A Mana Wahine Critical Analysis of New Zealand Legislation Concerning Education: Implications for Addressing Māori Social Disadvantage
Theory and practice are intertwined, woven inextricably together by the way that each informs and is informed by the other (Moss 2002, Pihama 2001, Simmonds 2009). This research confronts and analyses the legal bases of gendered and race-based inequalities by critically analysing New Zealand social policy legislation through a mana wahine perspective. Mana wahine and critical policy analysis share common goals to challenge dominant theoretical and methodological norms in order to recognise unequal power distributions, of which colonisation is implicit (Tomlins-Jahnke 1997). This research has been guided by a reading of literature that suggests Māori social disadvantage has become ingrained and that policies designed to address this inequality and to include Māori people and Māori perspectives in mainstreamed systems are both confusing, and yet to be successful. This study has been designed to explore present policy legislation concerning social development. A case study of the education system has been used, which draws on historic and more contemporary Western political agendas as reflected in legislative shifts. Key findings of this research include the exclusion of mana wahine through the ongoing processes of colonisation that do not give rise to Māori cultural understandings. To summarise, the social policy context at present is characterised by: Māori demands for greater self-determination; an absence of Treaty rights for Māori; liberal interpretations of Treaty principles, and scant processes to implement them; a devoid of aspects pertinent to mana wahine, and; the contradiction between Government's articulated position on rights and inclusion in social policy and the language used in and concepts enforced by legislation. The findings are significant and reveal the ongoing complexities of Indigenous inequalities in the context of widespread policy ‘commitment’ to inclusion and equality. The central argument developed throughout this study is that there is an urgent need to shift policy thinking toward Māori if there is to be a significant movement toward justice for Māori women, which will involve Māori-centred decolonisation and the inclusion of aspects pertinent to mana wahine.