Legends, Myths, Allegations, and Lullabies = Research?

Classic heading from the Sunday Star Times – “Research debunks abuse”

A new parenting programme targeted at Maori tells them they are inherently loving and nurturing caregivers and family violence has arisen only because of European missionaries. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner is releasing its “Maori Parenting” report on Thursday in a bid to curb violence. Prior to Europeans arriving, the report says children were considered gifts from the gods and whanau shunned child abuse. The researchers suggested abuse arose only after Maori were introduced to corporal punishment in missionary-run classrooms. Te Kahui Mana Ririki, the child advocacy group which commissioned the research, has reported a reduction in child abuse after running workshops based on its findings. ..Maori children were taught by Europeans that bad behaviour should be punished by physical violence, he said. This steered away from the traditional idea children were tapu and discipline should be avoided because it tamed the child’s spirit.

Notice the choice of words. But then we read

It traced Maori history from the separation of Ranginui the Sky Father and Papatuanuku the Earth Mother through to early Europeans’ reports of children’s relationships with whanau…

Maori history professor Paul Moon, of Auckland University of Technology, dismissed the idea abuse began after the Europeans came. “The proposition that missionaries introduced violence, it’s one of those allegations that entered the historical bloodstream and once it’s in that bloodstream, it’s hard to get out. I would want to see evidence.” He cited the fact Maori girls were sometimes killed because they were considered less useful than males. “If children were treated as sacred items, how do you explain female infanticide?” Moon said the report’s reliance on oral histories and lullabies also raised doubts over its reliability.

Disappointing that the Childrens Commissioner would buy in to this – but not surprising. They ‘cooked’ all the research on non-abusive smacking as well – trying to link it with violence.

UPDATE 31 May 2011 – Radio Rhema has an interesting interview with Professor Paul Moon on this issue LISTEN HERE

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6 comments for “Legends, Myths, Allegations, and Lullabies = Research?

  1. Anna Kase
    28 May 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Yes, Bob this is just revisionist history making! Why is it that some groups in NZ can make claims without evidence and this is believed? Seriously, this has to be challenged at some level. We can’t go on making policy decisions based on figments of oral tradition. There is a need to challenge the commission on this and ask for the exact evidence – as one would expect of a peer reviewed piece of research.

  2. bob
    29 May 2011 at 5:16 am

    “Te Kahui Mana Ririki…reported a reduction in child abuse after running workshops based on its findings.”

    Of course, we could see a reduction in child abuse after running any kind of competent workshop aimed at cutting abuse, not just a workshop based on these historical beliefs.

    The methodology does raise questions, like:
    – was it just the one workshop?
    – how were participants selected, and results measured?
    – is the claim that Maori didn’t commit child abuse prior to colonisation somehow based on these workshop results?

    Seems like a silly bit of revisionism. Of course colonisation had an adverse impact on Maori, and so on child abuse rates. But that is a long way short of claiming missionaries were the sole cause of child abuse in Maori.

  3. Colin
    30 May 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I certainly don’t want my tax used for propogating such rubbish. I would support the view that the violence (not just with Maori) is more to do with lack of purpose, emotional/spiritual/physical wellbeing now, and not related to the arrival of the pakeha. I agree with Paul Moon’s comments.

  4. steve
    30 May 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Of course Maori loved their Children in pre-european times.Especially between two slices of bread.
    Then again europeans behaved exactly the same,prior to the advent of Christianity,with its benefits to the culture.

  5. Brian
    31 May 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, it is incumbent apon all responsible organisations to ensure its rationales for reducing child violence are robust. If they don’t stack up – they reduce the effectiveness of the programme.

    However, we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Cultural myths (that is, the use of stories (both fictional and non-fictional) such as Rangi and Papa can be an invaluable tool to get a point across to people from that culture. In the same we way tell our children stories passed down to us and Christians have bible stories: often to derive a moral or lesson in order to change thoughts or practice.

  6. Helen Johnstone
    31 May 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Maori were often fighting each others’ tribes pre-Eurpopean times. Missionaries came to teach peaceful standards & education, not violence. This information is racist against Eurpopeans and will only help divide our two peoples, not bring them together. Sure, encourage Maori love of their children, using history or even legends, but don’t blame Europeans for something they did not do.

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