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Speech - Te Kotahitanga Hui - Hon Tariana Turia

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tariana Turia
Tariana Turia

DIA Maori Staff : Te Kotahitanga Hui

Waipahihi Marae, Hinerau Grove, Taupo

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Hon Tariana Turia,

Minister of the Community and Voluntary sector

It is always good to come home to Tuwharetoa, to acknowledge the House of Te Heuheu; and to acknowledge the people of this iwi.

I acknowledge particularly, Ngati Hinerau for your generosity in hosting us here today.

When I consulted the weather forecast for today's hui I found we might be expected to experience showers and even a thunderous downpour. It didn't worry me in the slightest.

Because I knew we would be in safe hands, here at Waipahihi Marae.

A couple of months ago, when hundreds of motorists were caught in metre-deep snow under unseasonal blizzard conditions; this marae opened its arms to the stranded tourists; providing hot food, drinks and a place to sleep.

This is a marae that understands the concept of manaakitanga and also the wider concept of kotahitanga. It is a marae which respects the spirit of oneness, the unity of purpose; the bringing together into one.

A couple of years ago when Maori Television selected Waipahihi Marae for a DIY facelift; amongst the volunteers helping out were offenders from the Community Probation Service who had served out their sentence by transforming what is already a beautiful marae.

When they came to celebrate the makeover, it was only natural that the marae wanted those on the community probation scheme to be guests of honour, alongside the whanau and the tradespeople who all worked together on the project.

These are just two practical examples of making kotahitanga part of our everyday lives - and I mihi to this marae for your leadership.

So when the Department of Internal Affairs chose to bring your Maori staff here under the kaupapa of kotahitanga it seemed an ideal choice.

The concept of kotahitanga brings with it a rich interpretation of meaning.

For some, the word takes them back to 1897, when the Kotahitanga Parliament was established at Papawai Marae in Greytown. Tribal delegations from all over Aotearoa travelled to Papawai to discuss a unified response from iwi to the ideas issued by Premier Richard Seddon and also from King Mahuta.

In the next century, Te Kotahitanga was the name given to the programme established in the sixties, to bring our young Maori men together under the protection of their cultural roots. It responded to a time when Maori were moving from the East Coast of the North Island to Christchurch to take up trade courses.

And of course in this century, Te Kotahitanga has become familiar to us as the name of a project aiming to improve the educational achievement of Māori students in mainstream secondary schools by bringing together whanau, Maori and non-Maori teachers, and the school community.

Three different centuries; three different approaches; across the political realms, across education and employment, across whanau, hapu and iwi.

Today at this hui - it is our turn. We will celebrate kotahitanga by bringing together the tangata whenua network hui from right across the Department; and the Te Roopu Maori - the Maori staff of the Local Government and Community branch.

I'm really pleased to learn that Te Atamira Taiwhenua is here today - tena koutou. I am also pleased that the scope of influence for Te Atamira Taiwhenua has at long last been extended and that now this very precious group of kuia and kaumatua are being charged with the responsibility of providing advice across the whole of Department, including meeting with the Chief Executive every six months.

The calibre of people on Te Atamira Taiwhenua is outstanding. You have given your time freely to a government agency. I want to place on record my personal appreciation to this very special group, who give so freely of their time, their wisdom and their expertise in matters Maori. Your guidance is treasured; your example of enormous benefit to all in this Department.

We bring together also to this hui the Minister, Nathan Guy; and the Chief Executive Brendan Boyle - through the benefit of the electronic age.

In fact in these times of increased reliance on IT and web forums such as twitter, facebook and myspace, it is reassuring to know that the department continues to see and support the value and benefits of enabling Maori staff to hui together kanohi ki te kanohi.

As I drove here this morning I was remembering back in August 2003, when I opened the very first hui for Maori staff at Whakarewarewa.

The theme at that hui was 'Ora Rawa Atu'; the focus to thrive. It was a great start to what I understand has now been an annual event to bring Maori staff across the Department together.

So here we are, seven years on, looking at how we can improve outcomes for tangata whenua through the promotion of kotahitanga; bringing together the past and the present; the different hierarchies of staff; the layers of community.

