When I received the email from Deb Rowe, asking me to come and talk to the nursing staff at the hospital, little did I know that she was really inviting me here to experience the transformation of Tamaki.
The invitation, on behalf of Taima Campbell - the Director of Nursing at Auckland District Health Board - advised me that the theme for this year is health inequalities.
Now if there's anything requiring a transformation it would be the persistent level of poor health that some families and whanau are still experiencing.
We saw glaring evidence of these negative health outcomes, only last week, with the release of the report, The Best Start in life, which told us: - That in the 2009 OECD Report, Doing Better for Children, New Zealand ranked 29 out of 30 countries for child health and safety; - That Maori and Pasifika children have two to three times poorer health than other children; - That some of New Zealand's child disease patterns are closer to those of developing countries.
What will make the difference that we so desperately need? How do we achieve a quality of health and wellbeing which truly will enable all our children to enjoy the best start in life?
I want to share six key principles with you which I believe provide exactly the transformation we need: - Adopting a joined-up approach across agencies and the community; - Building on what has gone before to foster the heart of the community; - Supporting neighbourhood and broader community identities; - Connecting across boundaries; - Build for generations; - Achieving a mixed and cohesive community at the street level.
Now if the light suddenly goes on for many of you in hearing these six principles, it is probably because these are principles that you have heard before.
In fact they are your principles - they are straight from the framework of the Tamaki Transformation Programme that was launched just over a year ago.
And this is where the aspect of revolution, of renovation, of renaissance comes into the vision that you and I share.
For I come to you today, inspired by the challenge of Whanau Ora - an approach that bears many of the same characteristics that I have read about in the Tamaki Transformation Programme.
As I understand it, your programme is about recruiting, training and employing up to 300 Maori and Pasifika people into nursing and other healthcare roles as part of a total package of renewal - alongside housing, infrastructure, social services and economic performance.
Whanau Ora is about taking that same vision of transformation into the family home, it is about restoring the very essence of who we are.
It is about fostering the self-belief that we can be self-managing; that we can take responsibility for our own success.
It is inspired by the knowledge that solutions are most enduring when they are owned locally, and derive from your own context.
This Government has demonstrated that we believe that building whanau capability; reinvigorating the connections and the relationships that support them to be successful, is the most effective way of enhancing best outcomes for whanau.
I don't have to tell any of you about the indicators of sustained neglect, stress or trauma that families have presented with. Many of you have seen at first hand the adverse impacts of abuse or poverty that lead to increased risk of ill-health.
But you will also have seen many families and whanau who are strong, secure, safe, healthy and happy.
You all know the potential for our whanau and families to demonstrate healthy respectful relationships; to value and respect all who belong to them -children, parents, elders, aunties, uncles, cousins.
You understand the value of being comfortable in our own skin; appreciating where we have come from; the commitment to express collective responsibility for the wellbeing of all.
This is the very essence of Whanau Ora - thinking collectively; building connections; caring for our own.
Like your own Tamaki Transformation, the approach is motivated by the fact that if we want to achieve long-lasting durable outcomes we need a comprehensive and integrated approach across all sectors. A key driver in Whanau Ora will be the integration of existing contracts.
And I want to make it quite clear, we are not about creating a whole new growth industry of Whanau Ora providers. This is an initiative which builds on the amazing work of existing providers.
Furthermore, it is not about establishing a multiplicity of providers - it is about an investment in a multiplicity of skills.
We have been talking about Whanau Navigators - or Whanau Champions who will play a key role in assisting whanau to determine their own strategies and solutions.
So what will this mean for you?
If I look at the priority areas for Tamaki, I can see many points of connection.
You have set yourselves a wonderful target in the goal of families that are strong, healthy and well-supported. Your vision to ensure that neighbourhoods are safe, healthy and well-designed is also an important step towards wellbeing for the people of Tamaki.
Whanau Ora is about planning for the future - just as Tamaki Transformation is. The great thing is that I have every confidence that with collaboration and meaningful engagement we can achieve both.
The really important thing about Whanau Ora is that we are outcome-focused; strengths-based, and future orientated.
It is about placing whanau at the centre; it is about thinking, seeing, feeling, believing that whanau and families have the answers.
And it is about bringing whanau, community, and government all on the same page.
We have formalised our commitment to community investment by the Governance Group which has been established with equal participation by community and Government.
The group is chaired by Rob Cooper; and includes Sir Professor Mason Durie; Nancy Tuaine; and the three chief executives of the Ministries of Maori Affairs, Health and Social Development.
Over the last month it has been an exhilarating experience to attend a dozen hui throughout the country, at which over 4000 people turned up. At some places there were literally crowds spilling into the foyer; the venues overflowing; standing room only.
I can tell you, there is nothing quite as uplifting as witnessing the desire for strong engagement of whanau and communities in the design of the Whanau Ora approach.
A strong message was that the Regional Leadership Groups that are being established must reflect the diverse aspirations and needs of the local communities.
The hui told us that they want communities to be able to participate in key decisions at a local level; and for whānau representatives to be included.
They also wanted agencies to work across the community in supporting the aspirations of whanau.
After this hui, I will be attending a fono called by Pasifika communities who have expressed their interest in Whanau Ora.
And tomorrow, the Whanau Ora Governance Group will seek nominations through a public nomination process for candidates for the Regional Leadership Groups.
The Governance Group will also be calling for an Expression of Interest process.
The process will result in the selection of up to twenty providers and/or provider collectives by the Governance Group who will be invited to develop and implement a Programme of Action.
The Programme of Action will establish an organisation's current state and tailored support requirements to transform their service and implement a Whānau Ora approach.
So in short, it is all go. I want to thank you for the leadership you are offering in the Tamaki area, in laying the foundation for your own transformation.
Ultimately the success of Whanau Ora is about all of us, working together, concentrating on the potential of all our families to create a strong future for the generations to inherit.
It is about an attitude of self-belief; an attitude that will revitalise our collective roles and responsibilities; and it is about agreeing to aim for outcomes determined and owned by whanau and families.
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