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Critical Public Health: A To Do List

The following is Heather’s kōrero at the recent Public Health Association Conference in Rotorua where she spoke on a sector panel around “Priorities, aspirations, and the future state of public health in Aotearoa”.

I moved to Wellington recently so now have a front row seat, I can confirm Henny Penny was right “the sky is falling”.

It is time for us to reevaluate our exploitative relationship with the planet.

It is time to disrupt silos and hierarchies and tap into the remaining intelligence and expertise left in our sector after the challenging reforms.

It is time we relentlessly pursue public health values and ethical principles – time to get our house in order in all corners of the sector. It wasn’t okay when we breached Te Tiriti by failing to prioritize Māori in the Covid 19 vaccination roll-out.

It is not time to take a giant step backwards and engage with the Treaty Principles instead of the Articles of Te Tiriti of Waitangi - the authorative Māori text.

It is time for the public health sector to be at the forefront of the debate about the implications of the Waitangi Tribunal WAI 1040 report that confirmed Māori never ceded sovereignty.

We need to be talking about He Whakaputanga o Te Rangatiratanga o Nū Tīreni.

We need to be talking about Matike Mai and preparing for constitutional transformation.

It is time to decolonize our sector and this country.

It is time to move past rhetoric and performative practice to take action on the determinants of health.

It is time to invest in Māori public health.

It is time to listen to communities again.

It is time to unionize, it is time to embrace health activism.

It is time to relearn the lessons of Moana Jackson, Jane Kelsey, Paulo Freire, Franz Fanon, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, and Karl Marx. Greed and capitalism are never the answer.

It is time for rainbow crossings, building ramps and bridges and unexpected alliances.

It is time to become better communicators.

It is time to stand up and fight back, to stand with Palestine, to stand with Ukraine, to stand with Te Aka Whai Ora as they shapeshift.

Leadership is not about job titles or positions on committees, where like in a Beckett play nothing ever happens, leadership is about what we do. I will see you on the streets.


Heather Came



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