Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Decolonising health: indigenous models from the Pacific. (#71)

Jean M Allen 1
  1. Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

With the growth of technology and globalisation many Indigenous people have left their homelands in search of new places to call home. New Zealand is no different, and is home to a number of immigrants. These travellers come from different places around the world and bring with them a range of Indigenous talents, cultures and knowledge. However, as a number of scholars in the field of Indigenous studies have demonstrated, this knowledge is often unseen, undervalued and unacknowledged. This presentation attempts to bring Indigenous perspectives of health to the forefront in order for Indigenous voices to be heard, seen, valued and acknowledged. It focuses on three Indigenous models of health: Hauora, Indigenous to Māori the Tangata whenua of New Zealand; Kakala, an Indigenous model from Tonga; and Fonofale, a Samoan perspective but has also be contextualised and is often used as a Pan Pacific model. In this presentation I will provide a discourse analysis of Hauora, Kakala and Fonofale. This analysis will be reflective of the traditions behind each of the health perspectives as there is a need for Indigenous models to be viewed and understood in regards to their traditional heritage and meaning rather than in line with colonised views of health (Macdonald, 2005). This presentation also demonstrates how a focus on Indigenous health perspectives can help in subverting the dominance of individualism, neoliberalism and deficit thinking in regards to health.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, notions of health tend to be aligned with and underpinned by neoliberalism, where health is positioned as an individual responsibility rather than a collective one. The neoliberalisation of health, especially in ‘Western’ societies, also tends to emphasise the physical, biomedical components of health (e.g. nutrition, fitness and fatness), whilst at the same time ignoring 'other' holistic elements, such as spiritual wellbeing. Robert Crawford (1980) used the term ‘healthism’ to describe the expectation of individual responsibility in regards to physical health. The dominant focus on healthism has resulted in health initiatives that are concerned with risk management, individual responsibility and blame for ill health (Leahy, 2014; Lupton, 1999). While ‘healthism’ is a dominant focus of health in our society, I will draw of Hauora, Kakala and Fonofale to present a more nuanced view of health that is not only focused on the individual, but the connections between individuals, society and the environment. I aim to present a decolonised view of Indigenous health in a way that not only challenges the neoliberal view of individualism and blame, but also brings Indigenous notions of health to the forefront.

  1. Crawford, R. 1980, Healthism and the Medicalization of Everyday Life, International Journal of Health Services, vol.10, no. 3, pp. 365–88, doi: 10.2190/3H2H-3XJN-3KAY-G9NY.
  2. Leahy, D. 2014, Assembling a health[y] subject: Risky and shameful pedagogies in health education, Critical Public Health, vol. 24, no. 2, pp.171–81, doi: 10.1080/09581596.2013.871504.
  3. Lupton, D. 1999, Developing the ‘whole me’: Citizenship, neo-liberalism and the contemporary health and physical education curriculum, Critical Public Health, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 287–300, doi: 10.1080/09581599908402941.
  4. Macdonald, J. J. 2005, Environments for Health: A salutogenic approach, Routledge, London, England.