Maori Public Health Practitioners’ Views of Māori Leadership in the New Zealand Public Health Context; A Critical Hermeneutic Study
Despite significant health inequities between Māori and non-Māori, the number of Māori public health practitioners working within the public health sector in New Zealand is low. In the last decade there have been a number of health strategies, work force development plans and research studies about leadership that show the importance of leadership in addressing health needs of Māori. However, little is known about the meaning of Māori leadership, particularly from the perspective of Māori public health practitioners. One aim of this critical hermeneutic study is to explore the experience and meaning of Māori leadership for Māori practitioners working in the context of public health units in New Zealand. A further aim is to examine how the power imbalance between Māori and non-Māori and the health ideology underlying New Zealand society influences the meaning of Māori leadership in public health units. Eleven participants from public health units across the country who self-identify as being Māori or of Māori descent were recruited for the study. Data were collected from individual interviews with participants, and the text was analysed using a hermeneutic interpretative process with an overlay of a critical and Kaupapa Māori critique. The findings of this study reveal that the meaning of Māori leadership in public health from the perspective of Māori practitioners is ultimately situated in te ao Māori (Māori world view) and tikanga (Māori values). A Māori leader in public health requires the ability to navigate between te ao Māori, and te ao Pākehā (Western world views).
This study adds to the small body of research on Māori leadership in public health that calls for equal recognition of Māori leadership values in New Zealand mainstream organisations. Public health practitioners and their employers need to rethink how leadership is viewed with consideration of te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. This thesis alongside other evidence supports a need for a new way to conceptualise Māori leadership that will help non-Māori practitioners to better understand and acknowledge te ao Māori perspectives.