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Tariana Turia Speech To NZAC

7 July 2001 Hon Tariana Turia Speech Notes

Speech To New Zealand Association Of Counsellors (NZAC) - National Conference - "Spaces" , Victoria University, Wellington


Tena tatou I nga ahuatanga katoa o te wa.

Tena tatou i a ratou kua taha ki tua o te arai. Kua tangihia ratou kua mihia ratou, kua poroporoakitia ratou, kua heke te hupe me te roimata. Me kii i runga i era kua ea te wahanga ki a ratau. Ratou ki a ratou a ko tatou kei muri e takatu nei.

Thank you very much for the invitation to speak with you this evening. In your invitation to me you asked that I craft an opening address that challenges, inspires and enlightens you according to the theme of your conference - the theme of Spaces.

I am flattered that you think I might be able to inspire, challenge and enlighten.

Often in my life whenever I try to do that all hell breaks loose around me as indeed it did on a couple of occasions last year.

What I will say, however, is that the lessons best learnt in my view are those that raise anxiety and have an element of discomfort.

I am not saying you will agree with what is presented, it is just that you are not likely to forget it. Of course I would be flattered if you did agree.

However as Bishop Desmond Tutu was advised by his father "if people do not listen to you improve your argument, don't raise your voice". Despite what may happen here this evening I will not raise my voice.

What I want to say in starting is that I think you are all very brave in choosing the topic, which I will address this evening.

I believe you are showing leadership in taking up the challenge of addressing issues, which relate to the counselling of indigenous people and in this instance, the tangata whenua of Aotearoa.

Like the psychologists in Hamilton last year I believe your discussing the topic of the appropriateness of western paradigms of counselling for indigenous people is a sign of maturity and you must all be congratulated for that.

And now to our theme of "Spaces"

I think we are only now starting to articulate, that in order for any form of counselling to be effective, indigenous spaces do need to be created to enable a relationship where positive growth and healing can occur. What is important is the relationship.

In my view the first space is one where the person is recognised as a person who has a history and a whakapapa.

While I do not consider myself to be a counsellor I know that it is important for Whanau and Hapu members to have a space where they can undertake a process of "decolonisation".

A process and space which is created for them to view themselves as a people in the process of becoming, people who believe they are a good people, that they have abilities and that they have strengths and talents many of which are untapped and unrealised.

To me this process of decolonisation called "whakawatea" by some counsellors, is a process, which rejects the negative images, many have come to believe, is part and parcel of being a member of a whanau and hapu. Negative images, which, they sadly believe, have existed for Maori since the beginning of time.

I consider the process of decolonisation and the rejection of those negative images to be a prerequisite for successful counselling.

I believe we must reclaim our histories about who we are. We must reclaim our whakapapa both in terms of our genealogy and the histories and stories of the journeys of our people.

We need to rid ourselves of the negative images, which we have internalised resulting in low esteem and a tendency to self-blame for all that has gone wrong and eventually for some of us self-hatred and self-harm.

We need to assert and affirm the good that is within and is of us and ours.

I need to make it very clear that asserting who we are does not mean opposing something else or putting the other down.

Too often we get caught up in binary opposites where the suggestion is that if we affirm one position we oppose another.

For Maori that is not the necessarily the case. For me to support one position is not to mean I oppose the other.

For me to choose a counsellor from Ngati Apa, Nga Rauru, Whanganui or Tuwharetoa would be as natural as the beating of my heart. I am not articulating a preference against, I am articulating a preference for.

The question you may be thinking is why I would choose a counsellor from any one of the above four iwi.

My response is simple - I am of them, I was born of and in to them. They are of me. I share their whakapapa, their history and their stories. They in turn share mine.

What I am engaging is whanaungatanga based on whakapapa. The relationship I establish in this counselling environment will also be a result of our shared whanau and hapu whakapapa and relationships.

These of course can be positive or negative and will determine the nature of the current counselling relationship.

