The plague of misinformation sweeping Aunty’s Facebook comment section.
Online forums are buzzing at the news that conspiracy theorist turned politician turned conspiracy ‘activist,’ Billy Te Kahika has just predicted a level four lockdown this month. With the new delta strain of covid hitting the shores of Aotearoa there are talks of a lockdown, with rumors of a ‘level 5’ or martial law to come into effect. While frivolous as the claims may be, the most surprising angle of it all is finding out that the Facebook comment section of a Billy TK livestream is often filled with indigineous and pacific voices.
Unlike most environments, our Māori and Pacific communities are at the forefront of these spaces and are championing the word on Facebook, in person and through protest. One can’t help but admire the efforts of our whānau but the oversight of misinformation spreading throughout our communities presents a very pressing worry.
Talking to the anti-vax community, a great intersection of history, religion, and mistrust seems to be at play. What came to the surface was that past grievances and the playthrough of history, tangata whenua and tangata moana tended to create a general mistrust towards the government. The government has had 180 years of terrible history, and while there are attempts to rebuild lost trust, the avenues are face-value—settlements, monetary and performative tikanga. History has informed the anti-vaxxers present and they are rightly apprehensive about the intentions of the government.
It was also often the case that religion and its teachings led anti-vaxxers to intensely question the secular world. With a great majority of our people being religious, their beliefs have manifested into critiques of the government on all levels. They are vocal on Facebook, online forums, and the dinner table. Lockdown and vaccinations are seen to be another case of injustice towards our minority communities and anti-vaxxers believe themselves to be protecting themselves and their families from harm.
The reactions and vaccine apprehension of our community show a failure by the government and the media’s delivery of targeted messaging. Māori and Pasifika have some of the lowest Covid vaccination rates in the country which reflects community attitudes. Māori and Pasifika anti-vaxxers have expressed concerns stemming from lack of official involvement in processes and believing that messages were not made ‘for’ them. There were calls for more targeted, cultural messaging to make people feel more comfortable stepping into unfamiliar places, like the doctor’s office.
This and many other things were questioned, so, in an effort to alleviate anxieties and promote informed communities, students and practitioners have come together to give answers to the questions anti-vaxxers have been asking (and I don’t think they’ll be happy with our answers).
“As a concerned citizen I’m suspicious of the Covid vaccines because the medicine seems rushed. How can I trust something that hasn’t gone through the usual rigorous procedures and checks?”
Shannon Mihaere, Health Science (Population Health) & Law Student, Co-Tumuaki of Manaaki:
“Nothing is 100% safe. There’s a risk in everything and there’s no guarantee that every single person who gets the vaccine will not experience a symptom. While vaccinations are not mandatory in New Zealand we have seen the first-hand effects of headlessness in other countries. Vaccinations and their responsibilities are entrusted with qualified, sensible officials so please also keep that fact in mind.
Citizens must also remember that the technology used to make vaccinations aren’t new. The only point of difference in this vaccine roll-out was the fact that some steps were done at the same time to move the process along faster. There were also a lot of volunteers, which helped speed up the process immensely. While some ‘shortcuts’ were made to speed up operations I have the confidence that processes have not been compromised.”
“Speaking of rushed, Jacinda’s lockdown legislation was rushed and didn’t pass Parliament like usual bills. Why hasn’t she been held accountable for procedural impropriety?”
Ellen Woods, Law Student:
“The first nine days of lockdown were not made under the law and breached the Bill of Rights Act’s freedoms of association and movement. So from March 26 to April 3, the Government was actually acting unlawfully. Courts accepted that the executive was playing up rofl but said it was understandable considering the circumstances.
The making and passing of bills quickly in times of crisis has always happened. It is, of course, important that we keep a close eye on the government during these times. However, since the first lockdown there has been an election, which is our way of showing approval for what the government is doing, and Jacinda won a historic victory. Aotearoa supports her.
There was a belief that action needed to be taken immediately and finer details would be sorted out later, but this was found to be unlawful. So, in a way Jacinda, and the rest of the executive were held accountable.”
“I don’t scan the QR tracers because I don’t want to be tracked under Jacinda’s police state. Why am I considered the bad guy for trying to protect myself and my family under this authoritarian surveillance state?”
Louis Thomson, Politics Student:
“A police state is a heavily militarised society with politics having a big role in controlling your life and deciding your role in society. Police aren’t accountable and are everywhere. Common in countries with authoritarian or monocratic leadership styles, they’re unstable. When people have their rights heavily restricted for a long time, it makes a lot of people reeeally mad.
Our police, like most places, have a presence but they serve a different purpose. They’re there to protect individual and property rights more than anything. While a police state is best run in a highly surveillanced society, QR codes don’t share any more information than where you scanned and the bluetooth tracking is anonymous. It’s tracking your phone, not you.”
In discussing the worries that people have towards the vaccine the general consensus by students and practitioners were the need for more hui, more talanoa and more involvement amongst communities. Dr Lily Fraser, GP at Turuki Healthcare in Māngere believes empowerment to be informed consent and medical freedom. As one of the first to administer vaccinations, she has always pushed for whānau to educate and inform themselves before making any choices. She believes in providing a wide range of information and options for whānau on what wellbeing looks like. So, her work currently is ensuring that practitioners are trained properly to work with our families and offer choices that are suitable for the overall health of the whānau.
General manager Janell Dymus-Kurei from Hāpai te Hauora, a Māori public health organisation, thinks empowerment and the future of healthcare to be general wellbeing. To Dymus-Kurei, the future is unreservedly Māori, a place where the word ‘inequity’ is not thrown around. Attributing mana motuhake to the physical wellbeing of whānau and hāpori she believes that anyone can self determine wellbeing. She sees the future of Māori and Pacific healthcare as getting the system to a point where everyone can just ‘be well.’ That means engaging with the healthcare system before you’re even sick, fulfilling needs that surpass the physical—spirituality, wairua. Culturally, ahurea. And socially, whānau.
For more information on how to better empower you and your whānau in healthcare talk to your student representatives at Manaaki, the Auckland University Māori health association.