Post sponsored by NewzEngine.com

Source: New Zealand Government

Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia orana, Taloha ni, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Talofa, Mauri, Noa’ia, Kia ora,Tēnā koutou katoa. Warm Pacific greetings to all.

Distinguished guests, families and friends. Epenesa Olo and Brenda Simmons, Chair and CE of Fonua Ola, Dr Amanda-Lanuola Dunlop, Vaka Tautua, Debbie Sorenson, Pasifika Futures, Ian Soosay and Charles Tutagaleavao from Counties Manukau, Jo Chiplin and Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone from Health. I also want to acknowledge all our mental health staff on the ground, working so hard behind the scenes.

I am proud to join with you today to focus on an incredibly important issue – the mental health and wellbeing of our Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand.

As the Minister for Pacific Peoples, and particularly as Associate Minister of Health, improving the health and wellbeing of our Pacific people is a priority for me. This Government has made a specific commitment to achieving equitable health outcomes for our Pacific communities. I am clear that this requires a whole-of-system collective response, and I am looking at this challenging task, from the holistic Pacific wellbeing perspective.

This Government supports the holistic Pacific Wellbeing approach. This requires Ministers and government departments working far better together. Greater collaboration, greater coordination, more sharing and having a dedicated focus to achieve accelerated results for our families and communities.

Lalanga Fou

Through my Pacific engagement in 2018 to develop, Pacific Aotearoa, Lalanga Fou report, our communities told me what they needed to achieve, to realise their full potential: a vision where all Pacific people can lead confident, more resilient, and more prosperous lives. I am using the four main goals of Lalanga Fou to bring Ministers and agencies together to secure the investment that’s required from Government to lift Pacific wellbeing. These goals are:

  • Thriving Pacific languages, cultures and identities
  • Prosperous Pacific communities
  • Resilient and healthy Pacific families and
  • Confident, thriving and resilient Pacific young people and a strong culturally intelligent workforce across the whole of Government.

Pacific Mental Health

Addressing inequities in the area of mental health and addiction is a key part of achieving all of these important goals.

Pacific peoples are more likely to experience mental distress. But, they’re also much less likely to reach out and seek support. Our Pacific communities themselves are challenged. What is a mental illness? What are the signs or symptoms? What do we do if we see these signs or symptoms? Where can we turn to, to get help? Is it safe to ask for help or should we keep quiet about it?

A lot of insight has been gathered about our mental health and addiction system over the last few years. It became clear that we needed to ensure our people could get the help they needed, in the way that suited them. And we committed to that change in 2019.
 

Targeted funding to increase access and choice for Pacific peoples

In our first Wellbeing Budget in 2019 this Government invested the largest ever amount into mental wellbeing – a total of $1.9 billion across a range of initiatives, including areas that have an impact on people’s mental wellbeing such as housing, education and employment.

Overall, we allocated $455 million to increasing access to, and choice of, mental health and addiction services to facilitate mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders. We also dedicated funding within this work programme for priority population groups, including Pacific peoples.

It means there is targeted funding to expand and stand up new culturally appropriate services for Pacific peoples. I’m motivated by today’s announcement that marks the start of some of these new services rolling out. I am also challenging my health officials to work forward to secure at least 10% of total funding for a targeted Pacific approach.

We’re committed to a five-year programme of work. The rollout is gaining momentum, but there is more work to be done.
 

Community-based by Pacific, for Pacific, services are crucial

The importance of the by Pacific, for Pacific, nature of these services cannot be overstated. My own cultural lens and also inspiration by the Māori cultural principles of Manaakitanga, Whanaungatanga and Arohatanga, underscores this important cultural approach. Creating culturally appropriate and responsive services means more than just having Pacific peoples at the frontline to work with our own.

It means developing a model of care that reflects the values and philosophies of the Pacific – services that appreciate the important role of cultural, social and aiga connection, our relationship with the land and environment and the crucial factor of community.

Our cultural values of respect, family, reciprocity, collectivism and spirituality need to be integrated into how people are cared for.

If people feel comfortable knowing that their language, culture and values will be understood, they will be much more likely to access services. This is the evidence.

The community-based factor is equally important. Embedding services within communities recognises the fact that this is where the opportunity to intervene early, and prevent people’s distress from escalating, is greatest.

In all my Ministerial portfolios I am insisting greater diversity at the decision-making levels, boards, leadership and at every workforce level. The Government supports my approach. But let me be clear, when I ask for diversity I’m not just asking for more women, or more Pacific peoples for the simple sake of gender or ethnicity. I’m asking that they come to the table as they bring a different mindset, different experiences, a cultural intelligence that seeks to disrupt the status quo and accelerate impact that lifts wellbeing and eliminates inequities.

Over the last year we have worked hard with providers to develop new services that can cater to these needs, and I thank you and congratulate everyone in this room today for the innovation and commitment shown to get us to this point. I want to also acknowledge your collective work carried out in the COVID-19 environment, that has had a particular impact in Auckland. Thank you for your perseverance, patience and resilience in these challenging times.

The services rolling out across the Auckland and Wellington regions will truly make a difference to our Pacific communities.

I am looking forward to seeing an increase in the number of Pacific peoples accessing mental wellbeing services, and services like those delivered by Fonua Ola, Vaka Tautua and Pasifika Futures, and our providers in other parts of the country, Naku Enei Tamariki and Pacific Health Services Hutt Valley, playing a key role in this transformation.

COVID-19

Lastly, our Prime Minister has made it clear “this is the year of the Vaccine.”

I am often asked, at gatherings like this, is the vaccine safe?

Yes it is and this is why. There’s never been this level of global collaboration amongst scientists and governments in vaccine development – We are moving swiftly but without taking any short cuts or compromising safety

The agencies that regulate vaccines, like New Zealand’s Medsafe, have been able to start assessing the clinical trial data much sooner than they normally would. Large manufacturing plants have been developed, enabling vaccines to be produced more swiftly and on a larger scale than previously possible.

All these changes mean that safety approvals that used to take a long time have happened faster. There have been no shortcuts.

And the other question is it effective?

Pfizer, New Zealand’s chosen COVID-19 vaccine is up to 95 per cent effective. This is consistent across age, gender, race and ethnic demographics.

As health leaders in our communities its important that we collectively push the need for our people to get vaccinated to keep our people safe. As Pacific Health providers, you are trusted voices and leaders in our community.

You have the language skills and cultural intelligence to engage with Pacific people and ensure we keep all our aiga safe.

I myself got my first jab yesterday at the newly set-up Pacific-led MIT, Otara vaccination centre. I survived!
 

Closing

To close, I’d like to thank everyone for the dedication you show to supporting our communities achieving better mental health and wellbeing.

We have come a long way to get to this point, and I would understand if some felt it needed to happen faster. I too feel the same way completely, but we are making progress and these are the first stakes in the ground. We have more work to do, especially in terms of developing the workforce needed to deliver services to our Pacific communities. Pacific workforce development will continue to be a priority for me.

But it is happening, and the more milestones we hit, like today, the more that momentum builds and the better placed we are to achieve improved outcomes for our people.

Collectivisim is our natural strength. We are at our best when we are together, and I acknowledge and encourage you to continue working collaboratively to tackle these challenges.

Faafetai lava ma ia manuia. Kia kaha.

MIL OSI