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Te Pā Harakeke Matariki Symposium - The Potential of Whānau

27 June 2014

Te Pā Harakeke Matariki Symposium - The Potential of Whānau

I must admit I felt a bit daunted when I read about this symposium as an opportunity to engage in deep and meaningful kōrero about the potential of whānau.

There’s nothing like setting the bar high to make you really focus on the task.

As I contemplated the hui agenda, I opened up the paper to the fresh faces of two gorgeous girls – Taneiah Wilson-Rongotana and Aliviah Rauhihi.

These were two mokopuna on a mission - helping to harvest harakeke for weavers to work on through this symposium.

That one photograph – a snapshot of the vitality of life – has inspired me to look deeply, meaningfully at how our cultural constructs like Te Pā Harakeke tell us everything we need to know about the potential of whānau.

But before I do, I want to congratulate Te Pā Harakeke o Te Awahou Early Childhood Centre for your first year of life as a total immersion Māori language centre for the tamariki and mokopuna of Horowhenua.

You are to be commended for your drive and determination to establish a Māori language immersion option after over a decade of patient waiting for this day to come.

The initiative you have taken in holding this one day forum representing the vigour of a new day that Matariki and Puanga offer us all.

I am so proud of all our whānau here in the nest of harakeke heaven who have made the commitment to learn, to plant new ideas, to be open to innovation.

And I have to commend you all for the outstanding talent you have attracted to this forum.

We are in good hands – through the manaaki and ministry of Maru and Danny Karatea-Goddard – our recently ordained Deacon and key members of Te Rūnanga o Te Hāhi Katorika ki Aotearoa.

A number of our speakers today have pushed boundaries and stretched horizons in ways which leave me in awe. I am thinking of Charmeyne Te Nana Williams – Whānau Ora Champion who literally does whatever it takes to create great lives for those of our whānau living with disability.

There’s Rau Hoskins – architect, designer, consultant, lecturer – most recently seen in the AFTA award winning programme, Whare Māori.

We have Te Kenehi Teira the National Māori Heritage Manager from the Historic Places Trust; Associate Professor Dr Leonie Pihama – the principal investigator of Tiakina Te Pā Harakeke Research Project and a whole cast of stars from Kura Kaupapa Māori and from Te Rūnanga o Raukawa from Te Wānanga o Raukawa and right across the rohe.

So I come back to our three year old girls – Taneiah and Aliviah

It is so easy to say he taonga te tamaiti - a child is a treasure.

I know this only too well – having had to tear myself from my beautiful mokopuna tuarua - the delicious chocolate button who has made all our lives so much more special.

This baby – Arahia – is my 26th great grandchildren. She is the first born of one of my grandsons – a young man named Pakaitore after one of the most significant events in our history of iwi revitalisation.

So there is a lot vested in our baby – as indeed there is with everyone of my 52 mokopuna.

In thinking of all our mokopuna then, I want to share three ideas about the connection between Te Pā Harakeke and the potential of whānau.

The first idea is:

Kua tupu te pā harakeke - the flax is growing

Over the last while a plethora of reports have hit the headlines. I want to just touch on a few.

The first is the report of the Glenn Inquiry – ideas around seeking child abuse and domestic violence. This report concluded when talking with whānau Māori, that a kaupapa Māori approach was needed that was whānau-centred and strengths based.

The second was He Korowai Oranga – the refreshed Māori health strategy. The strategy sets an aspiration for Pae Ora – healthy futures based on three elements: mauri ora – healthy individuals; whānau ora – healthy families and wai ora – healthy environments.

The third report was the inquiry into the determinants of wellbeing for tamariki Māori from the Māori Affairs Select Committee of Parliament. That report highlighted some key statements:

• The wellbeing of tamariki Māori is inextricable from the wellbeing of their whānau
• Acknowledging the importance of collective identity for a Māori child is a first step
• The application of the Whānau Ora approach is fundamental.

Whether it be poverty, Maori health, violence or child wellbeing –whatever the issue the solution is the same – Whānau Ora.

And I want to really encourage us to be bold – to step forward and stand up for that which we know is right – a whanau-centred approach to life.

The Māori Party is distinctive by our determination to stand for whānau.
Every other party on the block will make promises of how many houses they will build, jobs they will create, operations they will undertake. They try to create the false perception that when our babies are born they are born destined for a portfolio – an NHI number in the health sector, a dependent of the social sector system, a new enrolment in education.

If we only focus on the sector silos, we are at danger of forgetting that from whence we came – Te Pā Harakeke.

So our greatest challenge is how can we ensure that the status and the mana of every child is affirmed?

So my second idea is:

E kore au e ngaro, e kore au e ngaro
He harakeke tongai nui nō roto nō Mangamuka

I shall not perish for I am like the dried flax plants of Mangamuku – I will survive through periods of drought and live on.

Whānau Ora is about being firmly focused on whānau self-determination.

It about our whānau managing our own futures – futures which are based on healthy lifestyles. The outcomes we seek are not about how many surgical interventions have been planned or how many pamphlets are delivered. We seek a long term vision – cohesive, resilient, nurturing whānau. It is about intergenerational wealth. It is about lifting capacity and capability for our whānau to work out their own solutions.

My third idea is:

Tungia te ururoa, kia tupu whakaritorito te tupu o te harakeke

Burn off the overgrowth so that the flax shoots may sprout.

Clear away that which is unnecessary and get to the heart of the problem so that the good may grow vigorously.

It is about having the courage to de-clutter – to focus on what is important – our children living healthy, productive lives.

It is about not reinventing the wheel – sharing knowledge, focusing on outcomes, engaging, communicating with one another.

Te Pā Harakeke inspires in us all the knowledge of a collective grouping in which the outer leaves nourish and protect the inner leaves – the new generation.

At the very centre of Te Pā Harakeke is te rito – the central shoot which determines the ongoing survival and health of the plant.

In Te Pā Harakeke each leaf is connected to te rito – its strength lies in its continuity and its collective presence. I am always sceptical when people want to separate out population groups – targeting rangatahi or elders, women or men – instead of considering the power and the potential of Te Pā Harakeke in its broadest definition.

Today then – at this wonderful Matariki Symposium – I celebrate the humble harakeke plant – a plant from which Foxton has based so much of your local economy upon. The flax fibre across this rohe has been cultivated for generations as a basis of a thriving industry - an industry in which both mana whenua and tauiwi have been able to benefit.

The blossoming – the puāwaitanga – of te rito is the most beautiful metaphor for our widest vision to focus on families and for families to grow to their full potential.

I want to thank you all for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful celebration – for reinvigorating our faith, for lifting our spirits and for building our hope for a future in which all of our mokopuna can thrive.


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