Cultural Impact on Resident Retention: Māori Programmes Universal Resonance in Substance Use Treatment


1.Ms. Suzette Jackson (⚑ New Zealand) 1

1. Higher Ground Drug Rehabilitation Trust


Cultural-based substance use treatment programmes are associated with improved health outcomes for Indigenous populations. However, few studies explore how cultural programmes benefit non-Indigenous populations within treatment settings. A significant finding from a broader study exploring why people leave treatment early was that benefits from Māori (Indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand) cultural programmes transcended ethnicity and were experienced whether Pākehā (white) or Māori. The study's overarching goal was to investigate the individual and service provision factors influencing residents' completion of Higher Ground's 18-week residential rehabilitation programme.

Five focus groups (three with former residents and two with current and former staff) explored shared and conflicting viewpoints on why people leave treatment early. Two people from each focus group were randomly selected to participate in individual interviews to explore personal experiences more deeply. Researchers used framework data analysis to identify patterns, themes, and relationships within the data.

Regardless of ethnicity, participants praised the cultural programme. Interactions with cultural staff were pivotal in retaining participants, especially those at risk of leaving. Engaging in tikanga (customary practices, values and knowledge) Māori cultural groups and activities contributed to spiritual and cultural growth, strengthened peer relationships, nurtured self-esteem, facilitated personal development, and highlighted the enjoyment of sober activities. For Pākehā, connecting with Indigenous culture sparked curiosity and openness to learn about their origins and cultural heritage.

Pākehā and Māori emphasised the cultural programme's profound impact on their treatment retention. Engagement yielded individual and community benefits, underscoring culture's intrinsic value in service delivery. Western AOD services could enhance client outcomes by embracing decolonisation processes and genuinely integrating Indigenous customs and teachings into service provision for all people, regardless of ethnicity.

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