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Thursday, May 14, 2009

PM surprised at Rankin backlash

The Prime Minister says Maori opposition to the appointment of Christine Rankine to the Families Commission caught him by surprise.

Anti-child abuse campaigner Hone Kaa and former Maori Women's Welfare League president Druis Barrett have spoken out against the decision because of statements Ms Rankin has made which were seen as blaming Maori for high levels of violence against children.

Ms Rankin also campaigned against the anti-smacking bill.

But John Key defended the appointment, saying the outspoken former Work and Income head will be only one of seven commissioners.

“Yes she's probably come from the more conservative right, but there’s equally people representing the more liberal left on the commission. Actually that will allow them to make a range of different comments and engender a bit of community debate. We’ve always said we are a Government that’s not afraid of a bit of debate,” Mr Key says.

He says Ms Rankin is a strong advocate for children.


The Northland District Health Board will include a whare in its acute mental health unit as part of a $25 million hospital rebuild.

Sue Wyeth, general manager of mental health and district hospitals, says 48 per cent of patients in the unit are Maori.

She says a culturally friendly environment will help patients and whanau.

Sue Wyeth says the new 25-bed unit is due to be completed in 12 months.


A new publication aims to put a Maori face on Maori science.

A monograph of papers, Te Ara Putaiao - Maori Insights in Science, was launched last night at Auckland University by the Maori Centre for Research Excellence, Nga Pae o te Maramatanga.

Centre co-director Michael Walker, one of the contributors, says many Maori scientists are exploring new ways of working with their communities, and they often have barriers to overcome.

“Science may be seen as associated with the colonial power and certainly the government and therefore opposed to Maori interests so scientists can be questioned critically by people in Maori communities as to who they are serving. On the other hand scientists also take a critical view of the work and want to see it meets orthodox scientific standards as well,” Professor Walker says.

While performing at the highest levels, Maori scientists are also keen to show their commitment to the community that bred them and supported them into careers.


Te Mangai Paho, the Maori broadcast funding agency, has relaxed its rules for music funding.

Radio funding manager Carl Goldsmith says rather than only funding music in te reo, the agency will now consider bi-lingual proposals.

It's splitting applications into fluent songs with over 70 percent reo content, songs for second language learners with between 30 and 70 percent Maori, and song for a receptive audience where Maori language content is less than 30 percent.

Mr Goldsmith says the new formula should create more opportunities for Maori music to be played on mainstream stations.

“There are a lot of artists out there who aren’t fluent in the language and we have given them a pathway for them to get funding from is to produce music in both languages. It gives opportunities for out artists and production houses to showcase their works on mainstream as well,” he says.

Applications for the current funding round close on Monday.


Former Labour Youth Affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta says new Families Commissioner Christine Rankin is a publicity seeker with a track record of attacking Maori.

Ms Mahuta paid tribute to former Maori Women's Welfare League president Druis Barrett, who quit as an advisor to the commission because of the former Work and Income head's appointment.

She says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's defence of the decision at yesterday's question time wasn't convincing.

“Paula's response was ‘Christine’s going to make a fine response, she’s one of seven commissioners, why worry.’ We’ll just have to hold her accountable for what Christine does to that portfolio. The predictions aren’t very good,” Ms Mahuta says.


A leading researcher on Maori education says the release of ethnic breakdowns for NCEA passes will help identify ways to improve Maori achievement levels.

Dr Liz McKinley from Auckland University's faculty of education says data showing only 52 percent of Maori students got NCEA level one at year 11, compared with almost 80 percent of Pakeha, shows how persistent the gap is between Maori and Pakeha students.

It's the first time the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has released data in that form.

Dr McKinley says several research teams, including her own Starpath project, are looking at ways to close that gap by lifting Maori results, but it's been hard to measure their effectiveness.

“Our team has been doing something quite recently where we could not do that analysis of ethic groups, we could not tell if the school was effective in narrowing the gap between the groups because we just did not have that data available to us,” she says.

Starpath tries to show schools how they can use data to identify and encourage young Maori with the potential to succeed academically.


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