Science Education Dinner
Whanganui District Health Board and Kia Ora Hauora
6.30pm Thursday 21 June
Quality Inn Collegiate, 137 Liverpool Street, Whanganui
Hon Tariana Turia, MP for Te Tai Tamariki
Matai ki te rangi, ko Puanga, ko te tohu mo te tau hou
As one gazes to the heavens it is Puanga signalling the new year.
It is a pleasure to be with you all tonight, as we celebrate puanga and matariki.
And what better way to bring in the new year, than to be sharing our aspiration for continuing the educational advancement of our rangatahi, specifically looking at ways to encourage our young Maori to participate in the Maori Health Workforce Development programme.
One of the wonders of te Ao M?ori is that we have access to a rich collection of ancestral wisdom to guide us forward. One message I particularly like goes like this:
Unumia ki te puna matauranga hei oranga mo tatou katoa -
Drink at the springs of knowledge so that we may all be revitalised.
It immediately brings forth an image of one of those sweltering summer days when you feel as if you are literally melting away. A drink of our pure, still water can immediately revitalise and re-energise. It is a concept which speaks powerfully to me about how a little knowledge can be a wondrous thing.
I thought about this saying this week, having returned from the World Indigenous Housing Conference which was held in Vancouver. Education, learning and knowledge sharing are something that we enjoy throughout our lives, and I was lucky enough to have experienced a small part of this process with other indigenous people from around the world.
On one of the days there, I had the privilege of meeting with the First Nations Education Steering Committee. They talked about learning as a form of Inherent Rights - that First Nations have an inherent right to self-government which includes the right to build and maintain our own education systems.
During the presentation, we learnt about the First Nations Schools Association which works to support the 130 First Nations Schools in British Columbia.
Their mandate was summed up in one clear sentence:
"To collaborate with First Nations schools to ensure programming that develops learners' pride and competence in their First Nations languages and heritages, and equips them to realise their full potential".
As I came here tonight, and I thought about the challenge that you have as educators working with the twelve colleges in the Whanganui District Health Board region I wondered what your mandate would be, if you could express it in one simple sentence.
I know that the work you do, is about increasing the access and the opportunity for M?ori students to move into health careers - but what is it that drives you - that inspires you in the learning model?
My visit to Vancouver was indeed exciting - one in whcih we could share our developments and learn from theirs - in the principle of reciprocity. And I'd have to say that one of the most significant discoveries throughout our time in Canada was simply to share in the joy of understanding the value of knowledge handed down to us by our tupuna as reflected in the experiences of other indigenous people.
It is very much a revitalising experience, much like drinking from a spring of fresh and pure water.
I wanted to share this with you, because I imagine that for our rangatahi who constantly drink from the springs of knowledge, that before them lies a wide horizon of options for where to go, and what to do in the future.
I hope, that each of us in this room, are contributing in some way to ensuring that their horizons and choices are as wide as possible - opening a world of potential for every child in our rohe, and every child in Aotearoa.
I know that many of you here tonight are educators. You have come from schools, kura, and educational institutions. You play a significant part in opening the options for our young ones, and for this you deserve to be congratulated.
Alongside our teachers and schools, and perhaps the most important source of support and learning for our rangatahi - are the whanau. It is what happens in our homes, and within the safety of our whanau that no doubt has the biggest impact on our kids and the pathways they choose for their future.
For it is whanau who set the values that our young will hold dear; it is whanau who teach our tamariki the most basic functions that we all need to move through our daily lives; and it is whanau, ultimately, who instil the value of the importance of education, and of making decisions on what to do in the future.
Whanau Ora is about acknowledging this basic principle. That the whanau have a key role to play in protecting the wellbeing of our people, particularly our rangatahi; and a key role to play in protecting our whakapapa, that from which we descend, and also that whakapapa and future generations that are yet to come.
It is in acknowledging this fact, that we see the importance of building strong relationships between whanau, schools and other support services. We also see the critical need to strengthen our whanau to be able to play this vital role well, and to ensure that the skills they acquire today, are passed on to the next generation, and the generations that follow.
One of the things that make us special as tangata whenua, is our ability to think in a way which is intergenerational. We think of what is best for the whanau today, and also act in a way which will secure a better future for our great grandchildren, and beyond.
In terms of health and wellbeing, many of us in this room would have witnessed the changes that have occurred over time, which have gradually made services more accessible that have made going to the doctor a little easier, and seen the changes which have slowly restored our dignity in terms of our interactions with the health care system.
These small changes, have been no coincidence. Our pakeke, and indeed our peers have made conscious decisions which have slowly brought our Maori worldview and the health needs of tangata whenua in to the line of sight of political and health institutions.
Just to be clear, we have not yet reached the ultimate level of care. As Maori, we still do not have an equal health status to non-Maori, we die younger, we are more likely to have cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and we are less likely to have positive experiences in the health system.
We need radical change if we are going to lift up the health status of tangata whenua.
While we have Maori working in the health system now, and we have some wonderful Maori health providers - we need even more of our rangatahi to choose to work in this sector.
We need a critical mass of tangata whenua to create a tipping point of change that will allow our values, our world view, our concepts of health and wellbeing to filter throughout the healthcare system.
That is why tonight's event is so important.
We have come together to talk about the future options of our rangatahi, and also to impress upon each other, the importance of ensuring that more of our young Maori move into careers in the health sector.
This is easy to say, but to achieve the momentum required to draw young Maori to health related jobs, we have multiple challenges before us.
The first is that we want our rangatahi to be succeeding in school at a level that allows them choice in what they want to do in the future. Many of our young ones, and in fact, almost 50% of Maori males, leave school with no formal qualifications.
This does not leave them many options.
I don't like dwelling on these negative statistics much, but I wanted to point this out - because having a choice in career, is something that many of our younger student don't have.
Choice is not a luxury, it is a right. And I think if we want to talk about mobilising our rangatahi to choose certain careers, then our first priority must be to ensure that they are achieving in school, and empowered to have options.
Of course, once you have succeeded in primary and secondary education - the next challenge before us is to get our kids to make a conscious decision to choose health related careers.
I must say, that I am very proud of the efforts made in this region to promote the options before our rangatahi. This dinner is a wonderful event, not because it brings us together as key stakeholders in the lives of our rangatahi, but because it provides us with an opportunity to think strategically about the needs of the future generations of this rohe, and how we may play a small role in identifying solutions to address those needs.
Having a health workforce which is in tune with the diversity of families/whanau in Whanganui is a top priority for us - if we are truly to address the disparities in health between Maori and Pacific whanau, and the rest of New Zealand, then we need to support more of our young ones to come through into this sector.
Our whanau should be empowered through their experiences in the health and social service sectors - this is the basis of the Whanau Ora approach. Thus, rangatahi, who have an inherent understanding of culture, and Maori values and ways of doing, will be critical to ensuring the successful implementation of this approach into the future.
This is the aspiration that I hold for our future generations. If we are nurturing our rangatahi in the values of our old people, and providing them with the support to flourish in education - then we will be shaping out the perfect foundation to say - Kia Ora Hauora -
Finally, I leave you with the challenge provided to us by none other than Whanganui Hospital: He Hauora pai ake, he rangatira".
Better health and independence - a worthy goal indeed - and no one would be better suited to the job than the rangatahi we celebrate tonight.
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