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Strong whanau key to tangata whenua development

10 December 2003 Media Statement

Strong whanau key to tangata whenua development

Tangata whenua everywhere will welcome research findings that strengthening the whanau and harnessing its potential for social and economic development should be a major focus of social policy, according to Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia.

The 5-volume report 'Well-being and Disparity in Tamaki Makaurau', by the James Henare Maori Research Centre at Auckland University for Te Puni Kokiri, found that whanau remains the predominant kin group among urban Maori. It suggests that the way to assist urban whanau is to facilitate the development of whanau capacity to undertake themselves what they can best achieve.

It says effective work to enhance sustainable well-being must involve in-depth consultation with those whom the policies are designed to benefit, at all levels of policy and implementation.

"These research findings confirm the powerful messages that tangata whenua have expressed at a series of regional hui over the past six months, to discuss whanau development," said Mrs Turia.

"The people are quite clear that whanau is critical to their ability to take control of their situation, to address the issues that hold them back, and release their full potential. This research endorses their view," she said.

"Whanau are equally emphatic that, in the past, government agencies and policy-makers have not been listening to them, and not responding to the ideas of the whanau itself on how government can best support them.

"A national Whanau Development hui in March, and a dozen regional meetings since then, gave the people who are most affected a chance to put forward their own ideas. We heard some really exciting korero about what they are doing already to strengthen themselves.

"We heard of a case where an abusive husband and father was taken to the hapu, and the elders of the marae stripped the man of his rights to speak on the paepae or represent the hapu while they supported him to address his violence.

"We heard of another family in which abuse had blighted the lives of three adult sisters. They got together to stop being victims and start being victors. They came up with a plan to support each other in pursuit of higher education. All three women are now qualified educators themselves, and their whanau is intact.

"Another whanau, of seven households, decided to home school all their children, because they thought the local schools were not supporting their identity as tangata whenua. They saw this as a long-term investment in their children. In the process, the grandparents helped with child care and language teaching, and the whole whanau became much stronger.

"Every hui came up with examples like these. The hui also considered reports from national advisory groups on tikanga-based approaches to resolving family violence and improving adult literacy.

"The people also described their difficulties dealing with officialdom. They wanted better support for whanau initiatives in a spirit of partnership – not government telling whanau what is best for them.

"They challenged the government to integrate and co-ordinate services to whanau across the whole of government, because they were frustrated that ad-hoc official interventions in the lives of individuals tended to destroy the fabric of whanau relationships.

"The government is currently working on a whanau development strategy to address the concerns raised by whanau. The discussions from the hui are being analysed by Te Puni Kokiri, and the policy is being developed in consultation with the people.

"My expressed view is that we must focus on solutions, not problems, and the government accepts that solutions are most effective when they come from the communities and the people themselves.

"In the meantime, our people are continuing to call their own meetings to discuss whanau development, to maintain the momentum, and retain the initiative among the whanau.

"This report should encourage the government, political leaders and the public to support the approach mapped out by whanau. We face huge challenges, but I am totally confident that, together, we will succeed in the end.


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