Mātau ā-wheako of whanaungatanga from Familial Childhood Sexual Abuse mōrehu

Nicola Harrison - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

The settler colonial context of Aotearoa New Zealand has been, and continues to be, one that has pathologized Māori whānau (extended family) processes and practices. Relationality nurtured among whānau, through whanaungatanga, can be diametrically opposed to individualised European ways of doing family. However, in recent years European sociological family theorists have begun to echo an appreciation for the relatedness of intimacy, and other practices which mirror Māori ways of doing whānau. Nevertheless, in Aotearoa, inequitable rates of tamariki (children) being uplifted from their whānau contexts, and whanaungatanga being labelled as a source of ‘dysfunction,’ demonstrates an ongoing settler-colonial project that invalidates and delegitimises Te Ao Māori and Māori ways of being.

Overlaid across this sociocultural backdrop, are the mātau ā-wheako, experiences of Māori living in challenging contexts. The prevalence of Familial Childhood Sexual Abuse (FCSA) in Aotearoa is at epidemic levels. Up to 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys are victims of CSA in NZ. Māori are twice as likely to be affected. Of these victims, 90% know their perpetrator. How then, do Māori mōrehu of FCSA experience whanaungatanga and whānau relatedness over the course of their lives? What insights do we, as Māori mōrehu, have to offer through mātau ā-wheako? How then do we interact with principles of manāki, kotahitanga and tiakitanga after they have been violated with us through abuse?

In this talk I present preliminary analyses, from a kaupapa Māori qualitative interview study, with 8 mōrehu, survivors of familial childhood sexual abuse. Utilising pūrākau as an analysis method in the tradition of narrative analysis, preliminary results describe three themes: mōrehu engagement with whanaungatanga as a source of resilience that can activate their rangatiratanga, mōrehu transitioning into kaitiaki roles that protect and educaterangatahi, and understanding te ao Māori as a resource that can light a pathway forward for mōrehu and to protect generations to come.

The protective outer layers of the whānau harakeke have been systematically stripped away through settler-colonialism, leaving the tender heart of the nuclear family exposed for many whānau. This mahi contributes to existing work that brings awareness to the vital importance of robust whānau relationships for Māori wellbeing. Whanaungatanga needs to be recognised for the productive, protective and fortifying effect it can have for whānau and Māori, when appropriately understood and applie