Latest journal article just published

Hot off the academic press is our latest journal article, published in the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. I argue that Indigenous Peoples retain traditional coping strategies for disasters despite the marginalisation of many Indigenous communities. The article describes the response of Māori to the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2012 through analyses of available statistical data and reports, and interviews done three months and one year after the most damaging event. A significant difference between Māori and ‘mainstream’ New Zealand was the greater mobility enacted by Māori throughout this period, with organisations having roles beyond their traditional catchments throughout the disaster, including important support for non-Māori. Informed engagement with Indigenous communities, acknowledging their internal diversity and culturally nuanced support networks, would enable more efficient disaster responses in many countries.


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Maori Well-being still bad across Otautahi

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s latest Well-being survey , the fourth, shows Maori well-being still a stubbornly low.

This survey, capturing participants self-reported well-being and experiences in April of this year, show dissatisfaction increasing for several groups. The participation of Māori in mainstream disaster management is nuanced and not amenable to a simplistic template to account for all Māori. Also we can and often do identify with more than one iwi, and many of us cannot or do not identify to any iwi and Pakeha thinking still struggles with our diversity!

These results are frightening.

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HRC Hui Whakapiripiri 2014

Just back from HRC’s Hui Whakapiripiri in Tamaki Makaurau where I presented an update on our research. We know that the recent (and ongoing) earthquakes in Christchurch have radically altered the physical and psycho-social landscapes of the city. I presented two analyses of data collected in collaboration with Te Awa o te Ora, a Kaupapa Maori service provider in the dynamic post-disaster contexts of a devastated city. Semi-structured interviews with Tangata Whaiora provide rich narratives of personal experiences of a massive urban disaster with key themes of family, housing and accommodation, and rapid service provider support.

This data also enables a Social Network Analysis of support networks in which key nodes and pathways outline geographies of care and trust which are culturally attuned to leverage off Maori institutions and practices. Results point to a more efficient and comprehensive coverage by a Kaupapa Maori provider for what is too often considered a vulnerable community but whose experiences actually point to a great resilience.

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Ru Whenua work acknowledged: Heroism award to Ngai Tahu Fireman

Māori researchers at Lincoln University extend congratulations to Scott Shadbolt (Ngāi Tahu – Taumutu/Moeraki) who was awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal for his heroic efforts as a NZ Fire Service Urban Search and Rescue first responder in the rubble of Christchurch after the disastrous earthquake on February 22, 2011.

Scott was also the first participant in research lead by Dr Simon Lambert (Ngāti Ruapani/Tuhoe) Senior Lecturer in Māori Environmental Planning and Development in the Faculty of Environment, Society and Design. This research – presented at the 2012 International Indigenous Development Conference in Auckland – showed how the ‘strength and resilience of Māori cultural values and skills’ came to the fore in the immediate disaster response. The research also found Māori resilience to be ‘culturally attuned’ and that better engagement with marae, kura, hapū and iwi as well as pan-iwi organisations would ‘expand the possibilities for better disaster preparation and improved post-disaster recoveries.’

Leadership such as that displayed by Scott and others was integral to the rapid response. A second paper (co-authored by Scott’s wife, Lincoln researcher Melanie Mark-Shadbolt (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou), discussed issues of leadership which are ‘woven through both formal and informal investigations and debates’ in the drawn out recovery phase.

This has been particularly evident in current research by Dr Lambert with Te Awa o Te Ora Trust, a Kaupapa Māori provider of wraparound mental health services in Christchurch. Funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, a Centre of Research Excellence based at the University of Auckland, this research has enabled the voices of Tangata Whaiora (‘People seeking health’) to be heard.

Findings are soon to be published, however preliminary results show that the drawn-out nature of the rebuild/recovery period is placing enormous stress on individuals and whānau. For Māori, the networks of support that are accessed are not necessarily known or acknowledged by mainstream organisations, and one of the intended outcomes of this project is to facilitate better engagement of Māori institutions into Aotearoa New Zealand’s disaster and emergency management strategies.

Once again ka nui te mihi ki a koe Scott, he toa, he rangatira!

Updates to this research are regularly posted on the Lincoln University ‘Conversations’ webpage There is also a Facebook page .

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IRDR presentation: Integrating Indigenous Knowledge into Decision and Policy-making for Disaster Risk Reduction

Just back from the 2nd International Research on Disaster Risk Conference in Beijing where we presented a summary of our case studies on Indigenous communities and disasters. I was ably supported by my colleague Lun Yin who spoke on his work in the Tibetan mountains.

There were four other cases: Simone Athayde (our project manager) has been working with Indigenous communities impacted by the Bel Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon; Marie-Ange Baudoin and small-scale farmers in Benin; Victor Okarie and the Nigerian floods of 2012 and climate change; Lun”s work,  and ours on Maori and the Christchurch earthquakes. Our summary was that:

•Indigenous knowledge is uniquely valuable in understanding natural hazards and disasters.

• Participation of Indigenous communities is vital to rapid and effective response and recovery.

• State, local authorities and NGOs need to acknowledge and empower Indigenous communities, especially as these communities engage with corporations and multinationals

• Intra- and Inter-tribal dynamics ensure Indigenous communities remain complex and evolving.

• Ongoing and empowered relationships are a necessity for effective DRR and CCA.

We’re going to be workshopping on all this and more in Florida  by the end of the year.

