Tamariki Maori slipping through the cracks as Neorudiverse conditions take hold


The National Maori Authority has called on whanau with Neurodiverse conditions to come forward and have their voices heard at the Maori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry now underway. With Submission closing soon, Chair, Matthew Tukaki, has said its both an opportunity to highlight the plight of whanau Maori slipping through the cracks of the health and disability system but also what might the future hold. Tukaki, in the submission, also talked about his own personal journey with learning disabilities. Tukaki has said that the current health and disability system as well as education has been failing Tamariki Maori and whanau for years:


“While many of the people reading the submission would not have seen it, I have struggled with a learning disability all of my life. I revel in the story that I didn’t pass school c English but, in all truth, I found it very difficult to read and write, construct sentences, or even put my words and thoughts into writing. I also had an issue with math and numbers – speak to any of my Maths teachers growing up and you would hear the story of how Calculus and Algebra were just big words I couldn’t understand let alone use their foundations to add or subtract. Words would jump off the page to me and be all over the place.” Tukaki said


“Over the years I have worked hard to find ways and means to bring those learning difficulties growing up as a child into today’s world where I can read, write, and add in a way where I am independent and not scared to admit my disability. For the most part you wouldn’t see it unless you look closely at things I write where there are still the tell-tale signs of my learning disabilities. Into adulthood it has had a really big impact on my life. I am unable to fully learn the language of my people because I still find it hard to navigate words in meaning from English to Te Reo Māori and vice versa. It still hurts me that I cannot be stronger in the language of my Tupuna. And then there has always been that desire to want to be University qualified – but the fear I will embarrass myself stops me.” He says


“And yet I am a reader of books and deep dive into analysis all the time for my mahi. As an adult I see many of our Tamariki struggle with the same challenges I do and so for me this submission, while through the National Māori Authority, is also very personal for me because while I have a learning disability I have been able to navigate life in a way I want our Tamariki to – also saving them the whakama or embarrassment I suffered while also sending a clear message to their parents that they still have awesome potential. The first step is to properly diagnose something while the second step is to identify the support, we can offer for their life ahead.”


Tukaki calls out the failure of the system to make it easy for whanau to navigate through to a diagnosis across to lack of resources, investment in Maori service providers and systems of support once a diagnosis has been made. Tukaki has said there is a lack of data, no workforce development and no real understanding of the depth of the problem. The submission contains a range of recommendations:


“In all honesty this comes down to two things – the need for a focussed strategy that also ensures everyone knows what role they are playing – from who is leading it to who is managing it onto who is passenger versus driver. The next is this strategy needs to be equitably resourced and funded and of course it should include a joined-up workforce development strategy. Once this has been done work also needs to turn to the building of capability and capacity for Māori organisations to be able to work specifically with whanau.”



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