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Turia: Effective Interventions with Young Maori

‘Effective Interventions with Young Maori – how to address the hurting hearts’ The Aotearoa Reality

Taumata Hauora Trust Community Development Unit Whanganui; 28 October 2004

Our mokopuna Piata has been declaring quite strongly that “I am going to Parliament”.

I was delighted that, at the young age of three, her sights were set to succeed, and perhaps her vision was to become the Prime Minister. I could live with this vision, and am in no doubts as to her potential for the role.

Mindful of the seminar today, and the different models and concepts that Professor Mason Durie will be sharing, I thought it best to support my mokopuna in a strategic planning exercise

So I started by asking her what she was going to do at Parliament.

She lay on the floor, kicked her legs and moved her arms, and made the motion of swimming.

The top job was of little interest to her – Piata was going to Parliament because she wanted to swim in the pool.

The ‘Early Years’ are the essential years to setting the foundation for achievements and living successful, dynamic lives.

This is the time when our thinking is shaped.

It is also a time when our dreaming is inspired, our eyes alight with the possibilities before us.

I believe that the biggest policy initiative we could introduce for our society, is two loving arms to wrap around our children.

We must protect and embrace our children if we are to nurture their potential.

For those who have not had the nurturing early years, it is sometimes difficult to find a way out against overwhelming odds.

Without support, self-value is hard to bring into the conscious to function well on a daily level.

In other words, just telling someone to ‘get a life’ is pointless, if the life they see around them doesn’t serve to motivate them.

People lose confidence in themselves, and for so many of our young men and women, they have lost confidence in our identity – our culture – our world - that of being tangata whenua.

The other day I spent some time with a young man who has been imprisoned for ten years and is due soon to be released.

This boy is very dark, almost black. He has always hated being Maori because people called him names.

In fact he told me he would never marry a Maori woman because his kids would be black like him, and they too would suffer the racist names he was called.

The world has not been easy for him – and he would be the first to admit he has not been easy on the world either.

And yet, he is getting another chance through the experiences he has gained inside, being supported by whanau, and also through the practices promoted in Maori Focus Units.

Through this support he is reclaiming his identity through the essential principles of whanaungatanga, wairuatanga, manaakitanga.

Understanding what it means to walk the talk, to aspire towards rangatiratanga, holding true to the rights and responsibilities of tangata whenua.

But it is not only those who offend or are on the margins of society that need those loving arms wrapped around them.

Society must also change its attitudes of hurtful behaviour toward tangata whenua and the way they refer to us.

I once visited a school that one of my mokopuna attended. There was bullying at that school and I asked if I could address the class.

I asked the class what it was that caused them to be upset.

One little pakeha girl stood up and said she did not like people calling her a “white maggot”. I asked her why. She replied “because it hurts my heart”.

Our young vulnerable tamariki and rangatahi also have hearts that hurt when they see and hear the concept of ‘Maori’ always reported as a negative.

On this day, Declaration Day, we need to declare to ourselves that we believe in self-determination for tangata whenua, in recognising and acknowledging the authority of whanau, hapu, and iwi in our respective rohe, in promoting and vaildating the role of Maori as tangata whenua.

Being Black and Proud – or equally Blond and Proud – as the changing appearances of some of our mokopuna demonstrate.

And we need to declare to ourselves, that our future is your future - the visions and aspirations of rangatahi are central to where we will be ten years from here, twenty, and more.

Political representation is imperative for your views and aspirations to be the ones that are negotiated across the table.

I was so very proud of our mokopuna, Matariki, who spoke at the inaugural hui of the Maori Party, and blew the socks off some of the other speakers.

Matariki, at the tender age of eleven, spoke with passion about the need for decolonisation, about this being the time to stand up and be counted, to make our voices heard, for ours and future generations.

If I hadn’t just been elected, I would have been very worried about my seat!

And that’s how it should be too….I hope all of you here are at least considering whether representation of the peoples of Te Tai Hauauru is part of your horizons.

Pahia used to remind me that I was the one who used to tell my family ‘don’t vote – it only encourages them’.

Now that I am in my ninth year in Parliament and with a party that bears the name of Maori, I truly believe that change, the only constant, is what our people and so many others wanted.

And if we stay true to our tupuna values, that change will come about from the strength of our collective vision.

The Maori Party may be a new party, but our blueprint is based on the legacy of our tupuna and their values and aspirations and how they viewed the world.

Our tupuna were strong, intelligent and innovative people and as orators, they were exceptional and ardent performers. They had a quick wit and knew how to laugh. They worked hard on the land growing crops and of course their tools were not the ride-on variety.

They were traders, both in Aotearoa and overseas.

This is the essence of who we are.

If we can take back our power, in doing so, we will begin to heal.

In September the Whaiora Mental Health unit took some of its tangata whaiora on waka down the Whanganui River.

A film was made about the journey and two of our people spoke about their mental illnesses and their realisations which came from the experience.

The analogy of the experience was that their mental illness was as turbulent as the waka that tipped up in the rapids, and as peaceful as gliding along in the ebbs and flows of the awa.

The Awa journey helped them to reconnect to their identity, their Whanganuiatanga, and in doing so, reconnect to who they really are. They realised they were living in a drug induced reality which was far removed from the essence of their true selves.

There will be many challenges that try to test us from our own strength.

The alarming rise of methamphetamine drugs is just another rapid awaiting to trip up those most vulnerable, as is alcohol, marijuana and tobacco.

Denatured processed foods, far removed from the traditional kai of our tupuna, also challenge the health of the most vulnerable, and indeed the health of the nation.

We must be vigilant against those things that will damage our minds, health, our wairua, and ultimately the full expression of our being.

I received an email earlier this week from a 63 year old man who reminded me that last week was Mental Health awareness week, and he had publicly shared some very personal things in his life for the first time.

He spoke of the mamae that had affected his life, from when, at the young age of sixteen he accidentally shot his eleven year old brother in the head at close range. In one quick moment he lost his teina, his baby brother, - and his world never looked the same again.

When he turned 45 he had a nervous breakdown because he had not dealt with the guilt of that tragedy.

He suggested that everyone could write their life story so far, because it is good mental therapy. Your life is about your feelings and your emotions.

He went on to say you can only ever do two things with your emotions – let them go or hang onto them.

If you hang onto them they will eventually show as mamae. And if you let them go, through writing, tipping out of a waka, reconnecting through learning about who you are, talking about your issues, then you have a better chance of clear untroubled mental health.

Our wairua, tinana and hinengaro health is essential to our growth.

We need the balance of all three for us to function well.

When we look at the saying – “Forward to the roots, back to the Future”, as Rangatahi Maori and your unique place in our land, you are well-placed to define and shape your future.

I believe we can only improve on the stories I’ve shared with you today.

The names we’ve been called, the opportunities that have been held back from us, the hurt in our hearts, provide us with the incentive to be part of a change for the better.

In our Declaration of Independence Day, we seek a new path forward, founded on our kaupapa tuku iho, the kaupapa handed down by our ancestors.

A path which you will help to steer our direction onwards, to achieve self-determination within our own land.

A path where the commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of our nation, guides us towards the achievement of unity.

So that next time someone says to you, ‘Get a life’ you can answer back, ‘Sweet as!” and mean it!


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