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Tariana Turia Speech to Child Health Summit

Hon Tariana Turia
2 April 2004 Speech Notes
Tamariki ora, whanau ora

Speech to Child Health Summit, Pataka, Porirua, 2.30pm

E nga mana, e nga iwi, Ngati Toa Rangatira, tena koutou katoa.

E nga kaimahi hauora, me nga ropu tautoko, tena hoki koutou.

Children are the future of any community, and their wellness, their ability to achieve all of their huge potential, is a matter of the utmost importance.

I want to congratulate Capital and Coast DHB on calling this hui, and to thank everyone for coming here. You have recognised that child health is an issue that deserves a summit conference.

I know the truth of this, from being Associate Health Minister, and also from raising my mokopuna. When my moko gets sick, it can distract me from affairs of state. Her need is urgent and immediate, and I have to respond. Never mind the seabed and foreshore – for a while!

Thankfully, she’s not often sick. But she is quite a handful. She is a very active child, a real explorer. I have heard rumours that people think she’s rather mischievous – but no-one has dared to tell me that directly.

When she is seeking attention - especially in rather unhelpful ways – it is really worth spending some time playing with her. I find that if I engage with her, she fully engages me.

She loves ball games, or batting a balloon into the air. She gets really excited, and her laughter and joy and sense of fun are infectious. After just a few minutes, we are all in a much better mood.

When people talk to me about key issues in child health, that is, me as Associate Minister, I think we are often so ill-health focussed that we forget what makes kids well and happy.

They are simple things. It doesn’t matter how poor you are, the most important thing is to spend time with children and play with them.

Notice how we say you ‘spend’ time with them, as though there is a cost? But time devoted to children is not a cost – it is an investment. Happy kids grow into stable, well-adjusted, caring adults, who give to their community, and raise loving, happy children of their own.

This is utterly basic common sense. In fact, the key issue in child health is why we have not done enough, long before now, to give wellness and happiness higher priority, to prevent the so-called key issues we’re always hearing about, like obesity and lack of exercise, preventable illnesses that put our kids in hospital, and mental illness among young people.

We are getting onto it now. I say we, meaning whanau themselves, and the community providers here, working together with the government and agencies like the DHBs.

One of the critical steps forward in recent years has been that Maori and Pacific health providers, and Healthcare Aotearoa affiliates in particular, have taken a more holistic view of what constitutes good health, and designed pioneering services to promote wellness in a broad sense.

The new approach recognises that all parents want the best for their children, and the more control that parents have over their lives and destiny, the better they can care for their children.

Health service providers have learned to listen to what whanau want, and respond to the whanau’s priorities, rather than initiating and controlling health care. Whanau are being empowered to look after each other, rather than depending on professionals to step in when things go wrong.

This approach is effective on the ground. Those early providers were able to demonstrate that, and they also convinced the government and its agencies that they should support it. And we have.

The government has adopted He Korowai Oranga as its Maori health policy, and the Ministry of Health is working with DHBs, Maori providers and PHOs, for example, to put the policy approach into action. This hui today is one clear sign of better collaboration.

A holistic, wellness-based approach to whanau ora is captured in He Korowai Oranga. Whanau ora is also consistent with the government’s determination to shift resources from expensive tertiary and secondary health care, into primary health.

Like spending time to keep children happy, putting resources into primary care is an investment in good health that repays itself for a lifetime. It is not easy to demonstrate the causal connection, because the benefits lie in the future.

Nevertheless, we got some very good news the other day from the Department of Statistics. Over the past five years, the average lifespan for tangata whenua increased by around two years.

Significantly, the increase was greater for tangata whenua than for the general population. The most logical explanation is that the increase in life expectancy comes from the changes we have made to health delivery to our people.

Experts had not expected to see such major improvements in so short a time. I have no doubt the changes are a result of personal commitment and the contribution of you all – not from any race-based privilege.

In fact, I would like all of you to stand, right now, and take a bow!

Of course, whanau ora cannot be achieved through health services alone. There are many factors that influence health – housing, employment and education spring to mind.

Getting health and related services to ‘wrap around’ a whanau requires all the agencies to co-ordinate their services. We know just how hard that is to achieve. The fact that you are all here today shows that you are getting on top of it – and becoming proactive. Take another bow!

