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Leadership: Crux or Crisis?

Tariana Turia

Tuatahi me mihi atu ki te mana whenua o Ngati Manawa. Tena koutou. Tena koutou o Mataatua waka. Tena hoki koutou o nga mata waka kua whakarauika nei i raro i te karanga o te ra

Tena koutou i runga i te rangimarie. Tena koutou i runga i nga maharatanga mo ratou kua wheturangitia. No reira, tena tatou katoa

When Pem wrote to me in March of this year, and asked me to speak at this conference I responded immediately. The kaupapa for this conference, of ‘Leadership: the crux of the matter’ was playing heavy on my mind at that time.

My days were spent trying to negotiate positions with the political leadership which would result in the best outcomes for our people.

At nights, my attempts at sleep were constantly challenged by my old people as they challenged me to look to their guidance, to do what was right.

As I lay awake in the early hours, I would sift through the messages, uncovering the meaning that lay beyond the dreams.

I was reminded of the sense of unity we have as tangata whenua with our environment. Our identity is but an extension of the environment within which we live, Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.

I pondered about kaitiakitanga, about mahinga kai, wahi tapu, mauri.

I heard the call to protect our natural world, our customs, our values for our future generations.

That same call echoed through every hui I attended as part of the foreshore and seabed consultation. As I travelled my electorate, the constituents of Te Tai Hauauru shared their profound grief and anger at the fact that the Government was not responding to that direction.

And now, as we wade through the 4000 submissions that the select committee has received, it is blatantly clear that the leadership of my tupuna was always at the crux of the matter.

Our tupuna remind us that we should never let government legislate over our tikanga. We must stand strong to our whakapapa, our tikanga, the essence of who we are, something we should never give lightly to anyone else.

The crisis comes when we look for leadership from every other source than ourselves.

And so, in coming here today, I am excited by the leadership you have discovered for yourselves in the ‘Hapai Whanau’ series of hui.

Leadership, and in particular, whanau leadership is indeed at the crux of the matter.

Our whanau are our world, and it is from the leadership of this world that we find the inspiration and motivation for success.

We need to look to ourselves, to understand our dreams, to respond to the call of our tupuna, if we are to demonstrate true leadership.

And it is the everyday inspiration and challenge of our whanau that reminds us of our own rangatiratanga, our capacity to lead, and to walk the talk.

I want to share three different examples of leadership that whanau provide, everyday, in the land of Te Urewera.

Across the globe, Te Urewera has featured in the music of Whirimako Black, uri of Ngai Tuhoe, Te Whakatohea, Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Ranginui, Kahungunu, Ngati Awa and Te Arawa.

Her album, ‘Hohou Te Rongo: Cultivate Peace', which Whirimako recorded and released herself in 2003, has sold well over 5000 units. Whirimako says the inspiration for this album came from her daughter, Mihi Ki Te Kapua.

“My whanau are my puna - my source,” she explains. “Each whanau member has a quality and values that fits in with me”.

Her success is intimately connected with her whakapapa, and her whanau.

“I aspire to see the fruition of my waiata being accessed on the international market, bringing a heightened awareness to the status of Maori, and the Maori language worldwide, to fulfill the dreams of my ancestors ."

Another form of leadership, right here in Murupara, was that of the action you took as whanau, against ‘P’. As I understand it, since your campaign started, ‘P’ related crime, the existence of methamphetamine labs have dramatically reduced, and more than 25 people have approached counselling and health services for help.

As the NZ Herald reported, Bill Bird, chairman of Te Runanga O Ngati Manawa asked the question:

‘Are we concerned about our future? Our children? Of course we are. We've got to get real. The problem is real so the solution must be real’

You achieved your success by taking community action yourselves, by heeding the calls from your own people, and then getting out there and making it happen. And you did that from your own resources, free from the conditions and restrictions of government funding.

And then we come to Te Urewera Schools, and it is evident that leadership abounds. I must admit that the inspiration and example provided by the people of Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi and your model, Tipu Ake ki te Ora - growing from within, ever upwards towards wellness, is legendary.

In effecting transformation from school closure to revitalisation of the community you have called on your own internal strength and traditional wisdom to grow your school, and your whanau, hapu, iwi.

This collective, inclusive wisdom has also been demonstrated in the Te Urewera ICT cluster: I really loved the idea behind your website, the collaborative web management and sharing of events, images, stories, links and art.

It is obvious that leadership is not only at the crux of Te Urewera, but is also an incredible model both in Aotearoa and our global community as well.

And it seems to me, what you are doing here in your kura, should become a compulsory sabbatical for our MPs in the House of Representatives. It is from models such as Tipu Ake that those who like to say ‘Maori leadership is in crisis’ could well learn from.

I don’t know what it is about going to Wellington but our Maori members of Parliament seem to think it is up to them to then turn and criticise Maori leadership for not ‘closing the gaps’, ‘reducing inequalities’ whatever is the catchphrase of the time.

Back in 18 June 1995, I read a press release from Maori MP and Speaker of the House at that time, Peter Tapsell, who stated that

“poor Maori health, education and high unemployment can be blamed on the lack of bold and vigorous Maori leadership, combined with a heavy Maori reliance on welfare”.

Eight years later, in July 2003, John Tamihere challenged elders at the ‘Young Maori Leaders Conference’ in Wellington, to step aside, going so far as to name names, and complaining about ‘cheque book Maori’. One of his many comments was, as he said,

“I understand that our leadership back home are getting all the resources in our name ”.

In other words, according to Mr Tamihere, leadership is confined to a few, an elite of which he does not belong.

I’m all for constructive debate, and challenge.

