Māori responses to COVID-19 are exemplars for crisis health and wellbeing support

Māori-led initiatives played a key role in protecting the health and wellbeing of communities, supporting connection with individuals and whānau, and sharing information and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is according to today’s Te Hiringa Mahara – the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission report, Exercising rangatiratanga during the COVID-19 pandemic [PDF, 10 MB].

“Māori exercising rangatiratanga during the pandemic showed that Māori have knowledge and skills to support not only the wellbeing of their whānau and communities, but also the wider response,” says Te Hiringa Mahara Director Māori, Maraea Johns.  

“Māori wellbeing is often referred to as being collective, and exercising rangatiratanga (self-determination, sovereignty, independence, autonomy) is a contributor to a range of positive wellbeing outcomes for iwi, hapū, and whānau.”

In the face of COVID-19, Māori didn’t just respond, they identified the need for an equity lens to be applied to the wider response by considering the needs of tangata whenua as Te Tiriti o Waitangi partners and building on work already grounded in tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori, underpinned by established networks and relationships. This enabled their response to be agile, effective, and adaptive.

“Exercising rangatiratanga included marae adapting tikanga and kawa to develop tailored pandemic plans; establishing the National Māori Pandemic response group of Māori health experts; setting up checkpoints - invaluable for communicating information and preserving trust between government agencies and communities; using Māori networks of whānau, hapū and iwi to convey critical COVID-19 information to rurally isolated communities throughout and beyond the lockdown period; and organising and delivering resources to members of the community, on the largest scale seen in recent history.

“This comprehensive pandemic response makes it clear that Māori absolutely know what to do in the face of crises. A wider challenge remains however around sustained support and resources to continue to deliver for their communities. For improved future health and wellbeing outcomes, effective Government support is totally optimised when Māori responses are trusted, acted upon and enabled through the realignment of health system processes.   

“What works for Māori will benefit all peoples of Aotearoa and Māori responses to the pandemic can continue to be an exemplar for how Aotearoa can support health and wellbeing outcomes in any future crises, and support wellbeing more generally.”

Read the report [PDF, 10 MB]

Watch Director Māori Maraea Johns speaking about the report