Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Steering by Matariki and the Southern Cross: Plotting Clinical Psychology's Course in New Zealand

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Steering by Matariki and the Southern Cross: Plotting Clinical Psychology's Course in New Zealand

Article excerpt

Matariki (the Maori name for the star cluster also known as Pleiades) and the constellation called the Southern Cross have both served as important navigational aids in Maori and Pakeha (New Zealand European) voyaging traditions. Using this symbolism, I plot some recent developments in clinical psychology in Aotearoa New Zealand, in which the bi-cultural imperative afforded by te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) has the potential to allow exploration of many challenging issues facing the profession. I consider contemporary standards of clinical practice, drawing on my own research as well as that of my students. As the Southern Cross appears on the national flags of both Australia and New Zealand, I endeavour to show the value of these concepts for the emergence of a unique and less imitative professional identity for clinical psychology in all of Australasia.

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In 2004 I was honoured to receive the New Zealand Psychological Society's Hunter Award, which by tradition involves presenting an address to the Society the following year. In discussing this obligation with me, Professor Bob Knight from the University of Otago suggested that it would be interesting to offer a critical overview of the state of clinical psychology in New Zealand, since I had recently stepped down as director of the clinical programme at the University of Waikato. It was then suggested that if the Hunter address were delayed one year, it could be presented at the annual conference to be held in Auckland in 2006, which was to be a joint meeting of the Australian and the New Zealand Psychological Societies. This duly occurred and the present paper is based on that talk.

Sir Thomas Hunter, after whom the award was named, pioneered academic psychology in New Zealand, started a clinic, and founded the first psychology laboratory in all of Australasia. He was interested in the breadth of psychology as a discipline, in ethno-psychology, and in the intrinsic value of people over privilege: all human institutions must be judged not by their respectable ancestry but by the effects they actually produce in the life of the people of the day (Hunter, 1924, quoted by Taylor, 2002). Is not improving lives what clinical psychology is all about? After all, despite great material and natural wealth, we do have some serious social problems in this country, very similar in frequency to those in Australia--the two countries have almost identical negative indicators such as suicide rates, incidence of domestic violence, life expectancy, income inequality, and educational failure (drop-out) (Ministry of Social Development, 2006).

There are thus two overall themes of this paper. One is that of culture, based on increased scholarly awareness of the indigenous perspectives from both Maori and Aboriginal cultures and how they co-exist with the majority cultures of New Zealand and Australia, both of which, however--in the context of clinical psychology--are in turn dominated by two other academic and professional cultures, British and American. The second theme is whether we in Australasia would benefit from developing a more home-grown clinical psychology, and, of equal gravity, whether attention to our own indigenous cultures would strengthen such a development in unique and important ways. Here then are the questions: Can we develop a clinical psychology that is specific to New Zealand and Australia? And why should we bother?

Our marvellous new Code of Ethics for Psychologists: Working in Aotearoa/New Zealand (New Zealand Psychological Society, 2002), begins with the following preamble:

   In giving effect to the Principles
   and Values of this Code of Ethics
   there shall be due regard for New
   Zealand's cultural diversity and
   in particular for the provisions of
   and the spirit and intent of the
   Treaty of Waitangi (p. 1)

Each of the four key principles also specifies the centrality of te Tiriti (the Treaty) regarding respect, responsible caring, integrity in relationships, and social justice. …

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