Maori view on death to be studied

A team of researchers from Waikato University aims to collect the dying stories of up to 30 people in part of a $300,000 research project into death and bereavement among Maori.

The Kia Ngawari study, which will take three years, is aimed at increasing knowledge and understanding of Maori palliative needs within the healthcare system as well as among whanau.

Dr Tess Moeke-Maxwell, a mental health researcher and professional counsellor, has won a 2010 Health Research Council Career Development Award, worth $341,443, for the post-doctoral research.

The Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie Research Fellowship in Maori Health will allow her to identify and interview up to 30 Maori in Waikato and South Auckland.

She expects she will complete up to eight full case studies.

Dr Moeke-Maxwell said she wanted to be able to gather information on Maori processes associated with end of life.

"We hope people who participate in the study will feel that they are contributing to something important, and see this as a way of helping others and generations to come. At the end of this study we will know a lot more about how whanau are doing during this part of the life cycle."

She said she was hopeful that the research would attract a diverse range of participants.

"For example, we'd be interested to talk to people who reflect a range of life-threatening health conditions.

"These women and men will be of different ages, stages of dying and may live alone or with others, and their lives may be influenced by other cultural practices.

"Whanau are very important in this investigation as they are often the pou manawa or central support during the end-of-life phase."

The study will also help identify the gaps in help available from formal and informal services, including the health care system, rest homes, funeral services and Maori support systems.

Associate Professor Linda Waimarie Nikora, the founding director of the Maori & Psychological Research Unit who will also work on the project, said the end-of-life phase was one that had received little attention from researchers.

"This phase has been mediated and defined by religion, and put off-limits to broader social engagement and research, so we don't know too much about it.

"All our information is second-hand, and this study gives us the opportunity to talk to people first-hand."

The study sits alongside two other Waikato University research projects on tangihanga.

Cultural, arts and heritage researcher Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Associate Professor Nikora are leading a team to explore and record tangihanga practice past and present.

The women have received $950,000 from the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund and $250,000 from the Nga Pae o te Maramatanga National Institute of Research Excellence to complete a three-year project to look at the historical and social change aspects of tangihanga.

Waikato Times