cancer??!! We all need to understand that Maintaining traditional, cultural and spiritual practices and ACCESS TO SAME IS OUR RIGHT under Te Tiriti O Waitangi. As tangata whenua (the struggle is real for all indigenous people everywhere) we absolutely have and have always had our own methods and approaches that are holistic, inclusive of Te Ao Wairua, culturally appropriate and non-toxic.

At the time of writing this blog ACC NZ had a survey running on their Facebook page. The post states:

‘We want to help Māori learn about injury prevention, and about access to ACC if injured.

We're proud to sponsor this year's Te Matini Kapa Haka Festival. We're running a survey as part of our pilot to promote Māori access to ACC.

We are asking whether people would choose traditional Māori healing and remedies through ACC if it were an option.

Come and see us at Te Matatini for a kōrero, or to complete the survey online:

Currently when you are injured, under the ACC scheme you can only see registered practitioners (ie; for subsidised treatment) that are recognised by ACC. That is: Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Acupuncturists and Osteopaths. These are the only treatments/therapists that are recognised by ACC.

However some people are skeptical about including traditional Maori practitioners under the ACC scheme. There is fear that ACC will try to regulate Rongoa Maori (practitioners) to make them ‘certified’ to a particular qualification. This in my opinion will not work. Becoming ‘certified’ is a tauiwi concept and not our way of learning or practicing. So therefore a way of identifying the healers within our own communities will need to be established and agreed upon. We need to ensure that as Maori, the integrity of our traditional knowledge and practices are maintained.

So back to what that means for me (as a traditional practitioner of Mirimiri and Romiromi) is that people cannot choose to see me for subsidised treatment for their injury under the ACC scheme. If they do they must pay out of their own pocket for treatment. Frequently, I am asked by people if I am ACC registered. Cost IS A FACTOR of whether Maori access treatment or not, (regardless of what some non-Maori may believe about this). So when faced with the choice of accessing Physio (as an example) for free treatment or a minimal payment of $10-20, versus me (or another Rongoa Maori practitioner) at a cost of say $90, most people will go for the cheaper option. If the government is serious about making effective and culturally appropriate health care and treatment accessible for Maori - who are consistantly over-represented in injury/health statistics - then they need to make Rongoa Maori accessible to Maori. Rongoa Maori, Mirimiri and Romiromi needs to be subsidised just like other modalities. And we must ask the question; why isn’t it already? Why are Maori given the option of western treatments only? Why do we need to prove that our cultural practices work for us? Asking people in a one-off survey at Matatini is unaccaptable. Rongoa Maori should be subsidised already - the fact that it isn’t appears like institutionalised racism.

Read the following article regarding insitutionalised racism within healthcare in NZ:

I was heartened to read about a northern Adelaide hospital employing a group of aboriginal healers to work in partnership alongside health professionals; describing their practice as ‘complementary’. (At least that’s a better term than ‘alternative’!) NZ would do well to replicate this initiative. Click on the following link to read the article:

Our whanau deserves better. Mauri Ora.

Jolie Davis