Māori sexual and reproductive health promotion and research organisation Te Whāriki Takapou is highly critical of the decision by ACC to spend $18.4m on the ‘Mates and Dates’ programme rather than invest in culturally appropriate teacher-led sexuality education in schools.
The organisation has released the following statement:
Sexual violence, like so many forms of violence experienced by Māori, will not be reduced by programmes like Mates and Dates. The programme is unconnected to the realities of Māori and fails to draw on the wealth of historical and contemporary Māori knowledges and practices associated with healthy relationships.
What is required is an evidence-based national plan for culturally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education that includes consent and sexual violence. There are programmes underway in some schools where teachers are already addressing consent and sexual violence as part of comprehensive sexuality education. However, the road block to rolling out a national plan and programmes across all schools, including Māori-medium schools, is the lack of specific policy, funding and the political ‘will’ to lead the charge.
Political will may change given increasing international attention. This month the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, an international treaty ratified by New Zealand in 1985, released its report on the government’s progress to eliminate discrimination against women. The report noted the high level of gender-based violence in New Zealand, especially domestic and sexual violence and very low levels of reporting of violence within Māori communities where only 20% of family violence and 9% of sexual violence is reported.
The report also highlighted the lack of culturally appropriate approaches and distrust in public authorities that prevent Māori and other ethnic minority women from seeking protection from domestic and sexual violence.
Dedicated Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health funding for sexuality education programmes, resources and professional development for teachers is a national disgrace.
Māori organisations like Te Whāriki Takapou spend around $100,000 per annum, almost half their contract, to research and produce evidence-based eight session programmes for teachers to freely download and deliver to students attending Māori-medium schools. These programmes use Māori knowledge and practices to support teachers to teach sexuality education and sexual violence prevention in culturally appropriate ways. The decision by government to spend $18.4m on the Mates and Dates programme and not redirect these funds to teacher-led comprehensive sexuality education is not justicable.
Te Whāriki Takapou supports the position that consent and sexual violence prevention is best taught by well-resourced and supported classroom teachers as part of culturally appropriate sexuality education.
Māori students benefit from sexual violence prevention programmes that are part of a well-resourced national cross-sectoral plan developed with Māori. Where Māori-medium schools are concerned, these programmes should be underpinned by Māori knowledges and practices.
Mates and Dates does not meet these criteria and despite funds of $18.4m, will not prevent sexual violence experienced by Māori students.