Two keynotes worth noting are Senator Loren Legarda of the Philippines who spoke of her country’s responses to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, and Nathan Forbes on ‘Water and Disasters: the impact of thirst’.

Thanks to Lincoln PhD candidate, Roche Mahon, for the pic

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Indigenous resilience: like gravity or democracy?

We’ve been researching the impacts of the 2010-11 earthquakes on Maori in Christchurch since May of 2011.

As well as recording the terrifying and uplifting experiences of over 80 individuals including Maori first responders, parents, teachers, and tangata whaiora (mental health clients), we have accumulated raw data on self-reported wellbeing pre- and post-disaster.

The research has been presented a couple of times now and is to be published in November in a special Issue of the MAI Review which will be launched at this years Nga Pae’s International Indigenous Conference.

Our results show that Maori resilience is neither automatic or improving, with supporting evidence from the third wave of CERA’s Wellbeing Survey which shows an increase in the proportion of Maori less likely to view post-disaster life positively…

CERA Wellbeing Survey, 2012-13

While various definitions are held, there seems to be a reluctance to question the assumption that we are resilient by definition, as Indigenous Peoples.

I see two poles about which we swing. The first accepts resilience is like gravity: always there, unshakable, a ‘given’ in the universe.

The second pole argues that resilience is like democracy, a dynamic configuration of people and institutions with individual and collective actions never quite perfecting things but committed to a process through which empowerment is at least possible.

I argue for the second. And like democracy everywhere, resilience is a fragile thing, balanced on a knife-edge, easily lost and hard to regather.

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Indigenous Peoples and Disasters: opportunities and obligations of efficiency

Friday the 11th I delivered a public lecture at the School of Economics and Finance, Victoria University in Wellington/Poneke at the invitation of Professor Ilan Noy, Chair of Disaster Economics.

“Disasters provide useful if tragic frames of reference by which society can judge is abilities to plan, build, respond, protect and help its members recover from what were once called acts of god but could be better understood as immanent to our occupation of this planet. Certainly in strategies of disaster risk reduction (DRR) we can observe the configurations of social decisions that revolve around the allocation of scarce resources. This paper argues Indigenous Peoples offer fundamental competencies in DRR through a) their knowledge of environmental hazards; b) traditional institutions, networks and practices during a disaster, and c) a growing (if still minor) role in ethical disaster recovery. I use the term ‘opportunities and obligations of efficiency’ as a provocation, knowing that many of my Maori and Indigenous peers would rail against any suggestion that Indigenous communities should somehow contribute to wider societal productivity and efficiency. But I think we can make a business case for Indigenous Peoples being integral to many if not most national debates on DRR; and for Aotearoa/New Zealand in particular to provide an exemplary case study of this important and perhaps vital strategy for societal resilience.”

Full text available → Indigenous Peoples and Disasters

I also gave a lecture to Professor Noy’s class in disaster economics on the Wednesday, a nice warm up, and in between I attended a seminar on Gender and Disaster, an important layer of disaster management that has a Pacific Oceania Network.

So all very disastrous, in a good way :)

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Developing an International Network on Indigenous Knowledge, Risk Interpretation and Action: Integrating indigenous knowledge into decision and policy-making for disaster risk reduction

A proposal I’m on has just been funded by the Advanced Institutes for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) and the START project. My colleagues are Simone Athayde, Lun Yin, Marie-Ange Baudoin and Victor Okorie. We met when Simone, Lun and Marie-Ange attended the Risk Interpretation and Action (RIA) programme in Christchurch last year.

Our objective are:

  • Advance the formation of an international network of scholars and indigenous communities to integrate indigenous knowledge into decision and policy-making related to natural, man-made hazards and climate change across the globe.
  • Develop and broadly share on-line learning modules on case-studies featuring Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, practices and experiences in coping and adapting to risk situations.
  • Advance interdisciplinary and integrative research on indigenous knowledge and disaster-risk reduction.
  • Contribute to inform decision and public-policy making on integrating indigenous knowledge on policies towards risk reduction and mitigation nationally and internationally.

This is a very exciting project and will take our insights on how Maori have survived the Canterbury earthquakes to an international audience.

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Latest CERA Wellbeing Survey

The latest Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Wellbeing Survey results are out showing Maori continue to struggle in the post-disaster landscape.

“Results indicate that more greater Christchurch residents are adapting to the ‘new normal’ as progress is being made in a number of areas. However, there are still some groups that are being affected more than others, where recovery is taking longer. These include Māori, those in temporary housing, those living with a health problem or disability, those on lower incomes and those in rental accommodation.” (p.5)

For those more likely to say they have experienced stress always or most of the time (22% of respondents) are:

  • Living with a physical health condition or disability (34%)
  • Of Māori ethnicity (32%)

The report (available HERE) paints a picture of ongoing isolation and frustrationfor Maori. A third of all Maori respondents report ‘stress all or most of the time’!

While not surprised at these results, I am disappointed at the lack of voice for our communities.

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Pingao: Weaving the connections

A new project on pingao has begun at Lincoln. Headed by Dr. Hannah Buckley, we are looking at scientific and Māori perspectives to develop a research plan to advance our ecological and cultural understanding of one of New Zealand’s most iconic threatened plant species, pīngao/pīkao/golden sand sedge (Ficinia spiralis Cyperaceae).

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