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Tariana Turia's Beehive Chat

Tariana Turia's Beehive Chat

By Tariana Turia

ANZAC weekend brings mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, we remember the sacrifices of those who have fought for our country. We celebrate their contribution to our relatively peaceful nation and, as diverse peoples, we share in the pride and the pain of their service.

But at the same time, we acknowledge that war can erupt anywhere, and we cannot always avoid getting drawn into battles that are not of our own making. Our world is not free of violence.

For some people, violence is an everyday reality. It was a shock to be reminded last week that 38 children died in homicides over the past four years - and police records show that 37 of the 38 were killed by someone in their immediate family circle.

Other reports suggest that tens of thousands of children each year either suffer or witness violence at home.

The numbers are sobering. But statistics focus attention on individual acts of violence, on cases, on the results of violence. Our natural reaction is to blame and punish the individual offender. In the long term, that is not a solution.

>From a tangata whenua viewpoint, I see family violence as a symptom of family breakdown and the loss or disturbance of tikanga.

If we look at individual cases outside the family context, we may never see the source of violence. We must address the situation of the whole family, find ways to restore a balance and heal the hurts, and empower the whole family to move forward.

For tangata whenua, we can bring perpetrators and victims of violence, and the wider whanau, to recognise each other as interconnected spiritual beings. Whakapapa establishes the bonds among whanau members, and creates mutual responsibilities and obligations.

Our tikanga, our rules for behaviour, allow violence only in its proper context, such as battle - not within the family. By understanding our mana, we can promote positive behaviour and eliminate the negative.

In responding to family violence, the government must be careful not to destroy the fabric of whanau relationships, by ad hoc interventions in the lives of individuals that do not take account of wider whanau viewpoints.

I believe the whanau must always be the primary guardians of our children. A family-centred approach to policy must empower the whanau to care for their own.

Whanau development is my priority in government. This is a process of restoration and healing, and building the capacity and capability of the whanau to address all the issues that confront them. I am totally committed to this.

Government agencies must co-ordinate and work together with hapu and iwi to support whanau and communities to pursue their own priorities.

Let us recognise the potential in all our whanau, and focus on solutions. This approach is challenging, but critically important. Lack of action now will cost our whanau and our children dearly in the future.

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