Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister for Social Development
Launch of a Pacific Conceptual Framework to address Family Violence in New Zealand
Malae Ola Church Hall, M?ngere, Auckland
Thursday 17th May 2012
Talofa lava, kia orana, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, bula vinaka, taloha ni, fakatalofa atu, tena tatou katoa.
I want to firstly acknowledge :
- Rev Fieta Faitala for the opening prayer;
- Ministers from the broad denominations represented;
- Faaolotoi Reupena Pogi, Consul General for Samoa
- my parliamentary colleagues (Sua William Sio, Asenati Lole Taylor, Alfred Ngaro)
- Fa'amatuainu Tino Pereira (Chair) and members of the Pacific Advisory Group for Family Violence
- Murray Edridge, Deputy Chief Executive MSD
There are many people here today who would have attended the Pacific Champions of Change fono two years ago. At that fono there was a universal call that culture must form the basis of constructing any solutions to family violence. I told you then that I would stand alongside you, and give my word that this issue would be addressed in the way you determined it to be. Today we see that vision translated into action.
Today is a very significant day - a day in which Pacific nations have established a platform for change that all of Aotearoa can learn from.
As the numbers started growing - I believe there are over 500 here today - it absolutely made sense to me. For this publication; this process; is a truly remarkable event - it is about reclaiming the divine sacredness of 'va' - the understandings throughout the Pacific of living in relationships that honour each other's existence. It is, indeed, something to be proud of; a day of great excitement.
We have a dual celebration today - a comprehensive conceptual framework to address family violence within Pasifika communities - and seven ethnic specific reports for Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tokelau, Niue and Tuvalu.
At the core of this Pacific conceptual framework is a call for understanding, a call to us all to help appreciate the essence of life.
Every single word in the series of frameworks we are launching today, speaks a universal truth for the people of the Pacific.
It is a framework painted with pain but also representing a colossal act of courage in allowing precious stories and values to be shared with the wider community.
It starts, inevitably when considering the context is violence, from shame and hurt; as described so strongly in the poem written by Tere Tarapu of the Cook Islands. The poem states the impact of violence in startling clarity:
A coconut trunk to hide my tears;
I am hurting, a truly pained heart
I am tired, I am patient in my long-suffering
This is the nature of my upbringing,
something unseen by the blindness of the heart.
While the response to family violence was the genesis for this work, the remarkable fact of this Pacific conceptual framework, is that page after page is filled with a celebration of cultural resilience; the recognition that the values of each nation are essential in nurturing strong and vibrant families.
In doing so it turns us from the spectrum of suffering to a brave, bold definition of the power of Pasifika philosophies in shaping your future. Reading through the stories literally takes you one minute from tears of connection to the next, feeling that pulsating rush of pride in Pasifika solutions.
There is no denial that the practice of violence is abhorrent to all that is associated with a Pacific family. This framework dismantles any illusion that violence is acceptable, natural or culturally valid.
In fact, in the aga faka Niue there is no specific Niuean word for violence against family members. If there are no words to describe it, surely that tells us that violence has no place; if it cannot be named, can it exist?
The simple statement that violence does not fit with the people of the Pacific is a reoccurring theme in every one of the seven stories told.
The Fijian cultural framework explains why:
"Violence represents a fractioning in the Fijian family as it shatters and tears down all that holds the family together.
Violence threatens family stability and renders it difficult to achieve a status of sautu (strong and vibrant family). It runs counter to all that a Fijian family is based on and aspires to".
But the framework does more than simply to pronounce that violence is unacceptable - as important as that statement is.
The framework goes much further than saying what we don't want - to demonstrate what we do - finding in the utter beauty of each cultural language and style - the pathway to transformation. That transformation comes from family.
It is with the utmost joy, that I can testify that every page of this resource tells us so much about the deep love and respect for the role of family in every nation of the Pacific.
It is so precious to see the way in which each nation describes their own truths. I couldn't help but feel a sense of connection to each of the seven frameworks as they revealed the pivotal role that wh?nau play in their world. Indeed, as a Tongan proverb reveals, to have no kin is to be in extreme poverty.
The notion of family is neither a static nuclear family, or fixed in the present. It is as wide and as diverse as we can all envisage.
