As Māori, we have always had to fight for the preservation of our oranga.
Our tīpuna had to fight for our whenua, our reo, me ōna tikanga and, today, we continue the fight of our mātua tīpuna. The fight to access our data, fight for funding to keep our responses resourced and staffed, the fight for the preservation of our oranga and protection of our people.
As another year draws to a close, it is hard not to acknowledge the challenges it has presented. It's been a year of levels and restrictions, vaccination and testing, rounded out with mandates and traffic lights.
But adopting what that meant for whānau was and is a huge task picked up and delivered by our iwi, Whānau Ora, and Māori Health providers, for the oranga of our nation.
As we learn and prepare to live with the virus in our communities, our Māori providers have played a magical role in facilitating their response.
Under resourced, in sometimes torrential rain, the targets of verbal abuse day in and day out, but still they get up and go to protect our communities and those in need.
Their response is rapid, often directly connected with the whānau of which a member tests positive, maybe vaccine-hesitant, or needing welfare support - they are there.
This year, we have seen our providers and nurses on the frontline swabbing whānau, facilitating isolation plans, vaccinating, and setting up events and pop-up clinics.
But the response doesn't just stop with Covid. The barriers that our people face even before the virus still exist. Our Māori providers have been through it all, to support and akiaki those who have needed it.
Supporting whānau in food hardship through nutritious kai and pātaka kai initiatives. Supporting those in financial hardship, to the taxi service where there were no other options. Collecting prescriptions, providing sanitary products, oximeters, and providing daily welfare checks. The list goes on.
All this, most often at the beckoning of district health boards, for all whānau.
So this is to our Māori health providers – our Māori battalion of the 21st century. Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou e hika mā, mo ngā mahi kaitā i tēnei tau. I see you all, and acknowledge you all for your hard, and sometimes unacknowledged mahi.
Your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we all thank you for your tireless efforts for the oranga of our people. In the words of Erwin Rommel "Give me the Māori battalion and I will conquer the world", fitting for our Māori battalion of 2021.
As we enter the holiday period there are things that we can all do to help alleviate the pressure and demand on our hauora providers, health workers, hospitals, doctors and everyone on the frontline of this pandemic.
Get tested e te whānau; our only method of detecting Covid in the community. By early detection, our health teams can isolate whānau as quick as possible minimising the amount of time the individual is in the community with the potential of infecting others.
If whānau are symptomatic, get a test. But further, nominate one person per whānau, per week to test. This again allows for early detection, minimising the spread and keeping more whānau Covid-free.
Scanning and signing in, we should all be used to it now. Get your phones, set up koro and nanny or sign that book on the way in. Signing in helps you keep a record of where you've been and if you've been to potential exposure events/locations. Faster awareness again helps slow the spread, alleviating pressure from our battalion.
And lastly, me whai whakaaro mō ngā iwi, me o rātou tikanga I wō haerenga – be mindful of where you are going and what protection methods iwi and response units may have in place. Some of our iwi around our rohe have asked whānau to return a negative test before considering travel into their rohe.
These are simple things that can be done to give peace of mind to you, your whānau and the places you head to this summer. Kia maumahara tātou, remember our duties to each other and our whānau.
Be the kaitiaki, look after and protect yourself and your whānau this season.
This kirihimete break, think about our whānau on the frontline. Make their mahi a little bit easier, by being Covid-smart this summer.
Test, scan and respect the tikanga, kia ora ai te Iwi Māori, te iwi Aotearoa.
Meri kirihimete, me ngā mihi o te tau hou pākeha.
- Rawiri Waititi is the Māori Party co-leader and Waiariki MP