The rationale for this thesis “Matua Whangai – Can we invigorate an important concept of social work?” is quite simply that: –
– The deaths of our babies have shattered our illusions.
These circumstances in which all too many of our babies have lost their lives shatters both of the illusions that New Zealand society in the world is the safest place to bring up children and has the best race relations. It is unfortunately accepted that New Zealand has among some of the highest rates of child abuse and in which Maori are over represented.
This situation is as critical if not more critical today as the circumstances that caused Matua Whangai to come into operation in 1983.
This has shattered our illusions about our relationships between and within our cultures. No longer can we hold to the illusion that our relationships between cultures are really serving the rights and needs of our most vulnerable children. We can no longer pretend that we have got this right.
This has shattered our illusions that what we are doing in the name of social services is actually working. No longer can we hold to the illusion that social services alone will deliver to the rights and needs of our children. Indeed many of our babies lived in a world surrounded by social services agencies.
All too many of our children have lost their lives because we have been attempting to maintain these illusions. This has gone past rhetoric and ideology and demands of us to adopt a different strategy.
In this it could be suggested New Zealand social work policy and practice has four options.
The first two of these hardly likely although in the minds of some in our society they may seem an attractive option in order to eliminate what is an embarrassing problem. At worst these could be suggested as:
– Genocide – quite simply we expunge all the abusers from our families. Disown them leaving them to fare for themselves as excluded from our consideration. In this they will hopefully disappear from view.
– Revolution – quite simply our community rises up and overthrows the existing order. Installing a regime in which abuse is excluded ideologically.
This leaves us with two other options
– Status Quo – this is doing more of the same without fundamentally changing the underlying culture in our social services system.
– An Optimistic Strategy – Matua Whangai gave both Maori and our system of social services huge optimism that these problems could be overcome. It was an optimism that laid a foundation but has left us with much unfinished business. Adopting and invigorating this strategy challenges the underlying nature of our abusive culture. It works to en-culture our relationships in order to support our families from within.