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Tariana Turia - speech to Women's Refuge AGM


Tariana Turia - speech to Women's Refuge AGM

"I pay tribute to you all for your passionate commitment to a violence free society. You are the people who have taken action and who remain at the forefront of taking responsibility, to care, to protect and to love.

"I congratulate your movement for the insight demonstrated in implementing parallel development. The vision you have promoted in committing to a model of culturally responsive services, consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, was revolutionary at the time of introduction, back in 1986.

"I believe that to respond to the challenge of violence in our whanau we need interventions that use the concepts of healing, caring and nurturing; and when working with tangata whenua, these concepts are most effective when sourced from a worldview that is uniquely Maori.

"I am not one of those who advocate more punitive measures to resolve issues of violence, nor am I a supporter of those who believe smacking is okay. I am absolutely convinced that starting from ourselves, from the basis of our whanau, is essential as a means for social change and intervention."

Speech Notes:

E nga mana, e nga reo, tena koutou katoa.

I have mixed emotions about being with you today.

On one hand I am honoured to be amongst a collective of like minds, a group of women dedicated to the elimination of family violence.

I pay tribute to you all for your passionate commitment to a violence free society.

I commend you on surviving the relentless demands of your roles within Refuge, both paid and unpaid, and your stamina in weathering all the storms that you face both in the experiences you share with the women and their whanau, and throughout your own organisation.

I acknowledge too the tremendous cost involved in responding to the devastation of unabated violence on a daily basis.

On the other hand I grieve for a society that has produced far too many people who have stood by, not intervened, and not fulfilled their obligation to protect or accepted their responsibilities in declaring that violence is unacceptable.

I grieve for the tragedy and anguish of our whanau members, damaged by the impact of physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual abuse.

A “hands off”, “she’s Jake”, “must not get involved”, “none of my business - or yours” society, which forced some to take action.

You are the people who have taken action and who remain at the forefront of taking responsibility, to care, to protect and to love.

You have also been proactive in seeking out like minds to join with you in addressing the issues which you know all too well.

Na reira tena koutou.

Next year, your organisation celebrates thirty years, since the first refuge was established in Christchurch.

Your story is one of an organisation, which has demonstrated the courage to continually review itself and respond to the diverse needs confronting you.

Some fifteen years ago Te Whakaruruhau was established and, a year later, the first Tangata Pacifica women’s refuge was set up in Auckland.

More recently, back in 1997 Shakti was established to respond to the needs of our growing Asian population.

Opportunities to caucus as a collective have respected the need for tangata whenua women to hui separately from tauiwi; and for lesbian refuge advocates to gather in their own forum.

I congratulate your movement for the insight demonstrated in implementing parallel development.

The vision you have promoted in committing to a model of culturally responsive services, consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, was revolutionary at the time of introduction, back in 1986.

I know the path forward has not been easy.

Wahine Maori have shared with me the trials and tribulations they have experienced in trying to achieve equal representation in decision-making bodies, in gaining access to resources, in ensuring our cultural values are respected.

So what now in 2002? What are the challenges and the insights that you need to share together, as you look towards the future?

AGMs are a time to look back over the last year, to review what has been done, and to build resolve to move onwards, learning from the past and being guided by the successes.

In looking back over my last year, thinking of what I have learned and grown from in understanding this whole area of family violence, I go back to the very beginning of the year and think of one woman in particular. I want to share some of her ideas with you:
I am a grandmother of three tino ataahua mokopuna and mother of four. My husband and I had a tempestuous relationship and after a particularly ugly fight I decided to contact Refuge. This was the most positive decision I ever made. It provided an environment where I started to evaluate my life.

I became interested in the dynamics of family violence and was asked to become involved in Refuge.

My passion is working with our people and I am committed to consulting with them so they are able to define and determine practices which are appropriate for us. I believe Models of Practice should fit the people, not the people fit the model. I believe colonisation and the patriarchal concept of ownership, power and control has eroded our beliefs and values and been a contributing factor in issues of abuse.

We need to reclaim our values of tika, pono and aroha and the starting place is with the self.

Kei te tangi te ngakau ki a Mary-Jane kua wehe atu nei ki a ratau kei te po.

Those words from Mary-Jane Laing could probably have come from many of you gathered here today.

And it is the message of words such as these which keep me inspired, give me hope for change, and fire my questions with the whys and how.

Some of the ideas her korero inspired for me are:

We need to start addressing our obligations and responsibilities as members of whanau to each other. What this means for me - as a grandmother and a great grandmother - is that I have an investment in ensuring that the whakapapa which I share with my ancestors and my mokopuna is not violated.

The self is as good a place as any to start. In this we can challenge all perpetrators – including reflecting on our own behaviour – to be accountable and responsible for any actions which represent violence as a means of exerting power and control over others.

Within our homes, our workplaces, our communities we need to be vigilant in promoting zero tolerance to whanau violence.

I had the opportunity to look through your annual report for this last year and was moved by the strength of the message from the Chairs of Coregroup, Ariana Simpson and Lesley Melrose.

Ariana and Lesley spoke of the need to question ‘our own oppression’, to avoid ‘compromising our cornerstone principles’; and to strengthen the movement through questioning the ‘language of the oppressor’….

I couldn’t help but be inspired, too, by the words from Tamati Kruger:

Ka warea te ware Ka area te rangatira Hongihongi te ma nehurangi Kei a koe te rangatiratanga

This is described as ‘knowledge is the liberator, know your true enemy (within), know your destiny (intimately); Create your destiny.

In thinking of all of these challenges that come with these ideas, I have a few questions of my own:

How do we create the optimum environment within our whanau to encourage the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate our lives? How do we address our responsibilities and obligations towards each other as members of whanau? What does it mean to be an active contributing member of a whanau? How do we rebuild and regroup as a collective unit – how can we support the well-being and mana of the total group – and by extension – the community? How can we gain the knowledge we require to work towards eradicating acts of violence, oppression and injustice within our whanau? How do we address the severe and ongoing impact of colonisation; to question our own oppression and expose ourselves to the process of whakawatea?

I believe that to respond to the challenge of violence in our whanau we need interventions that use the concepts of healing, caring and nurturing; and when working with tangata whenua, these concepts are most effective when sourced from a worldview that is uniquely Maori.

I am not one of those who advocate more punitive measures to resolve issues of violence, nor am I a supporter of those who believe smacking is okay.

I am absolutely convinced that starting from ourselves, from the basis of our whanau, is essential as a means for social change and intervention.

It is from understanding our own culture, our knowledge, our stories that we can indeed know and create our own destiny.

A destiny and a future, which does not tolerate the needless and senseless acts of violence to which we subject each other to.

Na reira, tena koutou nga wahine toa.

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