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History Beckons Onwards: Learning for Liberation

Hon. Tariana Turia
26 April 2004 Speech Notes

Our History Beckons us Onwards:

Learning for Liberation

Speech to open Tokoroa campus, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, 73 Ashworth Street, Tokoroa, 10am

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

E nga iwi e huihui nei ki te whakanui i te kaupapa o te ra, tena koutou katoa.

E nga rangatira o Te Wananga o Aotearoa, e nga tauira, e nga whanau, tena hoki koutou.

What a wonderful day!

This morning we witnessed the full glory of our tikanga, expressed in karakia, haka and waiata, as we celebrate the opening of this new site and ensure the safety and security of the staff and students who will occupy this new campus.

For me, today is a celebration of two things – our tikanga, and the immense value of our own matauranga, to nurture the spirit and liberate the minds of those who come here.

Our tikanga creates the cultural environment that promotes the growth and development of our people, our creativity, our curiosity, our knowledge and understanding of the world around us.

One of the tragedies of this country's education system in the past, a system that was founded on the tikanga of a different culture, is that so many of our people never progressed to tertiary education – even though they had the brains, and the ability to succeed.

The late Dr Irihapeti Ramsden used to say about our people – 'Once were Scientists. Once were Philosophers. Once were Scholars’.

We have always had the brains and the ability. We have always been successful - however, with a few notable exceptions, the potential of our people was never fully realised in that learning environment.

But haven't things changed!

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to graduates of the School of Social Sciences and Small Business at your Porirua campus. More than 150 students graduated that evening, from all cultures. And not only did those students achieve academic success, they now enjoy the liberation of mind that includes understanding and knowledge of our tikanga, a knowledge that has been able to take expression since the development of kura kaupapa Maori, wharekura, and wananga.

When I think ‘liberation’ I always return to the words of Reggae King, Bob Marley, "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!" Marley was a Musical Messager, a freedom fighter who has inspired millions to continue the journey towards liberation from racism, apartheid and colonialism.

In much the same way, wananga have become associated with our own messages, our call for a new leadership. Leadership becomes synonymous not with one person, but as Te Ahukaramü Charles Royal puts it,

leadership is the ‘call that resides within us, that comes from the depths of the spirit world. It tells us that we can take control, that we can become our own leaders. Learning the history of our ancestors teaches us much about ourselves. The leadership spoken of calls us to knowledge of our language, our customs, our habits and philosophies. Our history beckons us onwards’ .

I celebrate with you all today, that institutions such as this one bring the education and liberation of our people back under our own control.

It is particularly exciting to see mature students seizing the opportunity to become scholars and academics and to stand as role models for our tamariki and rangatahi.

Actually, I'm sure this diversity of age within the classroom provides an effective learning environment, where people look at things from different angles, and gain a broader understanding of the topic.

The tuakana/teina model, which brings with it both responsibility and ownership of whanau knowledge, is a model which is nurtured and promoted at wananga such as this. It combines the wisdom and strategic analysis gained through experience, with the enthusiasm and energy of the teina – to create a powerful driver for social change.

Educational success is so much more than a personal achievement. Educational institutions instil cultural values in everything we do. Kaupapa Maori education has enabled us to redefine success in our own cultural terms.

The liberation of our minds, to explore our own world, to imagine our own future and to have the confidence and the skills to create it, is how we achieve rangatiratanga. Areta Koopu, former President of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, defined her view of Maori sovereignty as being precisely this:

“I think it is being able to be part of life, and to live life, and to have aspirations and goals and meet them. And no matter what you do, never forget that you are Maori”.

Graduates from kaupapa Maori schools and wananga are not just good at their subjects – they are empowered to live fulfilling lives as tangata whenua. They are the inheritors of the traditions of our tupuna, and role models for future generations. They are proud of who they are.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa is one of the institutions that has led the education revolution at tertiary level. It enables us to live our lives, as tangata whenua, and to achieve all our aspirations, of letting our past inform our futures.

The growth of tertiary enrolments among our people has been outstripping the rate for the general population several times over. Te Wananga o Aotearoa has been, I think, the fastest-growing wananga in terms of raw numbers of students.

That is good for the wananga. But what is even better for our people, is the fact that every enrolment is someone who has discovered a new opportunity.

It has been really noticeable to me, as I travel around Te Tai Hauauru, that even in the remotest towns, where economic conditions are harsh, and social support systems may be lacking – people are grabbing the chance to do marae-based tertiary studies or extra-mural courses.

One small indicator is my own diary – two weeks ago your graduation in Porirua, today opening this campus in Tokoroa, next weekend a graduation at Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi in Whakatane. The growth is phenomenal.

The lives of many people have been transformed as a result – and not only the students' themselves. New horizons have opened before their whanau, and the communities they live in have been enriched.

I think this is a critical task of education institutions – liberation and development.

I also believe that the performance of the institution in meeting the development needs of its community is critical.

Research, or discovery of knowledge, is part of that. We know that research can cause problems if the information is misused or abused. Stories may be uncovered which have not been shared before with whanau, hapu and iwi.

We need to always proceed with caution and in consultation with our people, to help us to understand the impact of the ideas.

But what are the values implicit in the design of the institution, and the educational philosophy? And how do you evaluate these?

Evaluation of education institutions is linked to accountability. The question is – who decides what is important?

The huge change that has come about through kaupapa Maori education is because our institutions are accountable to our people.

I also look forward to the day when the institutions that evaluate tertiary education are equally accountable to our people – are we are in a position to help allocate government funding to the universities and wananga that best promote our liberation and development!

In the meantime, I am very pleased to celebrate this milestone in the growth of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and to be with you all today. Let us all listen to the call that resides within us, to take control of our destinies, and let our history beckon us onwards.

Kia ora tatou katoa.


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