If the basis of previous relationships, is negative it could mean we do not enter in to a counselling relationship as it may be deemed to be inappropriate and unhelpful.

That then becomes an ethical issue to be resolved between my whanau and the counsellor.

A counsellor from the above four iwi is likely to have more knowledge of me, and my whanau than a person who is not of those iwi.

They may also have knowledge based on whakapapa of the issues, which are facing me resulting in my seeking counselling. I could be uncomfortable about that - them knowing so much about me.

What I have been alluding to in a rather round about sort of fashion is that I believe that we as members of whanau and hapu are the best suited to deal with our own.

You may well ask me about other iwi, my response would be that they are the next best things as they are also of hapu and iwi and would have a better appreciation of whanau than a person who is not of whanau, hapu and iwi. Their iwi and my iwi may also have established relationships.

What I strongly believe is that whanau, hapu and iwi counsellors need to become better skilled and knowledgeable about the healing and counselling processes which abound in our whanau, hapu and iwi cultures.

What concerns me is that there are still too many of us who believe that the only real counselling paradigms are those with Eurocentric origins without realising that this only came as a result of the processes of colonisation and assimilation over the last 160 years.

Since first colonial contact much effort has been invested in attempts at individualising Maori with the introduction of numerous assimilationist policies and laws to alienate Maori from their social structures, which were linked, to the guardianship and occupation of land.

Counselling with its emphasis on the individual is part of that process. The concepts of self-realisation and client self-determination are highly individualised counselling concepts. The use of the “I” statements as an indicator of taking individual responsibility is another example.

The majority of counselling theories and practices have a literature base, which is Eurocentric in nature. The next time you are around such a course check out their library.

I am not criticising the theories and practices I am just questioning their appropriateness for Maori. I accept that at times there are exceptions. What I am saying however is that we should recognise the exception for what it is, an exception.

Another space I believe which needs occupying is that which once recognised that whanau and hapu did for hundreds of years exist as a viable dynamic culture that had all its needs met, as indeed did any society, which was dynamic and industrious.

At the advent of early colonial contact what was introduced, was a Judeao-Christian culture which saw itself as superior and indigenous people as inferior.

Indigenous beliefs were seen as pagan and what resulted was the imposition of another culture. While tangata whenua appeared to adopt the ‘new ways’ many secretly clung to the pre-colonial beliefs of the culture. Many of those exist to this day.

My challenge is for Maori in counselling to seek those out from the tribal libraries and depositories which exist with people like those I see here this evening.

I have been impressed with students of waiata who have considered waiata with the sole purpose of identifying theories of human behaviour, which can then be used in counselling situations.

One such waiata, which comes to mind, is the lullaby for Tuteremoana. The waiata is complex but has within it the description of procreation, birth, struggle, search for knowledge, acceptance of responsibility, honesty and the importance of honour.

The waiata from my limited knowledge could form the theoretical basis for counselling practices. I believe many waiata lend themselves for such purposes. My challenge then is for Maori counsellors to perhaps consider studying hapu and iwi waiata and viewing these waiata as the basis for counselling theories.

Waiata are about human behaviour so why not use them for the lessons they can teach us.

While I have focussed on the tangatawhenua participants of the conference I believe the contribution for tauiwi counsellors is to give space to Tangatawhenua to seek out hapu and iwi paradigms and at the same time to recognise the limitations of eurocentric counselling theories and techniques.

I will conclude by repeating questions I posed at the Psychologists Conference in Hamilton last year.

The questions are:

Does your training and education address issues like the nature of the Maori kai tiaki, the spiritual guardian all Maori have.

What is different from me believing in a kai tiaki and you believing in God?

What if I said to you that my kai tiaki had cautioned me about a particular action?

What for example is “mate Maori”? (Maori sickness)

What is makutu?

What is the nature of the “rau kotahi” the multiple self?

Finally in terms of our worldviews, what is the difference between you saying, “I think therefore I am” and us saying “We are”.

Na reira huri noa I tenei hui, tena tatau katoa.


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