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Turia Speech: Whanau development and literacy

Whanau development and literacy

Tariana Turia Speech to regional whanau development hui, Far North Community Centre, Kaitaia, 9am


Our kaupapa today is whanau development – which is closely linked to mana, tikanga, our identity and status as tangata whenua, and our place in the world.

It also happens to be International Literacy Day. I want to talk briefly about literacy, and how it links to whanau development.

For most people, literacy is about reading and writing well enough to hold down a job. Others see literacy as a key to participating effectively in the wider family and community life of the ‘knowledge economy’. It goes without saying that we are talking about reading and writing English.

Today, I want to release a report that takes an even wider look at literacy. The Report, called ‘Te Kawai Ora: Reading the Word, Reading the World, Being the World’, is from the Maori Adult Literacy Working Group. I asked the Working Group, who are all experts in literacy and education, to give me advice on adult literacy issues.

They advised me that for tangata whenua, literacy means bi-literacy – being able to participate effectively in iwi and Pakeha worlds.

If tangata whenua cannot participate in our own world, then our reality, our tikanga, our values and culture, our reo – all these parts of our identity are condemned to die, and our tamariki and mokopuna are doomed to live forever in someone else’s reality.

If we cannot participate in the Pakeha world, we will not be able to enjoy full rights of citizenship.

So literacy is more than being able to recognise squiggles on a page as words that have meaning. To give meaning to our words – words like whanau, mana, tikanga, whakapapa, tupuna – you have to be able to ‘read’ our world, to know the geography of our landscapes, our history and relationships, the carvings and tukutuku in our meeting houses.

As the report says: ‘Literacy is, at its very heart, a pivotal component of nation building. Fully realised, it enables people to take part in the fullness of the society we live in.’

To me, this is the same as whanau development. Our goal today is to enable people to take part in the fullness of the society we live in, and this is part of building our nation.

Let me digress for a moment to the seabed and foreshore. I see this debate as a pivotal part of building our nation, too.

At the heart of the debate is the meaning of words like tangata whenua, tikanga, mana, tupuna, rangatiratanga, rights, title, ownership, regulation, government.

How can you ‘read’ those words, to give them meaning, unless you understand the reality and world views of tangata whenua and Pakeha? Through this debate, we learn about each other. The seabed and foreshore debate is promoting bi-literacy.

When we talk about mana whenua and customary title, ownership and rights, settlements and compensation, we are talking about people.

It is our whanau and hapu who must be prepared to assert and defend our rights, and to fulfil our duties and obligations, to each other and to other people.

Rangatiratanga begins at home. That is why we are here today.

Whanau need to be strong so we can achieve our full potential, and the potential of our tamariki and rangatahi.

We need to restore collective responsibilities and obligations. Too many whanau are being isolated, and left to sink or swim on their own.

Many whanau need to confront serious issues within the whanau, and heal and restore themselves, before they can fully take control of decisions affecting them.

We must not be judgemental of whanau who are not achieving their potential, instead we should focus on their strengths and look for ways that we can support and assist.

We must have attitude, the ‘can do attitude’ that will not accept negative behaviours and negative attitudes towards our people.

To me, your whanau is always your whanau, like it or not. They will always be your business. They will always create your economic opportunities, and build your social and cultural capital, through their investment decisions.

If your whanau is not working the way you’d like, you can’t simply walk away from it. The challenge is to find ways for the whanau to strengthen itself and empower all its members.

Identifying problems is easy – finding solutions is necessary.

Ideas on whanau development must grow from our own experience, practices and viewpoints, even if they are different from others.

By definition, whanau development is something that only whanau can do themselves. It requires our people to take the initiative. It’s up to you to identify your priorities and work out plans for achieving your goals – and then stick to them.

Whanau development is a huge challenge. Let me give an example.

When our iwi organisations first started dealing with government agencies, the structure of the government tended to dictate the structure of the runanga. The iwi social services arm got a funding contract with CYF, which specified how to deliver care and protection to our children. The Housing arm delivered housing services in accordance with their contract, the same for the hauora, and so on.

Pretty soon, our runanga were like mini-governments. Because of their contracts, they became accountable to the government and, like government agencies, the various service providers found it hard to work together in an integrated way. This was not the plan!

Thank goodness, our whanau and hapu reasserted their authority over their organisations, and held them accountable to the community. With a strong mandate from the community, iwi organisations were able demand funding contracts that reflected their needs and circumstances, building on their collective strengths, in accordance with their cultural values. Te Rarawa is a good example of this. They have negotiated a single contract across the whole of government – but they had to fight for it.

The government in turn has had to change ingrained behaviours and cultural patterns. Government agencies now must work together with each other, and with whanau, to support the whanau, not to direct them.

Public servants are having to learn and practice skills in inter-agency co-operation, recognising our people as members of whanau rather than as individual patients or clients, listening and responding rather than initiating and controlling.

So we have the Maori Health Strategy, ‘He Korowai Oranga’, which places whanau ora at the centre of public policy. We have also undertaken a ‘Review of the Centre’ to improve coordination and collaboration among government agencies, and their ability to contribute to whanau development. The Whanau Development Strategy we are working on today is another step forward.

One of the longest-running whanau development programmes we have is kohanga reo. I’m sure many of you here have been involved in kohanga in some way.

Incidentally, kaupapa Maori education, from kohanga through to Wananga, was identified in Te Kawai Ora as a key strategy for promoting bi-literacy as well.

Right here you also have the Kaitiaia Literacy Pathway, involving a number of schools, co-ordinating and collaborating to raise our children’s writing skills. I hear that is part of Te Putahitanga Matauranga, a strategy which involves communities, hapu and iwi organisations right across Northland.

I’m also aware of various hapu and leadership development initiatives associated with the Treaty claims settlement process, and pilot funding for community development through the Ministry of Social Development in the Hokianga.

I am keen to hear your views about some of these things today. This is a forum for whanau members and community leaders to exchange ideas, share information, discuss approaches that work, and learn from each other’s experience.

This hui is a chance for YOU to have YOUR say. This is your day.

Na reira, tena koutou.

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