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Demystifying a relationship between voluntary work and Māori

The purpose of this thesis is to provide evidence that critically reviews the relationship between Māori and voluntary work in social service organisations. Since colonisation very little research has been initiated that investigated the involvement of Māori in voluntary activity yet recent statistics show that Māori are the highest participants in this type of work. This thesis provides an analysis of the relationship of Māori to voluntary work and its evolution in a Colonial State, Liberal State, Welfare State, and Neo-Liberal State in New Zealand. Three perspectives of Māori voluntary work provide the foundation for the analysis of this relationship. The first perspective describes voluntary work from a personal experience as an insider. The second perspective explores literature that records Māori involvement in voluntary activity. The third perspective documents life experiences from Māori voluntary workers in New Zealand communities. The three perspectives provide an empirical foundation for the type of relationship that has developed between Māori and voluntary work; Māori and the State; Māori and their place in New Zealand society. My interest in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) as a valid and thriving ontological position and my academic interest in critical theory provide the theoretical lens for my analysis. Personal experience as a Māori volunteer opened doors to the communities I entered and added strength to the research, the first perspective. Western research in Māori communities often by non-Māori researchers, was conducted to gather knowledge for Western policy makers. Māori knowledge was not recognised as valid and the people were treated as objects. Knowing this, I searched for an approach that valued Māori participants, valued Māori people, and contained cultural aspects that separated the procedure from Western research. A review of literature, the second perspective, introduced a cultural approach to research termed kaupapa Māori research, generated out of and for Te Ao Māori detailed further in Chapter Three. Participants’ life experiences coupled with literature provide a wealth of knowledge and a testimony to the type of relationship that exists between Māori and voluntary work. Criticism from Māori communities as to the exploitation of Māori volunteers has swelled in recent years so that the environment volunteers work in is no longer attractive to Māori people. Therefore, documenting the life experiences of Māori who participate in voluntary work as the primary source of information was imperative and produced evidence to describe the relationship between Māori and voluntary work in the thesis. A triangular study: case study, community study, and cross-section study (Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight), provide the ‘grass roots voices’ and represent the third perspective. My observation of Māori organisations’ involvement in voluntary work generated in me a deep concern in what appeared to be an involvement in activity that improved neither the lives of the volunteers nor the wider problems to which they attributed their aroha. This involvement activity is a product of historical developments whereby the Western ideology of voluntary work became confused with a Māori ideology of collective participation. This confusion has created an environment where Māori voluntary organisations are working unpaid with insufficient resources in oppressive conditions in the attempt to provide social solutions. I argue that the Māori ideology of collective participation has been co-opted in the emerging conflict of neo-liberalism to provide social services in communities which government agencies exploit. In conclusion, the thesis is a journey through the world of voluntary work for Māori in communal organisations.
Type of thesis
Te Momo, O. H. F. (2003). Demystifying a relationship between voluntary work and Māori (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13973
The University of Waikato
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