News outlet Stuff’s apology for its racist portrayal of Māori over decades of reporting was a long time coming, the Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children says.
It comes as Stuff on Monday issued a public apology for its portrayal of Māori from its first editions to now.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this day would come,” Glenis Philip-Barbara told TVNZ1’s Breakfast today.
Philip-Barbara said she cried tears of relief when she saw the apology. But, she said, she had a “residual” worry that Pākehā wouldn’t understand the full importance of what it meant because they weren’t impacted by racist reporting.
She said the apology should start a conversation about how all media portrayed Māori, and the impact that had on Māori children.
Part of it meant examining what the media didn’t cover, Philip-Barbara said.
In Stuff’s investigation into its own reporting practices, it said it minimised reporting about the child abuse happening in Pākehā households and made “Māori the face of child abuse”.
“We’ve failed Pākehā children and not applied the same scrutiny to Pākehā perpetrators as we have to Māori,” the media outlet said.
Philip-Barbara said the investigation found more than half of Pākehā children’s deaths in the hands of the people that were meant to take care of them were not reported in the media.
“Their deaths, tragic and senseless as they are, were never sensationalised in the way that the deaths of Māori children were.”
It meant Māori themselves and the wider community started to see Māori in a “skewed” way “as potential abusers and bashers”.
This meant that the Children’s Commission was hearing about Māori children that were living with the “toxic stress” while being in a country that assumed they were “inherently criminal”, she said.
“No child deserves to live with the reality of knowing that an adult responsible for caring for them believes in their core that they won’t amount to much because of the way that their thinking has been shaped by racist norms.”
She said the generations before that are now raising children are still facing the impacts of racist reporting and racism, which resulted in the loss of culture and te reo.
“The net result was anxiety and stress associated with te reo, which of course meant they didn’t teach us to speak the language of our ancestors,” Philip-Barbara said.
“We’re starting to turn that around, but not without having to continuously re-traumatise our parent people as we make those decisions to reclaim our reo.
“That’s a crazy situation to have been created by public policy in this country.”
Philip-Barbara said the media had an “increased obligation” to help forge a better New Zealand.
She urged the media to highlight the good stories about Māori that weren’t currently being told.
In her role, Philip-Barbara pledged to examine any policy affecting children for evidence that it would help stop racism.
She also pledged to work with a kaupapa Māori lens informed by tikanga Māori and a Māori-for-Māori approach.
Philip-Barbara also acknowledged the work of Stuff journalist Carmen Parahi in its investigation.