What I am firmly opposed to is making a point just for political mileage, and not actually seeking to walk the talk, to weave the people together, to demonstrate rangatiratanga in all we say and do. If we are to really nurture ‘bold and vigorous Maori leadership’ we must trust in ourselves, and to express the rights defined by Mana Atua, Mana Tupuna and Mana Whenua.

Veteran tangata whenua leader, Syd Jackson put it well in his show, ‘Liberation talkback’ when he said:

“You don’t need to have old people step aside if you are effective. You have to be prepared to put yourself on the line, to take to the streets, to act, to highlight and articulate your grievances. Simply get on and do the mahi ”.

In challenging the invasion of P you have done that.

In our hikoi to Paremata, 45,000 got out and put themselves on the line.

In standing up for Te Urewera Schools, you have acted, and got on and done the mahi.

And it didn’t take a single solitary leader to do that.

Which is why I have vehemently rejected any talk that the Maori Party is ‘Tariana’s tribe’ as some media commentators have put it. There are only two people that could be members of the ‘Tariana Turia Party’ – me and my six year old moko. The Maori Party is far bigger than me – it is a movement, it is about all of us – and we are definitely on the move.

I guess if there’s one thing that I agree with Mr Tapsell and Mr Tamihere about, it is the desperate need to sever the ties of dependency that have built up over years of being reliant on the state drip-fed welfare system.

We must stop thinking that the State, the Western system, holds the answers; or similarly depend on an individual leader to drive the revolution.

Our greatest revolution is in our collective action.

I get tired of hearing that government funding is the solution, of seeing our innovation and initiative stymied by contractual requirements.

I am intolerant of the push to pay out hefty consultancy fees to find the answers we always knew.

When I was preparing for coming here today, I read a paper by Helmet Karewa Modlik where he described traditional Maori leadership as being

“based on two dynamically interacting influences: genealogy (which provides the opportunity) and capacity.

Being a successful leader enhances the mana or ascribed authority of the leader, which in turn builds capacity to act and influence.

This ‘virtuous cycle’ of increasing mana/ capacity/ capability continues unless the leader behaves in a way that diminishes his mana (and therefore leadership capacity) ’.

I was very interested in these two influences, and thought about how it works in relation to strengthening the role of our whanau in education.

Our whakapapa defines who we are. Our collective record is the bridge which links us to our tupuna, which defines our heritage, which instructs us from whom we descend and what our obligations are to those who come after us.

In our traditional whare wananga, our babies, our tamariki, were subjected to the most sophisticated object of study. Our elders would sit and study closely the behaviours of the child, and see what particular styles and qualities, what gifts were inherent in that child.

They looked at the flame that blazed in that child, the atua that was manifesting itself inside of that child. Their knowledge of whakapapa became a tool of analysis from which to discuss and debate the atua, the tupuna that would draw a child to a particular direction.

Whakapapa became the research background, the puna, a source of knowledge and inspiration, to understand the leadership potential of each and every child.

Whakapapa is what distinguishes us from other populations. Our origins directly influence our learning and our knowledge. Mana tupuna traces who we are, and then connects us to an intimate continuum of relationships across generations.

Once having identified the potential in each and every child, it is incumbent on us to nurture the unique gifts to their natural pathway.

We must provide the opportunity for children to be dedicated to their particular gifts, and then actively nurture and promote their capacity to succeed. The learning is multi-dimensional – as Whirimako attests to – the quality and values of each of her whanau also contribute to her strengths.

So when I think leadership, I can not distinguish it from whanau.

Whanaungatanga is the key to developing leadership from within.

I know that part of the thinking behind the ‘Hapai Whanau’ conference is to strengthen links and participation by whanau in education.

As holders of the whakapapa, as whanau, we must take that responsibility to take the action, to nurture and drive the leadership potential within our whanau. We must, if you like, keep the ‘virtuous cycle’ alive.

So many schools have developed ‘consultation with Maori’ plans, plans by which they launch their programmes into the laps of whanau and hope for their endorsement.

I believe, as whanau, we need to take control of our destiny, and reverse that thinking, so that our kura experience our strategies, our aspirations for our whanau and it is then the role of our kura, to actively plan to support the whanau.

Perhaps it’ time for our whanau to launch ‘consultation with kura’ plans, and ask each kura, each kaiako, how they intend to support the strategic objectives of that whanau.

Only whanau can truly identify the passion that burns within their offspring, and the plans they have to nurture that potential.

Life has changed from the days when children entering school were seen as ‘tabula rasa’ – blank tablets to be filled with the knowledge handed down to them by the teaching fraternity.

As tangata whenua we never believed this theory. Our evidence was that learning began in the womb through the influence imparted by our waiata oriori. Immediately following birth tohunga began preparing children for their future roles, reciting karakia that ensured the well-being of the whanau and hapu.

Roles and status, expectations and responsibilities, were taken seriously and supported through the children’s learning of kawa and tikanga.

So when did we give away this vital role, and abdicate our responsibilities to the teaching profession?

We are all the teachers of our future generations.

I asked a kura principal the other day, how many parents came to her and guided her on the special skills and qualities of their children. The answer was depressing.

We must break away from that collective inertia, and take back the responsibility that has always been ours.

We know what ‘switches on the light’ for our child – and we need to support our kaiako in the kura to keep that light glowing.

Whether it’s mahi-a-ringa, brain gym, manaakitanga, or reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, every child has a leadership potential that we must study, identify and then ensure that there are opportunities in that child’s life to bring these gifts to the fore.

We can not depend on one teacher, one kura – no matter how glowing the ERO report is – to make sure that pathway is in front of that child.

We must all believe we can do it, take responsibility to inspire in each other, bold and vigorous leadership, and then simply get on and do the mahi.

Kia kaha koutou ki te whai o koutou moemoea, mau ki to tino rangatiratanga! Kia kaha koutou ki te tu, kia kaha, kia kaha!

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