Self-care, And Care For Others - Turia Speech
28 June 2002
Hon Tariana Turia
Self-care, And Care For Others
E te mana whenua, Ngati Toa Rangatira, tena koutou.
E nga iwi, e nga reo e huihui nei, tena koutou,
Minister Robson, Arohata staff and management, tena koutou katoa.
It was not necessary for me to come today, to fulfil the ceremonial protocols. Matt Robson could have done an excellent job of opening the new units without me.
I could have been out campaigning instead!
I came because I specially wanted to acknowledge the women here, who we call inmates today, but who have many other aspects to their lives – as daughters, mothers, partners and friends, as members of families and whanau.
I want to remind us how important are our links to the world around us. They make us fully human.
If we get cut off from our whanau, and the places we call home, we lose a part of our whakapapa, our humanity.
The links go both ways. If we lose contact with our whanau, our whanau lose contact with us.
Imprisonment raises important questions of human rights, for prisoners, and for those left on the outside.
For tangata whenua, maintaining our whanau is vital to our survival as a people. Imprisonment can have disastrous long-term consequences if our whanau break down.
The department has a number of plans to reduce reoffending. These units are part of the plan.
They help prepare women for life on the outside, by setting up a flatting situation where people share household tasks, manage their own shopping and so on.
Practical skills like this can certainly help individual women to make a go of life after prison, and avoid reoffending.
But we also need to look at the wider picture – how to maintain whanau links. Whanau networks not only help inmates get back to life outside, they also help to prevent offending by future generations.
In these units, women with small babies can look after them and get them off to a good start in life. This is very important for the whanau – these children are the next generation. They need their mothers’ love.
To strengthen our whanau, we need many different skills – as parents, teachers, consultants, advisers, homemakers and perhaps peacemakers. Some of these skills can be learned in prison.
I was at Whanganui Prison a couple of days ago, to help open the new Maori Focus Unit there.
Maori Focus Units encourage inmates learn about tikanga Maori, and then use their knowledge to look at themselves in a new way.
Do their attitudes and behaviour measure up to the standards set by our tupuna? Can they change themselves so they do live up to the values of our old people?
The test will be whether their whanau are better off as a result.
Will the men be better parents to their children? Will they be able to give better advice and help to whanau members with problems? Will their elders be able to rely on them to do the right thing?
I hope they will, because of what they learned in prison.
The department also has also recently implemented a Kaiwhakamana policy, which gives approved kaumatua wide rights of access to prisons. This can also help to maintain whanau links.
I congratulate the department on these initiatives. But we must never be complacent. These issues are just so important. They are issues of human rights, and the survival of tangata whenua.
We need to keep working for institutional change. And we must never forget that the women inmates here today, and their whanau, are the reason why.