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Young Maori Leaders Conference 2001 - Turia Speech

Hon. Tariana Turia
Monday 6 August Speech Notes

Young Maori Leaders Conference 2001, 'What our people expect of our leaders', Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Kia a koutou te mana whenua, tënä koutou. Tënä koutou e awhi nei i tenei hui.

Kia a koutou nga kai para i te ara, mo nga ra e heke iho nei. Tënä koutou, nga tai tama wahine me nga tai tama tane.

I want to start by saying that all of us here have the potential to be leaders. In fact I will go further, all members of whänau, hapü and iwi are potential leaders.

Most of them already are engaged in leadership roles, whether it be in the areas of social, cultural or economic development; for and with their whänau.

Some lead by example. I think about the many whänau who give unstintingly of their time to our rangatahi, tamariki, and mokopuna, to tutor or train them in kapa haka, sports or to be there in times of great need for the whänau.

You see the expression of this leadership on the marae, in hui, whether it be at a wänanga or a tangihanga.

They are the ones who fulfil all the roles necessary that will nurture and support the whänau and sustain the integrity of the marae through the maintenance of tikanga.

It is important for us today, to share some thoughts on what we consider to be qualities for leadership.

For our people, leadership is both ascribed and achieved.

Two leaders who fit the first criteria are Tumu Te Heuheu and Dame Te Atairangi Kaahu. When we refer to them we see a long and honourable lineage. A whakapapa that is dedicated to serving their people.

There is another leadership who, in the first instance, gain recognition through their deeds and achievements, with their whänau and their hapü.

Another leadership has emerged out of western universities. Some of these leaders are strong in their tikanga and have adapted extremely well to western academic and intellectual pursuits.

These people are recognised by their own whänau and hapü as leadership material. They have not cut themselves off nor have they ever been divorced from the marae settings of their parents.

Another source of Mäori leadership also comes from the university and is often recognised as leadership material by others, other than whänau, hapü and iwi.

The criteria for this leadership are often vested within their being acceptable to Pakeha people.

Too often we have Pakeha defining who the Mäori leadership is.

But would we as members of whänau, hapü and iwi acknowledge these same people?

Governments in the past have been very good at determining and appointing Mäori leadership.

Even the media helps to shape our thinking in terms of who our Mäori leaders are. If they choose to demonise or idolise you, our people get a particular perception of the truth.

You have the ability to read critically; and to ask who benefits from the criticism or the promotion of Mäori leaders?

In talking with various whänau as to what they want in their leaders, I got the following responses.

There is an absolute belief that good leadership must have integrity. They reject entirely the populist leadership of opportunism.

These whänau also stated very clearly that this leadership must be respectful of all people, must be honest and they certainly rejected those of our own people who delighted in belittling Mäori.

The whänau I talked to said that the leaders they admire would be those who passionately believed and trusted in the people to know what is best for themselves.

Who would stand by them when the going got tough?

Who understand the pains of the past and who have a vision for the future.

Who in times of great conflict are able to show compassion and understanding; and who leave this place better for their contribution.

I would like to pay tribute to those who have gone before us and acknowledge their leadership.

There have been many of our leaders who have sacrificed their all, fighting for the rights of our people that they believed were protected with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Their fight must not have been in vain.

We of this generation must continue that fight and build on the efforts of those very people.

Many of these leaders were motivated, I'm sure, by an extremely strong desire to serve those people who would shed tears over them when they die.

Perhaps we can all reflect on that, as I have recently heard people say that the people they in the end will stand with, are those who will weep over them at their tangihanga.

Who do you think those people will be?

A faceless bureaucrat, a vote seeking politician, a profit seeking CEO who will sacrifice the jobs of our whänau, or will those people be members of their whänau, their hapü and their iwi?

I know who I will stand with; and I know who my whänau will stand with; and we will know why.

I would like us to think about the lessons we learn from our tupuna, from our leaders of the past.

What were the sacrifices they made so that we could benefit? What were the criticisms made of those same people in making those sacrifices?

The cost was huge; and their whänau often suffered for it.

People often confuse power with leadership. There are many people who do not have the opportunity to utilise their leadership abilities for the benefit of their whänau or hapü.

There are many people in positions of influence and power who are not acting for the benefit of the people.

They were the leaders who were least admired, those who misused the trust placed in them, or abused the power that they had.

We have never tolerated that sort of leadership; and we should not start now.

Every iwi has stories of leaders they have removed because of the abuse of power.

Some people think that being elected an MP makes one a leader. I can tell you, it doesn’t.

It makes you a servant of the people, our whänau, hapü and iwi; a person whose role it is to try to find ways to realise the abilities that each and every one of us has. Abilities which can be used to benefit all of us.

What is it we want to see in our leaders?

What do we expect of those in positions of leadership?

We expect them to be able to create opportunities for others. We expect them to show integrity and honesty.

To admit when they are wrong and to realise they are never really on their own.

To be inclusive and acknowledge that the collective wisdom is always greater than the individual wisdom.

Leadership is about creating opportunities for others to have a better life – to participate in every level of society and to fight for what the people believe in.

That is why we put people in those positions – because we believe they will fight for the needs of those most disadvantaged in our society, and to do so in both the good times and the bad; and to create the spaces for the people's voices to be heard.

There is no one superior ‘style’. Leadership is about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and of others; about how to draw others in and support the development of their strengths.

Our people are not likely to accept leadership from those who do not know their whänau, hapü, and iwi.

It is through participation in these relationships that important values are handed down, that whakapapa is nurtured, that ancestors become more than a name, that the value of one’s whänaungätanga, hapütanga and iwitanga becomes part of a person.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I have noticed throughout my life that there are always the detractors who are poised and waiting; ready to criticise our Mäori leadership. The most severe Mäori critics of Mäori leadership are themselves identified by the whänau, the hapü and the iwi from which they draw their whakapapa.

In criticising an individual, they are also criticising the whänau, the hapü and the iwi from whom that individual draws their leadership rights.

So when we criticise, let us take care as to who it is we are criticising, because if the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts, then we are also criticising the iwi from which that individual comes.

Despite the cost of this hui, it is heartening that so many young leaders from whänau, hapü, iwi have had the opportunity to attend.

Many of us will stand before you and possibly be judged as to whether we meet your criteria for Mäori leadership. I hope you do not leave here disappointed but leave knowing that Maori leadership is diverse, and is achievable for each and every one of us.

As leaders of the future, the question you need to ask yourselves is not what the iwi can do for you, but what you can do for your whänau, hapü and iwi.

Na reira, kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.


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