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Speech - Turia: Pacific Health Leadership Alumni Programme

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tariana Turia
Tariana Turia

I have to say I was immediately struck by the theme of your conference - Aniva - a concept gifted to the programme by Papali'ii Dr Semisi Ma'ia'i - a Samoan matai, respected general practitioner and author of the first bilingual Samoan-English dictionary : Tusi'upu Samoa.

Aniva is the name given to the galaxy and the constellation that ancient Pacific mariners used to navigate from. The study of Aniva emerges not just as a study of astronomy, but as an opportunity for inspiration to flow and aspiration to develop.

It became a symbol of wonder; the stars in the night sky reminding us of our place in the greater scheme of the universe while at the same time marvelling at our absolute uniqueness.

It epitomises to me so many of the qualities that could well describe Pacific Health leadership - the leadership that each of you here today have been recognised for.

The eighty alumni who have been invited to attend this programme, are already distinguished by the expertise and the excellent service you have already contributed within your communities as health professionals, managers, or officials.

Today, then, is to recognise the many stars within the Pacific galaxy, and to provide you with many more opportunities to shine, through the distinctive and unique cultural strengths you each bring to bear for Pacific people.

It is about restoring the role of the village - revitalising our understanding and our appreciation of our place in the world. It is about that recognition that although we may stand alone at times, the village always comes with us, in our hearts, in our spirit, in our every waking thought.

Even now, well into my sixth decade, I will never forget the message that my Aunty Wai instilled in me, that whatever I did, I must do with the best interests of the people in mind.

When I return home to Whangaehu, my aunties talk to me not as a Minister, but as a niece - they will forever inspire me to hold true to my responsibilities and my obligations to the whanau, hapu and iwi into which I was born.

I want to return to the concept of Aniva as I share some of our ideas around Whanau Ora. I

n an address to the Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue Conference in March of this year, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta'isi Efi described the powerful potential of indigenous navigation as a symbol for Pacific leadership.

Pacific leadership requires similar skills to those applied in navigating the Pacific - an anchor, a sturdy vessel, sailing skills, knowledge of the environment, and an overwhelming respect for the stars as important for guiding planting and fishing activities, and for understanding the cultural stories which give our life meaning.

I believe that Whanau Ora has exactly those same principles - and it is from that basis that I know it can work - and that it will work - in a Pacific context.

The universal anchor, is of course our families; our aiga; our whanau.

The key to Whanau Ora is in reinvigorating the wealth of whakapapa; it is about strengthening whanau connections and knowing that with whanau, there is an all-enduring, unseverable, perpetual connection with all others linked in our lines of descent.

It is the absolute definition of permanency.

Our anchor is in knowing that our whanau are our home for life.

We are forever connected to others that are drawn from our own genealogical foundation - and we must never let go of the incredible strength of the collectives from whence we come.

The sturdy vessel we sail in is the absolute confidence - and the history - that is associated with our survival. In a world where change is inevitable and continuous, the need to be fit for that change is essential for survival.

Whanau ora is about building that fitness: it is about developing whanau capability, nurturing resilience; and essentially it is about feeding the soul. Our history of survival - no matter what - instills in us that sense of self-belief that we know we can be the architects and designers of our own destiny.

As peoples of the Pacific we know we have endured parts of our history which have torn away at the very essence of who we are. But we must celebrate that we are here and we must search for what it is that will help us to survive.

And so Whanau Ora sets off to help advance our sailing skills, to restore our collective roles and responsibilities; to unleash our potential. Whanau Ora is not about a multiplicity of providers; it is about an investment in a multiplicity of skills. Another important attribute of our celestial navigators was their capacity to apply their knowledge of the environment. This too, is a significant feature of Whanau Ora.

A central driver has been the integration of contracts. Existing contracts are streamlined to deliver integrated services to whanau - rather than a whole menu of disconnected, discrete programmes, activities and outputs.

Contracting and accountability processes will support whanau centred service delivery and practice so that whanau are placed at the very centre of the concept - rather than peripheral to the demands of the contractor.

We want to build on the best of existing provider commitments and expertise - this is not about creating a provider growth industry; but more about transformation with a focus on whanau as the central motivation.

Another component of the indigenous navigator is the importance we placed on the stars to guide us onwards - and it is no different with Whanau Ora.

I am passionately interested in outcomes - outcomes which can show me that whanau are:

- Living healthy lifestyles - Self-managing - Participating fully in society - Confidently participating in their own cultural contexts - Economically secure and successfully involved in wealth creation; - And cohesive, resilient and nurturing.

This may sound like a tall order, but I want us to remember the courage, the vision and the resilience that all our tupuna demonstrated in their voyages across the seas. With that in mind we know even the impossible is possible.

In the days before GPS technology and more conventional navigational tools our ancestors relied on the ancient science of "way-finding": literally "finding the way", by drawing guidance from the stars, sun, and ocean swell to sail across the vast waters of Pacific.

They turned to ngā kanohi o te rangi - the eyes of the sky - to guide them onwards in their search for land, for their home for life.

And so finally, in our quest for navigating the challenge of Whanau Ora, I remind ourselves of the source of strength that our families have always gained from the cultural stories which give our life meaning.

In Whanau Ora, I hope that we can replicate this through our investment in Action Research.

The funding allocated for action research will mean that Whānau will be involved in a regular review process to check progress and ensure whānau priorities are addressed in the way they envisaged.

Basically, it is about telling our stories - and retelling them - to inspire our own generation of solutions and in doing so, to stimulate and create opportunities for whanau leadership.

Whanau Ora will be many things to many people. It is about inspiring collaborative and cooperative relationships. It is about demanding accountability from agencies; from ourselves.

But most of all it is about transformation.

I am delighted that the Ministry of Health has supported Pacific workforce development and has in fact, invested in Pacific leadership development and alumni programmes since 2002.

As a nation, we desperately need to invest in Pacific leadership to ensure that Pacific cultural frameworks and Pacific worldviews are being called on to respond to the unique needs of your communities.

I believe that just as Aniva describes our ancient past and leads us forward into a hi-tech future; Whanau Ora is also a powerful bridge connecting our past, present and future.

The great thing is - we have everything we need behind us - our histories, our heritage, our journeys have provided us with all we need to thrive.

I look forward to our ongoing conversations, about how we can build our futures in the most positive and life-enhancing ways.

Tena tatou katoa

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