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Turia Speech to Maori Nurse Educators

Thursday, 23 November 2000 Hon Tariana Turia Speech Notes

Speech to Maori Nurse Educators Conference: 'The Treaty of Waitangi, Constitutional Law and the Republic Debate - Implications for Maori Nurse Educators'

Tena tatou e hui nei i raro i te mana o te Ata i Rangikaahu, me nga rangatira kei nga piko o to koutou awa tapu a Waikato. Anei ano tenei manuhiri o Whanganui e mihi atu ana ki a koutou. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

When I was given the theme for this hui I pondered on how I would address it.

Here I am today, having to deliver to you a speech about an issue which I believe needs more time than we have available today.

While I am always prepared to play a part in debating the issues I believe you also need to be more proactive in engaging yourselves in the debate on the Treaty of Waitangi and the Constitution and I guess today is yet another hui, another opportunity to continue that debate.

What does concern me when I am asked to speak on any topic, but particularly topics of this nature is that comments from people such as I tend to dominate the dialogue, the korero that needs to take place.

If we were starting with a blank slate, aware of our unique history and reflecting today's society and culture, would the set of arrangements we now have be what we would choose?

The constitution in 2000 is essentially British, a legacy of empire and British colonisation. It reflects British values, most notably the rule of law, the principle of one person one vote and a unitary Parliament and government..

People such as yourselves are rarely if ever asked to contribute to the dialogue and if you are, it will probably be to criticise what some one else has said - again the investment in creating division.

An investment in ensuring that the inclusive society we all publicly pronounce is what we desire, will never happen.

It is that lack of desire for an inclusive society, which I believe, motivates those who see the Treaty of Waitangi promoted as a document, which creates division.

Even our Race Relations Conciliator has inadvertently fallen victim of those who believe their negative self-fulfilling prophecies regarding the Treaty.

His submission to the select committee on the Health and Disability Bill was used against the government in yesterday's debate in the House.

Any informed analysis of the critics will clearly see that the criticism of the Treaty is based on:

1. Emotive language.

2. Ridiculing any person or group who disagrees with them.

3. An intellectual inability to comprehend the historical context of the Treaty, the history of this country, and of us as whanau, hapu and iwi.

4. A denial of that history and a lack of interest in justice, truth and reconciliation.

5. Hypocrisy and scaremongering by politicians as my colleague the Attorney General Margaret Wilson has said.

The government
accepts the Treaty of Waitangi as New Zealand's founding document and as the basis of constitutional government in this country.

In as far as the Constitution is concerned the Government, as the Prime Minister stated at a Conference in the Legislative Council Chamber. In Parliament in April this year:
Has no official view on what the future shape of the country's constitutional arrangements should be,

Of that same Conference Sir Paul Reeves stated:
that the Conference demonstrated the sensitivity and importance of constitutional debate. Republicanism was not in Sir Paul's view, a major focus.

Nevertheless the Conference brought together a diverse group who spent two days debating serious issues and who tried to stay open to the opinions of others who normally they might not agree with.

The Treaty of Waitangi and the implications and significance of it were forcefully debated.

Unfortunately, the majority of people in this country see the Treaty of Waitangi as a document that is only relevant to Maori and do not understand its significance to all New Zealanders regardless of when they arrived.

Annette Sykes suggests that The United Tribes Declaration of Independence of 1835 and the Treaty of Waitangi were frameworks for a model of coexistence between and amongst diverse civilisations Maori and Pakeha.

She went on further to say that "the document is founded on the principles that our behaviour as a nation of communities, as a collective of families, is to be regulated by ongoing obligations to this land te whenua rangatira, the nation state of Aotearoa.

I suggest that people genuinely interested in the Treaty of Waitangi and the Constitution, purchase the published papers, edited by Colin James.

Given the topic of this speech was debated over two days without consensus what we can at least do today is continue with the debate and attempt to work out for ourselves what the implications for ourselves.

I believe that you as Nurse educators, need to take the time and work out for yourselves what the Treaty of Waitangi means for you.

We of the Labour Party have stated in He Putahitanga Hou that:
By signing that Treaty, the Crown guaranteed the rights of hapu and undertook to protect them.

As I stand here today, I cannot help but be reminded of those who unite their people. They did not wait. They ventured out. They made it happen.

Yesterday I know that Waikato hosted the traditional leaders of the House of Traditional Leaders in South Africa.

Those indigenous leaders have ventured out from the mana of their whenua to visit those of us in another land who still believe and actively protect the mana of our whenua.

Theirs has been a long walk to freedom!

Discuss amongst yourselves what rights, obligations and responsibilities that you, as members of your hapu continue to exercise.

I am sure that there are many of you here today who are descendants of tupuna who did not sit and wait for things to happen - you are the descendants of people who ventured out and made things happen.

You have aspirations, you have dreams and only you can make them become realities.

Na reira, kia kaha koutou ki te whakatinana i o koutou moemoea!


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