Despite Aotearoa gaining international praise for its COVID-19 response, two independent reports commissioned by Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust have found that Māori vulnerability and resilience to these large-scale crises remain largely unchanged for the past century.

The reports analyse how COVID-19 has impacted Māori from an education and economic perspective, highlighting deepening inequalities that Māori continue to face – some of which have not improved since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

The reports have found that it is a combination of these inequalities which have contributed to a fundamental lack of ‘social immunity’, disabling Māori to weather large-scale economic shocks.

“We have seen fundamental social issues continue to go unaddressed for generations. National and global-scale crises like the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to exacerbate these inequities further, leaving our people in a very vulnerable position,” says Te Pūoho Katene, Kaihautū (Executive Director) of Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust.

Both independent reports find that the key ‘contagion’ for Māori over and above COVID-19 is inequality, with the fallout of the recent COVID-19 pandemic emphasising the true economic and educational impact these inequities continue to have in Māori communities.

“This impact includes higher Māori representation in sectors and jobs more susceptible to disruption by large scale events – be they front-line “essential” workers, or jobs that risk disestablishment in the event of an economic downturn – or potential automation.

“These whānau also have very little resilience to cope with any economic repercussions brought on by job losses or extended sick leave due to a heightened risk of contracting the virus,” says Katene.

Educational inequities were also evident with the transition to online learning during lockdown. The digital divide meant that many whānau Māori struggled to provide their tamariki with access to digital devices and internet to support their learning during this time.

Katene believes “It is imperative that we as Māori prioritise building our collective “social immunity” to these social and economic disruptions – both now, and in the future.

“We need to have an equal opportunity to share in and contribute to our nation’s prosperity, and most importantly be protected just as much as anybody else- be that from a global financial crisis, or pandemic.”

To achieve this, Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust is working to improve education and employment outcomes for Māori, with the goal of improving Māori resilience. This includes raising Māori academic achievement, encouraging Māori into higher-skilled, future-focused occupations, and supporting whānau to develop and own their education and employment futures.

“We have a momentous challenge on our hands, but we feel optimistic that through a strong evidence base, informed by reports such as these, and increased investment towards indigenous led initiatives – we can shine a light on the pathway to resilience and prosperity for Māori.”