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Speech To Tongan Ethics Conference

Speech by the Honourable Mark Gosche
Minister of Pacific Island Affairs
Tongan Ethics Conference 2000
Auckland University
Friday 17 March 2000


Kia Orana, Ni Sa Bula, Taloha ni, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Halo Olaketa, Ia Orana.
Kia Ora, Talofa Lava, Greetings – Malo e lelei.

I would like to acknowledge our tangata whenua, Kia Ora Koutou.

Thank you for inviting me to share this day with you – the world's first Tongan Ethics Conference.

Special thanks must go to Doctor Okustino, Doctor Leopino Foliaki and Doctor Sitaleki Finau.

You are here to discuss the ethics involved when working with your families and communities. Those involved in organising today must be congratulated for their foresight.

Ethics are about principles and values.

When someone's actions are ethical we consider him or her to be moral, we feel they are acting in a fair, just manner.

But when actions are unethical we consider them unjust and without principles.

On Wednesday I helped launch the Pacific Studies Department at Victoria University in Wellington.

It was a real celebration for the university and the academics, students and communities involved. But what was sad was that it took so long to set up. I understand the first person to suggest a Pacific department at Victoria did so more than seventy years ago.

To many of those people I met with it was not fair, nor just that it had taken so many years to set up a school of Pacific study in a university situated in the Pacific.

I often draw attention to the fact that growing up here in Auckland I could learn Latin or French but not te reo Maori, the native language of this country and certainly not Samoan.

And thus we had the strange situation where it was easier to learn languages from thousands of miles away rather than languages from this part of the world.

This is our mother region – for Maori this is their homeland – and yet most of my generation was denied the opportunity to learn our languages and study our ancestries.

And that brings us back to ethics and what is ethical and what is fair.

I do not believe it was ever ethical for New Zealand schools and universities to miss out Maori and Pacific values in their courses of study.

It was never ethical for them to fail to include our values, languages and cultures.

But, as you will all know this is changing rapidly.

Our young ones can now go to early childhood centres where they can learn their mother tongue.

Pacific studies are – as I have mentioned – becoming a feature of many universities in the country.

To me this is evidence that our learning institutions are becoming more ethical because our values and identities are included and acknowledged.

Today's conference is groundbreaking in that your community is going to work out how you as a people want to move forward and assert yourselves.

Instead of medical practitioners and academics coming to you – you have acted proactively by setting the agenda yourselves and asserting your place.

I commend your work here because while we often talk about the "Pacific" way of doing things – the reality is that there are several "Pacific" ways.

We are many peoples and we must each find our own way of dealing with our circumstances and futures.

Only Tongan communities know how to marry traditional Tonga Fai ways with modern concepts.

Only Samoan communities can work out how fa'asamoa is to work for New Zealand born generations. The new book Fa'asamoa and social work within New Zealand investigates many of these challenges.

And before I finish I would really like to thank Auckland's Tongan community for the warm welcome I received a few weeks ago – it was an honour and I was truly touched.

So congratulations and good luck.

I hope many other communities follow your example

I would like to officially declare the Tongan Ethics Conference 2000 open.

Oku ou fakatauange ke kei fai tapueika kimoutolu ihe ho'o mou ngaue 'oku fai.

Ia Manuia.

ENDS

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