But of course, as with the interpretations of Kotahitanga over the century, the realisation of this goal will not be met simply within this one department, no matter how good this wananga!

The moral test of our commitment to kotahitanga will come from the difference made within our whanau, hapu, iwi and other communities.

And this is the real challenge that Minister Guy and I bring to this hui - as well as the expectation that Government is bringing to this Department and all agencies.

We are talking about an approach in which the public service is indeed a quality service for the public - accessible, responsive and in which we encourage collaborative efforts across agencies.

It's been really wonderful to see the renewed energy being invested in this department, in the Maori community development strategy, Te Whakamotuhaketanga Hapu.

I've seen how the strategy has grown and taken hold in the branch and I'm really pleased you've persevered with it because the recent impact evaluation shows it's making a real difference for Māori communities.

When I was asked to speak today, I was asked to share my vision for Maori communities. I'm always careful to talk about not my vision, but the vision of the people themselves,a vision people have been asking for for a long time.

I am powerfully driven by my determination to enable whanau to take greater control of their health and wellbeing. At its very essence, a whanau ora approach requires strong relationships between whanau. We know where this may have existed in the past. Who were we? We were growers, farmers, people who fished and took care of ourselves. Nowaways there's a foodbank!

We won't achieve whanau ora by it being "done" to or on behalf of our whanau. As the song goes, whanau are doing it for themselves.

All of you come from a community development approach and are working hard to extend this to our whanau. I congratulate you for that, and I look to you for your leadership.

Whanau ora is not the easy way out. It it about restoring our whanau. Each and everyone of us must believe it for ourselves.

I have been really concerned about the lack of cohesion across government agencies.

Services to whānau members are provided by a number of sectors, often resulting in inconsistencies, fragmentation, overlaps in service delivery, duplication of effort, and frequently confusion and frustration for those seeking assistance.

Moreover, because each agency usually focuses on a particular problem experienced by an individual whānau member (such as truancy or chronic illness) an opportunity for a sustainable whānau-wide approach to resolve problems is too often lost. Moumou taima!

I believe that a new approach is needed to better meet the needs and aspirations of our people. Such an approach will lead to better outcomes for whānau, and better value for the related investment made by the government.

It's not about us putting it right. Only whanau can put it right. It's for us to listen, and to support whanau to reclaim their future. We have to focus on the strength of whanau.

In effect, this will be kotahitanga in action; the social, cultural, spiritual, economic and political dimensions to our lives being integrated; all contributing to the wellbeing of our whanau.

So how will we achieve this? I know that at this hui there is an emphasis on the Department's Effectiveness for Maori training programme, including cultural competence in te reo, tikanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

This is a great start, but the greatest challenge of course will be to measure how the learning is transferred into changed behaviours in working with our people out in the community.

Finally, I want to say to us all, let us stand tall against the winds of criticism and fear of difference that we know this new approach will attract.

Already we have seen the scaremongers swoop with their allegations that whanau ora is all about benefit reform; or the dollars; or fixing up dysfunction and deficiencies.

We must resist these threats to redefine that which is the realm of whanau to define. Let us be proud of an approach that is driven by Maori; let us say out loud that Maori are leading Aotearoa forward in the vital achievement of whanau ora.

Whanau ora, purely and simply, is about the wonder of whanau; the wisdom of whakapapa; the wairua amongst us. It is about our history and our taonga; our reo. It is about upholding the collective roles, functions and responsibilities of whanau.

Whanau ora is about uplifting the essence of the people so that they may thrive. It will be seen in communities when their members are visionary with a sense of possibilities for their future. They will be adaptable, entrepreneurial, they will be responsible and accountable for their own actions.

None of this will be breaking news to any of you here - it is the way of life we have always valued - but it is, ultimately, about the pathway to our transformation.

And so I will do everything possible to let the legacy of our ancestors live on, through the vision of whanau ora. What's more, I know this vision of our tupuna was also a statement of kotahitanga - a vision which we know can lead our nation forward.

I thank you for inviting me to this hui, and I look forward to hearing from you all, about how we can ensure whanau ora is the success we all desire and expect for our communities.

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