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Love Is The Healer Of All Things - Whakatau Aroha

Hon Tariana Turia
27 March 2001 Speech Notes

Corrections Probation Service, National Maori Staff Hui – Rotorua

Whakatau Aroha – “Love Is The Healer Of All Things”


Kia ora tatau e tau nei ki roto i tenei huihuinga a tatou.

Tena ano koe e Napi. Huri noa I tenei whare tena tatau katoa.

Thank you for again inviting me to speak with you at your National Hui.

I recollect at our last hui in Nelson I spoke of the need to consider the alternatives to punishment.

In preparing for this presentation I revisited that speech and much of what I have to say today reflects the sentiments of that korero delivered at Whakatu Marae. I have taken the unusual step of bringing along copies of that speech.

I am also aware that you expressed certain thoughts and had intended carrying out certain actions.

I would be interested to find out what progress you have made with the plans you had last year. What has been the tangible outcome of last years hui?

In considering the theme for this year’s conference I wondered what it was I could say, which might both stir the soul, touch the heart and stimulate the intellect.

What could I raise which may give substance for the theme of your hui. – Whakatau Aroha or Love Is The Healer Of All Things?

What could I say about the issue of Maori offending with a focus on violence?

What I could say is that I hope we refrain from indulging in the rhetoric of punishment and retribution.

I hope we refrain from the aggressive and some might say, violently presented rhetoric of beating up on our people in the name of "truth" and "telling it how it is" and removing the “rose tinted glasses” from our eyes.

I hope we refrain from the attacks on an un-named Maori leadership.

I for one certainly will not be going down that populist track.

In recent times what I have seen highlighted is a frightening aspect of our society. What is frightening is the very punitive nature of many of the comments and commentators.

The cry for longer sentences, for the introduction of the death sentence is to me a sign not of a society with individuals seeking justice but of a society with individuals seeking revenge.

It is not of a society that would agree with the theme of your hui “That love is a healer of all things” but of a society hell bent at “getting back”.

Despite this I know there are many New Zealanders who are loving and forgiving despite the tragedies they have been subjected to as a result of what at times are senseless individual acts of violence.

In focussing on violence, will your workshop discussions be limited to discussing individual acts of physical violence, and not the emotional or psychological violence that people are subjected to?

How much time will be spent on an analysis of historical institutional violence and its effect on a people?

In terms of the "intergenerational nature of violence" how many generations back are we prepared to go?

Do we limit ourselves to the last three or four generations or are we prepared to go back a lot further?

Like I stated at your last conference, are we prepared to consider what has happened to other indigenous people, both here in the Pacific and further afield.

Or are we going to accept that we, like other indigenous people and people of colour appear to have a predisposition towards acts of violence.

I have heard people condemn others for acts of violence and excused themselves and sought understanding for the emotional and psychological violence they have subjected others to.

There appears to be a hierarchy, which determines which type of violence is more “forgivable” and "acceptable" which perpetrators are more “punishable”. This of course is how it has always been.

We compare the sentencing of mothers who kill their children with bank robbers and from this, draw conclusions as to societies attitudes towards both children and banks.

I suppose it is easier to observe, photograph and emotionally react to the horror of a physical beating than it is to measure the devastation of emotional, psychological and institutional violence many are and have historically been subjected to.

Whanau over the last year have received a fair “beating” in a very public way.

I am becoming concerned about the increasing number of young single Maori mothers who tell me they are scared that they, as Maori mothers of Maori children, are targeted, as being at risk and raising children who will also be a risk.

This is their perception.

These are young mothers who care for their children and come from supportive whanau, yet because of all the negative publicity about whanau and individual acts of violence they have become fearful.

Doubts have crept in regarding their ability to love and care for their children.

They are also becoming suspicious of their whanau.

Is this the type of situation we want for our people? Is this the environment we want our tamariki raised in.

There has never been a penetrating analysis of Maori labelled as offenders.

Maori offending needs to be considered within a historical context of the clash of cultures. We now have constructed for us profiles of those at "greatest risk" of offending.

Within the Corrections system, a system of which you and I are a part, we are working for more effective risk and prevention programmes.

I want for example to have you critically analyse the following statement from Peter Doone's report on Preventing Maori Crime. Doone notes:

Criminal Justice data shows that Maori are over-represented at every stage of the Criminal Justice Process. In 1998 they were 3.3 times more likely to be apprehended for a criminal offence than non-Maori. They were more likely to be prosecuted, more likely to be convicted and more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment. The result was that Maori made up 14 percent of the general population and 51 percent of the prison population. These gaps are widening not narrowing.

In analysing the statement what questions would you ask?

Why is it more Maori get picked up than Pakeha?
Why is it they are more likely to be prosecuted?
Why is it they are more likely to be convicted?
Why is it they are more likely to be imprisoned?

This does not look good.

What forces do you think are at play here?
Who are the players, what is the nature of the system?
Indeed what part do you play as CPS workers play in this whole process?

It may or may not surprise you to know, that this scenario with Maori is repeated with other indigenous people, like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, the Hawaiians in Hawaii, and the indigenous people of the Americas, whose socio- historical, political and economic context is similar to that of Maori.

Programmes introduced to reduce the offending of Maori also suffer as too often they have a deficits focus lacking any analysis linking 'risk' to the historical, social, economic, political, and cultural mechanisms that create and affirm the oppressive environments that create the risk in the first instance.

I would be concerned if tikanga programmes were used to justify punishment.

A programme I am impressed with is He Tete Kura Mana tangata. I understand Matehaere Maihi who runs the programme is presenting a workshop at this hui.

I also believe we need to revisit the work completed by Moana Jackson and published as "The Maori and the Criminal Justice System; He Whaipanga Hou - A New Perspective.

I support my colleague the Hon Matt Robson who spoke last week of opening the way for kaumatua to be granted access to prisons in much the same way as Ministers of the Crown have access to prisons.

In conclusion I would like to say that if we as a society do not accept violence we should not then impose violence on those incarcerated for violent acts.

Violence only dehumanises people. Jean Paul Sartre in his preface to Frantz Fannon's book "The Wretched of the Earth" identified dehumanisation as a process where he said:

"everything will be done to wipe out their traditions, to substitute our language for theirs and to destroy their culture without giving them ours".

"The business is conducted with flying colours and by experts: the 'psychological services' weren't established yesterday; nor was brainwashing"

Sadly, having regularly visited prisons in Aotearoa I believe that the conditions of imprisonment play a part in the dehumanisation of people.

I believe there are alternatives to imprisonment and I favour restorative justice and a system where 'love' can truly be the healer of all things.

ENDS

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