The Samoan framework refers to 'moe m?natunatu'- a dream dialogue with ancestors and family gods which provide clarity to the decisions relating to family. This aspect of Samoan belief invites a constant reflection of the past and the present to inform the future - a value which I relate to also from a tangata whenua world view.
I have to say I was profoundly moved by the rich and diverse expression of wh?nau wellbeing that was so similar - and yet so distinctive for each of the Pacific nations represented.
It speaks to us of histories passed down from generation to generation.
One of the most exciting aspects in the development of this framework, was to go past each of the various working groups and to hear the chanting, the singing, the reciting of knowledge that various members shared as they searched in their own memories for the solutions that had always lay within.
There are distinct areas of shared commonality - the sacred covenant between brothers and sisters; the unique respect attributed to the brothers of our mother; the vital importance of genealogy.
But there were also important differences, including the respective roles of religion and the church; the traditional governance structures in each community; the varying influence of traditions, customs and protocols.
Each of the frameworks has its own set of challenges which are best addressed - and rightly so - within their own community. It tells us about the power of the village in righting wrongs. And always, it tells us about relationships, the sacredness of va.
In the Tongan framework, some strong statements are shared about the importance of communication between fathers and children.
In the Samoan framework there is a focus on the conflicting value systems that are a legacy of the Western middle class aspirations that remained after the end of colonial rule.
While in the Tuvalu section, emphasis is placed on addressing seemingly insurmountable barriers to wh?nau wellbeing associated with addictions, with over-crowding, and limited income.
The thing that I found most uplifting about the framework, was the significance accorded to the cultural values of each nation. There are some truly beautiful sayings shared in this resource.
Values like the message from Tokelau; "Show love to the person who is unable to care for themselves".
Or the special status that the Samoan people accord to 'paolo' - the closest English equivalent being inlaws : "my shade and shelter, and my protection".
The belief that one's mother tongue is the best way to authentically articulate the indigenous worldview is repeated throughout all seven frameworks.
And through it all comes the underlying belief in the focus of culture as a framework for transformation.
The literature review poses two very clear perspectives of culture, based on a paper written by Cook Islands writer, Yvonne Underhill-Sem.
On one hand culture is seen as a sacred template, a fixed script that should not be meddled with. The other view is that culture is a dynamic entity that makes clear what is significant and important to the wellbeing of people. It is evolving; always growing with the times.
But the review leaves us to make up our own mind as to what viewpoint we take.
There is so much that could be said about this framework. But if there is one image that is all pervasive, it is the concept of La Tapu - the sacred sail. It is a concept which reflects the importance of traditional Pacific navigation and encourages us all to explore new horizons.
On pages 84 to 86 in the framework, there are three pages of the names of the people who have made the commitment to joining this journey. Church ministers, practitioners, researchers and academics, writers, youth, translators, cultural experts and the holders of traditional knowledge.
We have learnt so much from the expertise and knowledge shared so generously from each of the seven Pacific Working Groups. Specialist reviewers have ensured each document produced reflected the integrity and insights of their culture.
And there has been an amazing wealth of ideas gathered from the national fono, the Champions of Change fono, and all the regional fono.
The support provided by the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Pacific Islands Affairs has been invaluable and I acknowledge the officials and agency heads who have enabled this to happen.
Finally, I have had the privilege of working alongside the Pacific Advisory Group over the last two years - and I want to thank each one of this group for the amazing privilege you have accorded me - Tino Pereira as Chair, Peseta Betty Sio, Emeline Afeaki-Mafile'o, Judge Ida Malosi, Yvonne Chrichton-Hill and Mokauina Fuemana-Ngaro.
You have provided me with so much to think about and learn from. I feel truly blessed to have been part of this journey, and I know that the way I see the world has been enrichened by the gifts of your knowledge.
Each of the people who have contributed along the way to La Tapu have helped to make the journey that much smoother, that much more likely of enduring success. It has been an utterly awesome experience. Thank you for all you have given so freely; for focusing on strengths; for affirming that culture counts.
In the spirit of a final blessing, I can think of no better way to frame this important day, than to linger on the words of the fatele dance from Tuvalu
True beauty in a land lies in the unity of hearts
To put our efforts together for the things we need in life
You feel this, I feel this.
I am so proud to be part of the unity of hearts that has created Ng? vaka o kaiga tapu. May this precious resource serve as an on-going source of inspiration for the transformation known to you all.
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