Another big change has been for the health system to recognise that good health extends beyond the individual to the whanau.

Whanau ora are not just groups of healthy individuals – they also have healthy attitudes and healthy relationships. They look after each other, take responsibility for each other, and consider the interests of the whole whanau, not just their own. They also take responsibility for their future.

The attitudes and relationships of whanau ora ripple out into the community. Whanau ora are the building blocks of vital, self-sustaining communities, and a prosperous nation.

That small increase in our people’s average lifespan indicates that our whanau and communities are functioning better.

I think we see it every day, but sometimes we do not notice gradual changes. They become clearer when we look back.

Over the past twenty years, kohanga reo have been a cornerstone of our development. The revitalisation of our reo, especially among young people, has given our whanau a real morale boost. Parents and grandparents got actively involved in their kids education, something they found hard to do in mainstream pre-schools.

Kohanga led to Kura Kaupapa Maori, Wharekura and Whare Wananga. There has been a resurgence of interest in tikanga, and in many subtle ways, we have redefined what it is to be tangata whenua. We have thrown off a colonial cringe, and reclaimed the best of what our tupuna can offer us.

The advent of the Maori Television Service is a huge opportunity to be positive, to educate and inform, to reinforce a sense of community and identity around our culture, to demonstrate our creative talents – let alone revitalise our reo.

We have reclaimed mau rakau as well as haka and poi, and huge numbers of our people spend long hours practicing their skills – all good exercise.

The waka tradition is back with a vengeance. Every harbour in the country by now must have waka ama crews training for the national and even international competitions right across the Pacific.

Even traditional team sports have had a boost from the resurgence of pride and competition between marae, hapu and whanau. Pa wars and iwi tournaments are part of our modern tribal society.

All these very positive changes over recent years have had quite an impact on our health, as individuals, as whanau, and as tangata whenua. That is what we can see in the statistics.

A really important part of child health is activities that give kids a desire to participate. It is good for their physical, social and cultural health. It doesn’t matter so much what it is, as long as they do it.

On the first day of Maori television, they broadcast a documentary on a skateboarding wananga that was organised by Te Raukura Hauora o Tainui. Participants spent four days on a marae in Raglan. Those kids got a real buzz from meeting role models, including local surfing champions, and honing their skills. It was great.

Hip hop is huge among that generation. It is a multi-million-dollar global industry, and our people are world-renowned exponents. It is a significant activity that draws young people together, and it has been, I believe, unfairly maligned.

Last month, 170,000 New Zealanders were drawn to the Pasifika festival in Auckland, featuring Pacific and tangata whenua hip-hop rappers such as Mareko, Feat, Deceptikonz, Dawn Raids, Scribe.

It seems to me eminently sensible, that we seek to understand a movement which makes connections and engages with such a significant group in our population. I would say that there are huge opportunities in hip hop, and many side benefits, that you can see when you look at the situation from a whanau ora perspective.

Yet there was controversy around funding for a study tour tracing the origins of hip hop from New York to Otara.

If the media and political reaction to this decision is any indication of public attitudes and relationships towards people who are involved in hip hop, then our community health is in a sorry state.

I know our people have been severely affected by the current up-welling of racism and contempt towards tangata whenua, and everything we do. This sort of division and hostility will filter through and eventually affect our health.

We have a lot of healing to do. Now is a good time for us to focus on our achievements, accentuate the positive, and remind ourselves of how much we have been able to do with so little.

At the launch of Maori TV last week, I couldn’t help noticing the shining faces and sparkling eyes of the young people involved. They were so excited about their new jobs, in exciting careers, proud to be leading the way into the future.

You know, it might have been only twenty years ago that their mothers and fathers were struggling out of bed in the middle of the night to nurse them when they were sick, or heading off at night to a meeting of the kohanga whanau, or taking the kids to sports practice.

Others were clearing a pathway by battling through the courts for our reo, or learning the business skills they can now use to manage a complex business operation.

Last week, all those efforts by so many people – all that time playing ball or batting a balloon - came together. Last week, our people’s well-being got another huge boost.

The reality is, our progress has become unstoppable. We know where we are going, and how we are going to get there. The pathways we are mapping out will be hugely beneficial to the rest of the country.

No reira, kia kaha tatou katoa!


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