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Educating Pasefika Positively Conference

10 April, 2001 Hon Mark Gosche Speech Notes

Address To The Educating Pasefika Positively Conference
Waipuna International Conference Centre
Waipuna Road, Mt Wellington, AUCKLAND

Kia orana, Ni sa bula, Taloha ni, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Malo e lelei, Halo Olaketa, Ia orana, Kia ora, Talofa lava, and warm Pacific greetings to you all.

It is good to be here, thank you for the invitation.

Often people will ask me what my hopes are for our Pacific communities.

I tell them that I along with all Pacific Island parents want a future where our children will grow up with exactly the same opportunities as other New Zealand youngsters.

We want our children to be the best that they can be, to excel at what they love, and to have the opportunity to discover what that is.

But the reality is that Pacific children are still more likely to miss out on early childhood education, fewer continue on to tertiary study than their classmates, and our community's income still lags behind that for the rest of the country. In health the statistics are just as grim.

We know that this is a challenge for our Pacific communities but it is also a long-standing dilemma this Government is prepared to confront head on.

While we want a future where our kids grow up with the same opportunities as other New Zealand children – this does not mean a future where they are the same as all the other children.

We want a future where every Pacific child will grow up with an education system that reflects their heritage, that includes their family and that nurtures their language. We know from past experience that it is in this kind of environment that our children will do better.

I would like to talk about some of our moves to restore some fairness, security and opportunity back into our communities and our classrooms.

$60 million extra for schools
By abolishing bulk funding we made $60 million of extra funding available to run our schools this year. And $15 million of this comes from a new commitment to annually increase operation grants in line with inflation every year.

Boost for school buildings
We are making sure our school buildings are appropriate, modern and safe by spending more than $30 million extra on property works programmes which is also delivering more than 200 brand new classrooms in schools with growing rolls.

Focus on early childhood
In March we reversed the previous Government's decision to deny funding to nine Pacific early childhood centres – instead we agreed to an immediate injection of more than $3 million into the early childhood discretionary grants scheme for the 1999-2000 year and an extra $3 million a year for the next three years. This meant nine Pacific centres nationwide got the funding they desperately needed, meaning in real terms that there are 250 Pacific pre-schoolers who now go to a licensed, funded early childhood centre.

Many of our children are still considerably behind where they should be for their age in reading and literacy. Last year we put aside $20.4 million over the next four years to pay for 121 additional resource teachers of literacy nationwide – many of whom are based in schools with high Pacific rolls. In addition to this we have funded an extra $6.3 million spread over four years into the compulsory school sector for Pacific English as a Second Language education and professional development.

Study support centres
In partnership with local communities we are setting up study support or homework centres throughout the country but particularly in communities where our children live. It's vital that children gain good study skills and habits before they reach secondary school and many youngsters home circumstances do not support this for a range of reasons.

TeachNZ Scholarships
On top of extra scholarships for Pacific teachers, for the first time we have offered 40, $10,000 scholarships to support Pacific students to undertake study to become registered early childhood teachers.

More Books In Homes
Books in homes are vital for child development and we boosted the successful Books in Homes project by $ 1.7 million – adding more than third on to the scheme's original Government funding. In real terms this bought 260,000 new books that are now in the homes of more than 65,000 children from low-income families.

Computers in homes
But making sure our children have books to read is no longer enough. The information superhighway is moving faster than ever before and like you I don’t want Pacific children standing on the kerb watching it pass by. We want our children driving along that superhighway, showing the way forward. Last year I was pleased to help launch the Governments and 20/20 Computers in Homes pilot that saw 50 families in Porirua and South Auckland provided with computers for their homes. Furthermore every, single study support centre will also be equipped with computers.

Healthy Housing
I would like to talk a little now about a housing initiative that I know has impacted positively on the lives of thousands of our children.

Experts have been telling us for years that children who live in overcrowded, unsatisfactory housing are less likely to be healthy and less likely to fulfil their potential at school.

Last year as Minister of Housing I was pleased to oversee the scrapping of market rents and the restoration of income related rents.

In Auckland City, thousands of Pacific families live in state houses. In some suburbs Pacific tenants make up more than 60% of all tenants. Under the previous Government's regime the past nine years they saw their rent bill rise 106%.

What this led to has been described by social service agencies as the most disastrous social policy in New Zealand history. Less money for food – particularly, less money for healthy food. Less money for heating and power bills. More families heading to private loan companies and into debt. We found families also moved regularly as they could not afford to pay the market rent – this meant children shifting schools often. Families crowded together to make ends meet and this lead to the rise of infectious diseases.

Since December last year some of our poorest families throughout the country were left with $90 million extra each year for healthy food, power bills, heating and other necessities for a healthy home.

Since the restoration of income related rents turnover has dropped from 32% to 19% nationally and teachers and schools are telling us that fewer students are moving schools regularly because their families can now afford the rent. Starting a new school is a huge upheaval in a young life and in my own community I know of little ones who had already known 12 schools in their young lives.

If our children are going to realise their potential – families, communities and Government must be there every step of the way.

Last year Pacific representatives from eight regions throughout New Zealand worked on action plans to strengthen their communities and work in partnership with Government.

More than 5000 Pacific people's representatives from around the country have been involved in identifying their plans of action for the future and developing partnerships with local and central Government.

Thirty Government agencies and local Government representatives from each region then responded to these plans and I am pleased to announce that 80% of the responses can be actioned within current budget baselines.

The partnership between Government and Pacific communities is strengthening day by day – everyone is realising this is a win win situation. In terms of education it is vital for Government to work side by side with Pacific peoples.

It takes a whole village to raise a child
I would like to conclude by referring back to an old Pacific proverb.

It takes a whole village to raise a child.

This demonstrates the insight our communities have always had when it comes to nurturing our children. The task of raising our youngsters was too important to assign to just one person – the entire village helped nurture, educate, and guard over our children.

As we enter the 21st Century many things have changed and technology is racing beyond some of our wildest dreams.

Yet our proverb remains as important and relevant today as it has been for hundreds of years.

The only thing that has changed has been the size of our village and community.

This is because all of us, Government ministers, teachers, lecturers, departments, Pacific communities, educators, families and parents must share the responsibility of nurturing, educating and guarding over our children and safeguarding our future.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today and wish you well with your conference.

Thank you,

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