Privilege

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There is a lot of discussion in our country around equity and privilege. They are very important discussions to be had. July 1 saw the establishment of Te Whatu Ora, one health system for the nation instead of 21 district health boards, and Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority. We have huge health disparities in Aotearoa, and we have an obligation under Te Tiriti O Waitangi to ensure that tangata whenua receive the same standard of care as non-Māori, but our health statistics tell us again and again that they do not.  

Why does this matter to us as Catholics? Jesus came for everyone. Every single person from every single race worldwide. Jesus stood for justice, and, when he saw injustice, he spoke up and stood up. Jesus didn’t stand for injustice against women and non-Jews. He calls us to stand up against injustice wherever we may be, in whatever form it takes. It’s a hard journey. It challenges each of us to look at what role we play, and if it’s apathy and ignorance, then part of the journey is to acknowledge and learn and move forward.  

Privilege means that, as a Pākehā who grew up in a middle-class household, I was already steps ahead of my Māori counterparts who grew up in state houses relying on state welfare. It was a natural path for me to go to school, finishing that, and then moving to university and graduating with a professional degree, walking into a job and being employed on an above-average income. Institutions such as universities try to balance some of this privilege by having specific places reserved for Māori and Pasifika, and with extra support in place to help them succeed.  

There is discussion about how our health workforce needs to be representative of the population it serves. We have a long way to go there. We have balanced out the gender issue decades ago, with more females than males in medical school now. We need to ensure that our intake into medical school and other professions reflects our community make up.  

This is a big challenge for many people, and we can all pray for our Prime Minister, Minister of Health, those in power in our new health system, and those in education also. We can all do with prayer for wisdom as to how we can support and embrace these changes. At the heart of it is improving terrible health statistics in
our country for those who, due to no fault of their own, are in a cycle — a cycle of poverty and poor housing and low socio-economic status. All these aspects feed into poor health. 

We have Caritas Aotearoa — the Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development. The Gospels are full of teachings around love, peace, justice, compassion, reconciliation, service and community, and these extend to modern social problems. Caritas helps development in Oceania, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, as well as providing emergency support after major disasters. They educate and advocate to change structures that cause poverty, including in New Zealand. Caritas is doing a lot of work with the Māori community. This is one of many organisations that you can donate to and learn more about, in order to see what people can help to do at a practical level in New Zealand. The Society of St Vincent De Paul is a well known charity that supports disadvantaged people in many ways, as does the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust. These organisations are always looking for donations.  

Have a read of Our Lord’s Prayer in Te Reo — Te Karakia O Te Atua: www.maorilanguage.net/waiata/te-karakia-o-te-atua-the-lords-prayer-in-maori/ Language always gives you a beautiful look into the heart and soul of a culture.  

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).  

Helen Luxford is a physician, working part-time. She is a parishioner of St Michael’s, Remuera. Together with her husband Michael, they are raising their children in the Catholic Faith and reflecting on the challenges and joys that brings. 

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Helen Luxford

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