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Hui For Maori Community Workers - Turia Speech

26 February 2001 Hon Tariana Turia Speech Notes

Opening Speech To Department Of Internal Affairs National Hui For Maori Community Workers, Pipitea Marae, Wellington

Tena tatou e hui nei i tenei ra. Tena koutou nga kai takawaenga kua tau ki runga i tenei marae i Pipitea. Tena hoki koutou nga kai pupuri o te mana o tenei pito o te motu.

It is always inspirational to be among our whanau, hapu and iwi and to listen to them talking of the developments happening within our communities.

You are lucky enough to hear this on a daily basis.

Today is no exception. You are the people who work, on a daily basis among our communities, with our whanau, hapu and iwi as they strive to reach their goals, fulfil their aspirations and control their destiny.

You assist them to overcome the challenges that lie in their developmental paths. And I am sure you may yourselves overcome some of your own challenges in the process.

I can tell you that listening to the dreams of our people is something that I do miss. When I sit in the House listening to the speeches from politicians flying around the debating chamber, my urge to leave my seat in the House is at times a huge challenge that I must overcome!

I am always delighted to be able to spend time, like today, with people like yourselves. People, like myself, excited about the potential of our people.

This hui is a great opportunity for you all to share your stories with each other from where you work and what developments are happening within your community.

I believe the potential that exists within our communities is one of our greatest assets.

While it is saddening at times, is to know there is much talent and potential yet to be unleashed that has not yet seen the light of day. It is at the same time exciting to know we have much to achieve, to develop and to dream.

One such dream I want to share with you, is a dream of Ngati Awa. They have just launched the Ngati Awa Youth Service Academy, working alongside the Army and the Tasman mill.

This will take thirty young people of Ngati Awa descent and train them over a year. At the end of the year, ten trainees will be taken into the army, ten trainees will have full-time employment at the local mill and ten trainees will be building houses for their hapu.

Last year this proposal was presented to the Maori caucus. This year it is a reality. Over the coming years who knows how it will develop and grow.

When one knows the potential that lies untapped within a community, one can take the time to dream about what could happen in a particular community, whanau, hapu or iwi. Just as Ngati Awa developed their solution, other whanau, hapu and iwi and communities are developing theirs with your support.

It becomes obvious, that our perseverance will in the end overcome the challenges that lie in our pathway.

You all work within communities rich in dynamic energy and potential with a limitless ability to be innovative.

You know best what the strengths of those communities are and can identify potential in all members within the community.

The challenge is often how to go about harnessing such energy for the sustained benefit of the community.

We must build on what we are good at, on what skills we already have, what we think we can and want to achieve. This will allow us, to expand our goals, as the skills within our communities improve and diversity.

Skills needed to uplift communities can, I believe, best benefit the community if they have come from within the community.

By training people within the community not only is the immediate skill shortage met, it assists those people to provide a service to their community and increase the ways in which one can pro-actively participate at a local level and within the society at large.

At times the challenges may seem too big, and overwhelming.

Such challenges exist in all spheres of society no matter where you look, whanau, voluntary organisations, businesses, government departments, iwi and Government as a whole faces such challenges.

I was speaking to a Maori social service national hui last Friday about this very issue and I concluded with an explanation from Jonathan Kozol, an American author and social critic of why simplistic answers to such broad and complex issues are dangerous in their avoidance of the causes.

Jonathon Kozol calls the myth the "Endless Circle". This is how he describes it.

"In any discussion which relates to basic areas of human pain and exploitation, people are offered an extensive spectrum of potential explanations, starting points, initial reasons' - all of which appear to stretch out in an endless circle of causations for whatever problem we may now have under consideration. Simultaneous with the presentation of the 'circle' goes an axiom of more than casual sophistication:

Wherever I stand along the edges of the circle the root cause of the problem must be somewhere else.

If the issue, for example, is the poor state of Maori health, a doctor will find his place on the circle by arguing that the real problem is bad housing. The real estate agent will state emphatically that the roots of the problem lie in poor knowledge of hygiene, and that the solution lies in education. Whereupon the teacher will respond that the basic issue is much broader than the schools and will then assert that the government is to blame. After some delay an unidentified government spokesman will produce a chart which proves that the state of Maori health is actually quite good when compared with the indigenous population of Upper Volta, Guyana and Chad."

I am sure many of you will be familiar with such explanations and the action of avoiding responsibility or obligations.

I am also sure that you will agree that the simplicity of the reasons or excuses ignores the complexity of the issues. But that the solutions to the causes lies in the willingness of all members of communities to contribute to its success.

The point is not to lay blame, ignore responsibility and move on. The point is to identify where you are able to assist most effectively with the skills that you have.

All of you I am sure, do not work alone within your community. All of you will have people, whom you can call on because of their particular skills.

These people assist you to do your job better than you could manage on your own.

Whether it is nannies to look after the mokopuna, so you are able to work with their mothers or fathers on improving their skills, people with skills to help you build, do plumbing or organise events. Such innovation is rich within our whanau, hapu and iwi, who rely heavily on the goodwill of the relationships they have with others.

All are willing to assist, to 'do what they can' to help within the community. They acknowledge they can not solve the problem themselves, but that they can help and are willing to assist others who are able to help such as yourselves.

This says that it takes all within the community to develop. No matter what you have to offer, it can be of use and you can contribute to the development in your community.

You will know the benefit of building relationships within the community, providing people with the opportunity to explore their talents in safe environments. The relationships need all participants to be willing to contribute in their own way, in order for them to work.

What I have been talking about to you today is the ways in which we operate within our whanau, hapu, iwi and our communities to build the capacity of those communities to enable them to fulfil their aspirations and unlock their potential.

I do not believe that constantly discussing problems, reasons, excuses and justifications will ever allow us to reach out to our dreams. We know there are positives that exist in all whanau, in all communities. That is our key to success, we must embrace that potential, build on its capacity and assist the development it brings to continue.

We are unable to succeed if we act as isolated individuals.

In opening your hui today I ask that you reflect on this whakatauki

"Ehara taku toa i te toa taki tahi, engari he toa taki tini"

Na reira tena koutou, tena koutou tena tatou katoa.

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