Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Health Promotion – a partnership in progress.

    By celebrating and realising indigenous Māori elements of te Tiriti health promotion, HPF and its members are striving to be at the cutting edge of health promotion both locally and regionally.   Trevor Simpson looks back at how HPF has led the way in developing the relationship between Te Tiriti o Waitangi and health promotion in Aotearoa New Zealand over the past 18 years.   1997: the challenge is laid down In 1997, during the HPF conference “Challenging the Future” an inspiring remit was put to the Health Promotion Forum of NZ and its members: to examine the place of The Treaty of Waitangi and the Ottawa Charter in health promotion practice.  An epic journey began, in which the vast talents and of a wide group of individuals combined to create a significant and forward-thinking document.  Launched in 2002 the Treaty Understanding of Hauora in Aotearoa NZ (TŪ-HANZ) provides a strong basis and strategic framework for health promoters to embed Treaty-based practice into their everyday work. TŪ-HANZ provides the solution to the apparent conundrum of connecting the Treaty to the health sector itself and all who work in it; and health promoters seemingly have been very generous in abating the confusion.   That health promoters themselves called for such a document suggests this is a workforce that recognises not only the importance of the Treaty itself but its direct link to health as a human right; the notion of health equity and the imperative of social justice. There is recognition that failure to act on any one of these would diminish the key values and principles of health promotion itself. This flows from the belief that a true (or truthful) Treaty partnership is equitable rather than based on trust, and is premised on rights and obligations contained in the articles themselves.  The matter of Māori health was a key premise for the drafting of the Treaty in the first place. Busby’s pre-Treaty correspondence with Lord Normanby is testimony to this. Hauora – health and wellbeing – therefore cannot be positioned away from the Treaty discussion – quite the contrary – it is the place start.   2008: HPF constitution amended to reflect values of te Tiriti o Waitangi In 2008 HPF reviewed and amended its constitution to reflect its values and purposes within a new and contemporary context, and to further the development of health promotion from a unique Aotearoa New Zealand perspective. One key amendment included entrenching the key values of respect for – and commitment to – Te Tiriti o Waitangi; utilising the Māori text rather than the English. This signalled a subtle but important shift away from “Treaty” as part and parcel of its constitutional framework to align instead to te Tiriti;  the Māori context.  They say change is constant: sometimes, as in the development of Treaty based health promotion, it happens slowly and one step at a time. A natural evolution through changeable political landscapes and a growing awareness of who we are and where we have come from.   The new constitution also brought in Māori concepts such as manaakitanga (hospitality and kindness), tinana (physical health), wairua (spiritual health), hinengaro (psychological health), rangatiratanga (self-determination) and whanau ora (family health) into its values. In addition the HPF Board composition now requires that half of the members must be Māori – reflecting, in a human resource capacity, a visible Tiriti relationship. By elevating Māori world views to a constitutional level the idea of Tiriti based health promotion is energised or at least given a lift; and it provides a basis to progress to the next step.   Progress continues today As health promoters in Aotearoa New Zealand we are moving ourselves closer to the place where we need to be. Of course we are not there yet but in this space HPF will continue to play an important and ongoing role. For instance we will be exploring the synergies between Whanau Ora and Tiriti based health promotion. We will also look into Māori health promotion and Te Pae Mahutonga as unique but complimentary frameworks to the Ottawa Charter and will take time to review TU-HANZ. At this point we can reflect on where we have come from in the journey and we can nurture the idea of Tiriti based health promotion and – perhaps finally – Tiriti nationhood.   Trevor Simpson is Deputy Executive Director and Senior Health Promotion Strategist at Health Promotion Forum, where he holds the portfolio for Māori health promotion.  He is regarded as a world authority in indigenous health promotion.   April 2015 Written by Trevor Simpson Edited by Jo Lawrence-King