One-Legged Solutions

The Maori Sole-Parent Problem

Allow us to use racial and ethnic categories for a new minutes.  It is generally known that Maori have substantial problems and issues.  But we forget, or overlook the size and scale of the problem.  Then, every so often, it shows forth once again in startling, appalling relief.

Here is a vignette which we came across the other day: a breakdown by ethnicity of Sole Parents receiving taxpayer (government) welfare in New Zealand.

The first, expected, characteristic is that the Sole Parent category in the table is overwhelmingly female.  No surprises there.

But when broken down by ethnicity, we find a startling bit of data: there are nearly 60 percent more  Maori women on the Sole Parent benefit, than NZ European women.  In June 2016, there were 31,040 Maori women receiving the Sole Parent benefit, compared to 19,753 NZ Europeans.  Yet Maori represent only 15 percent of the entire NZ population.  Of the 60,000 women on Sole Parent benefits, half of them are Maori.

Characteristics of working-age recipients of Sole Parent Support at the end of June 2011, 2015 and 2016
Annual change
8,452 5,760 5,322 −438 −7.6%
80,604 63,480 60,100 −3,380 −5.3%
Ethnic group
NZ European
32,259 22,828 19,753 −3,075 −13.5%
39,010 32,518 31,040 −1,478 −4.5%
Pacific peoples
8,930 6,694 7,020 326 4.9%
All other ethnicities See Note 1
7,324 6,247 6,538 291 4.7%
Unspecified ethnicity
1,533 953 1,071 118 12.4%
Age group
18-24 years
20,236 14,936 13,296 −1,640 −11.0%
25-39 years
47,270 38,260 37,183 −1,077 −2.8%
40-54 years
20,501 15,069 14,030 −1,039 −6.9%
55-64 years
1,049 975 913 −62 −6.4%
Continuous duration on any benefit
One year or less
17,424 14,967 14,899 −68 −0.5%
More than one year
71,632 54,273 50,523 −3,750 −6.9%
Caring for a dependent child
Under 5 years
49,000 39,527 36,625 −2,902 −7.3%
5-13 years
39,926 29,629 28,736 −893 −3.0%
Total number of recipients of Sole Parent Support 89,056 69,240 65,422 −3,818 −5.5%
Percentage of working-age main benefit population receiving Sole Parent Support
27.2% 24.3% 23.4%
Percentage of working-age population receiving Sole Parent Support
3.3% 2.5% 2.3%
Note 1: All other ethnicities includes Other Europeans, Asian people and Middle Eastern/Latin American/African peoples.

What this tells us is that Maori are in deep trouble in New Zealand, disproportionately so.  Why can’t so many Maori form stable monogamous families and homes?  Why can’t Maori raise children in such families?

There is one thing which needs to be said clearly and unambiguously: this problem is not an ethnic nor genetic problem.  Maori do not have an anti-family gene.  The problem is cultural.  Far too many Maori are conditioned, trained, and moulded into destructive social behaviour.  
Maori leaders and spokespeople have sought to find solutions in Maori ethnic and cultural identity–a sort of  “black pride” equivalent.  Maori leaders have consequently attempted “brown pride”, attempting to rebuild historical Maori cultural values, principles, beliefs, and ways of doing things.  The theory is that if Maori are taught the cultural values that historically have attended their ethnicity, they will become self-respecting and proud.  They will find their identity.  Once that is achieved, they will then be far more likely to respect others.  They will be in a position where they can form lasting, mutually respectful relationships upon which stable marriages and families can be built. 
We understand the argument.  It is a much, much better case than the grievance arguments (“Maori are suffering because they have been ripped off by whitey”) and Marxist arguments (“Maori will be able to build stable families as soon as (more) wealth is redistributed to them”.  
But despite the “brown pride” case being much stronger and closer to the mark, it is not working, not nearly enough, as the statistics on the disproportion numbers of Maori sole parents illustrate.  It’s time for Maori leaders to take stock and face up to the inadequacy of their solution.  
We would like to suggest an alternative: instead of attempting to ground Maori just in historical cultural values, we would offer, in addition, something far more profound–an ethic with a far grander, more noble lineage.  The Ten Commandments.  
When Christian missionaries first came to New Zealand they spoke of a cultural and religious lineage far, far more ancient than Maori culture, stretching right back to the beginning of the human race.  Eventually there was an enormous response to the Gospel amongst Maori leaders and tribes.  Often times, these Maori converts took the laws of the Creator far more seriously than the nominally Christian Victorians who were beginning to migrate to New Zealand in ever greater numbers.
Our experience is that there remains amongst many Maori leaders a deep respect for the Bible and for the Christian faith.  But here lies the problem: traditional Maori culture, while having many good ethical values embedded and expressed,  also had destructive and violent elements.  Separate out traditional Maori culture from the Scriptures, and you end up with some cultural institutions and practices which destroy and tear down: residual tribalism, utu, violence, hatred, and worldly-pride (mana)–to name but a few.  
The volume and rate of Maori sole-parents in New Zealand is deplorable.  All of the bad consequences and fruits of Maori family breakdown will roll down to the next generation, and the generations which follow.  Maori is not unique in these things, but it is disproportionately afflicted with them.  
Our call to Maori leaders is to face up to these realities with more than they have been doing.  Our call to them would be to follow the example of many of their people who, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ first came to this land, turned from their evil ways, and began to follow the Lord, living willingly under His law.  They were sick in heart at where Maori culture had led them–particularly grieved by internecine tribal warfare, the endless cycle of utu, and cannibalism.  
Within the context of striving to recover Maori cultural practices and traditions that are honourable, in the attempt to lift Maori out of the cycle of inter-generational degradation, the ancient Centre must also be recovered. Above all else, must needs come the eye to eye, God-to-Maori summons: “You must be born again.”  

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