We explored the notion of a Pacific-oriented approach to “redress” at our public hearing into Pacific peoples experiences this year. Our work investigating the needs and experiences of Pacific survivors is ongoing and will be addressed in more detail in a future report.
We heard that a Pacific-oriented approach to redress, like any approach to redress, should be guided by the survivor. The approach must also take into account the diverse ways in which people are Pacific. The way Pacific survivors orient themselves or connect to their ethnicity or culture must be taken into consideration, without making assumptions as to their preferred type of redress.
Dr Jean Mitaera explained:
“I think that we need to ask [survivors] “what’s going to work for you”, and we need to sit down and explain different processes and let them choose … let them be designers of the process that they’re going to go through … it might be that (survivors) might want two or three things from different cultures. And … that reflects their reality.”
Pacific survivors, witnesses, family members, community leaders and experts have made it clear that there has been a lack of regard for Pacific concepts and principles in existing State and faith-based redress processes, and there is a need to urgently transform redress processes to incorporate Pacific cultural values. One Pacific expert told us that a “holistic approach that encompasses genuine Pasifika worldviews must be prioritised, despite the dominance of western, Eurocentric and individualistic models of society in Aotearoa New Zealand”.
From Pacific perspectives, “redress” can be understood as a form of restoration or restitution. For many Pacific survivors, it is about restoring the vā that was violated or lost and restoring the damaged relationships. Anything that was taken away is to be restored in its purest form, as close as possible.
Redress for Pacific peoples needs to reflect the Pacific worldview in that it needs to be holistic, collective and relational. This can be achieved by drawing on models and frameworks such as the Fonofale model and “cultural humility” framework, that recognise the holistic nature of the Pacific worldview and key Pacific concepts and principles.
“In terms of Pacific redress, it has to reflect the people, it has to breathe, we cannot just rely on structures.”
Pacific survivors told us they wanted to see accurate ethnicity recording. Expert witness, Dr Seini Taufa, emphasised the importance of accurately recording Pacific peoples’ ethnicity and the need for ethnic specific recording by government agencies. There is the added importance of ensuring that children of mixed Māori and Pacific heritage are accurately recorded.
Some survivors talked about how inaccurate recording of their ethnicity misinformed their ethnic identity which directly impacted on their well-being. To avoid further harm, agencies and those responsible for the care of Pacific people need to be aware of the importance of ethnicity recording to Pacific identity and well-being.
Pacific survivors indicated that redress should be a healing process that is open, transparent, culturally relevant and appropriate. It should include a meaningful apology, and a focus on healing and restoration of the vā or relational space. One expert told us that we should aspire to have a care system that is focused on young people embracing who they are holistically, their faith, their strengths, their weaknesses, their interests; this would encompass who they are as a people in their culture. We were told that any new redress process should reflect the same principles and values.
“Language is the music of the soul”
Some Pacific survivors told us that a meaningful acknowledgement and apology would be important aspects of any healing process, and many wanted apologies to be not just to them, but to their families. Survivor William Wilson told us: “I think a genuine meaningful apology from Wesley College acknowledging what happened to me while I was in their care and an apology from those who abused me would make a bit of a difference.”
Ms CU said: “The Church should publicly apologise to victims and their families. This will go a long way towards showing other people that my (family member), and others like my (family member), are innocent and suffered due to the Church’s actions and inactions. This should be done immediately.”
Some Samoan survivors advocated for the use of ifoga to create space for restoration and healing. For some survivors, being able to take part in a culturally appropriate process would be particularly significant, as their experiences in State or faith-based care had disconnected them from their culture.
Several survivors wanted a healing and restoration process that was independent, entirely separate from the organisations that perpetrated abuse. Others raised concern that any independent, unitary body responsible for redress might lack the cultural competence and sensitivity to effectively respond to and support Pacific survivors.
As expert hearing witness Folasāitu Dr Julia Ioane stated, “an understanding of Pasifika values is needed to guide, heal and continue with Tatala e Pulonga”, the lifting of the dark cloud.
We heard that a Pacific-orientated approach to redress requires systemic change. Folasāitu Dr Julia Ioane explained that “if we were to have a system that is to genuinely work with Pasifika, then a significant change is required at systems level”. Agencies, organisations, government departments must engage in the fundamental concept of the vā or tāuhi vā.
“I stopped caring about who I was because I was stuck in a system that didn’t care and so I stopped caring too.”
Psychologist Dr Siautu Alefaio-Tugia told us that people behind any new redress processes will need to embrace “uncomfortable courage” in order to move beyond the status quo. The “uncomfortability” experienced by survivors in coming forward to share their experiences demands that policy makers in both State and faith-based institutions be courageous in taking decisive steps for transformative change. Pacific peoples want and need to be involved in the design, establishment and implementation of any new scheme. This will require State and faith-based institutions knowing how to establish empathetic relationships. As Sister Cabrini Makasiale said at the hearing, “you either have it or you’ve got to learn it”.
Next: Redress for Deaf and disabled survivors