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Turia: Speech to family violence hui

Hon Tariana Turia - Speech to Te Korowai Aroha Hui a Tau: Launch of Project Mauriora Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party; 19 November 2004

I come here today with very mixed emotions.

It is with genuine pleasure that I greet some of my very special friends, leaders who have inspired me, motivated me, challenged me in so many areas of mahi.

It is also with a sense of relief that I realise we have got to this point today. I must admit to being anxious that my decision to cross the floor, might have had serious consequences for any initiatives with which I have been associated. I am delighted that it has not, and Te Puni Kokiri has been able to honour the ideas and dedicated commitment of so many of our people over the last five years in putting together this project.

I come too, with obvious mamae, that we have to even have a project which had its genesis in the devastation of violence.

But most of all, I come with immense pride. Pride in ourselves that we have accepted our responsibilities and obligations to transform our whanau to a state of wellness and wellbeing.

All of us have stories that tell us how whanau addressed these issues in the past.

Dr Rangimarie Rose Pere tells us, where assault on a woman was regarded as extremely serious, and could result in the perpetrator being declared ‘dead’ by the community and ignored from then on .

Violence and abuse against women and children were interpreted as violating the integrity of the whanau.

Stephanie Milroy described this as:

‘In pre-colonial Maori society, a man’s house was not his castle. The community intervened to prevent and punish violence against one’s partner in a very straightforward way ’.

Contrary to Alan Duff’s fantasy, Maori males were not born warriors. As Dr Ranginui Walker puts it:

‘They were trained to it, just as soldiers are trained. They were also gardeners, artists, lovers, hunters, fishermen and house builders. In other words, they were trained in the peaceful arts as well as the arts of war.

Dr Walker goes further to describe how conflict and violence was dealt to:

‘In the past, there were checks and balances against capricious and violent behaviour towards women.

If men beat their wives, they were answerable to their brothers-in-law, who could plunder a husband’s property as compensation. Women were also able to desert unkind husbands and take refuge with their own tribe.

I am interested, and absolutely fascinated, with the wisdom and the experience that our tupuna had in responding to, and resolving conflict.

People often criticize me for being ‘trapped in the past’. I believe we must look to the past to ensure we have learnt from our experiences, both good and bad. It has always seemed to me illogical that we can contemplate any initiative without first understanding the context from which it arose.

It is from examination of the successes and failures of our own experience that we can construct a new path forward.

The report describes the legacy of colonization and contemporary institutional racism as having contributed to whanau violence.

But the report also paints a picture of our heritage which is richly grounded in te Ao Maori, the cultural constructs of our history which can determine our future: whakapapa, tikanga, wairua, tapu, mauri and mana.

It is for that reason that I am so excited about Project Mauriora. This project believes that if we are to achieve transformation from a state of violent behavior to the state of peace-making, of checks and balances, we need to see and appreciate some real alternatives to violence.

Those alternatives are described as cultural imperatives that can maintain the balance between wairua, hinengaro, ngakau and tinana.

Imperatives which enable us to achieve transformative practice based on Maori cultural understandings.

There are of course many alternatives to violence that have been trialed and tested over the years.

But we need to state clearly and categorically that they have not worked for our people and we must find our own solutions for behaviour that has become endemic in our communities.

It is an indictment on our government, on our society, on our whanau, hapu and iwi that we have not been able to address the issues of violence and abuse. To know about whanau violence and to do nothing is not acceptable. But we must exercise real caution in laying blame on any one individual person or component of what is a far more complex systemic breakdown.

You will recall that in the immediate aftermath of the devastating numbers of child deaths over the last few years, considerable emphasis was placed on the immediate caregivers, birth parents, step-parents.

Blame was laid, judgment dished out. For me, one of the tragedies of such events has been the voices of the unseen whanau, the grandmothers, the aunties who had wanted to provide support, but their offers were overlooked by the state or individuals involved. In the various reports that have been released, various strategies have been suggested to improve state sector performance.

But there has been very little which reminds the people, that we need to tackle the root causes of such violence and power inequality, and to restore to ourselves the responsibilities and obligations we inherited from our tupuna. And it was in that context, that I called on specialist support from some of our leading thinkers and philosophers, strategists who could help us find a way through the complex mesh of dysfunctionality. This report is the cumulative achievement of two separate expert taskforces, of the skills and commitment of practitioners from Te Korowai Aroha, and the generosity of the whanau located around each individual.

I want to pay particular tribute to the whanau who have supported the writers, the consultants, the practitioners, the policy analysts, the experts responsible for Mauri Ora, and the conceptual framework. The first key issue in the report is in defining whanau. ‘Whanau is about birthright. It’s about whakapapa. There are rights and responsibilities and obligations that come with being part of whanau’. You have shown that, in supporting the process of getting these publications and projects into print.

So too, it is our whanau to which we turn, as the key strategy in arresting the epidemic. I listened the other day to a story about one of our whanau at home. There are eleven in the family. One, the father, has a history of violence. The other ten were abused and beaten, the mother bearing the brunt of the physical abuse, but the children wounded by savage scars that can not be seen. These ten individuals are also survivors, united in their love for each other, determined to prevent and prescribe a violence-free future for the future generations.

They watch out for each other, all acutely tuned to the warning signals which threaten whanau well-being. They actively challenge the illusion that the violence they have experienced was at all normal, or acceptable.

They have removed opportunities for whanau violence to occur, always monitoring levels of alcohol in the home, keeping a protective watch at the changing dynamic introduced by new partners and friends, and demonstrating in their everyday practice, the significance of tikanga, te reo and ahuatanga Maori as conduits for transformation from violence to well-being. It is stories like that which give me hope. Zero Tolerance means we must target everyone.

We must target the political, legislative and social decision making processes which have led to the erosion of the soul, the denigration of mana motuhake, the exclusion of tangata whenua from opportunities for liberation.

We must target those who have turned a blind eye, referred to in the report as a state of kahupo.

We must support each other, to be resolute in our determination to prevent the relentless path of self-destruction that affects whanau, hapu, and iwi in its wake.

And most of all, we must embrace our children, knowing that the opportunities for healing lie with ourselves – our methodology and processes. We owe it to them to carve out a better, brighter, safe future.

I was one of those children, who watched their mother being beaten, and vowed and declared that no-one should ever have to endure the oppressive suffering and grief that we lived through.

So when I married George and started our family, we really tried hard to live by what a study some sixty years ago called the ‘golden world of affection’.

As an aside, I was interested that this same study by Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole, about Maori child-rearing practices, disapproved of this golden world, as being too indulgent.

As a young parent through to being an extremely proud great-grandmother, I have promoted, relentlessly, the practice that children do not need to be smacked. Children need boundaries, discipline, and the right to unconditional love.

As we approach what has become the gift giving season, the greatest gifts we can give a child is to invest time in them, to play with them, to praise them, to give them confidence, to give them every opportunity to know the essence of who they are, and to give them a sense of pride. The list could go on.

From the moment of conception we must treasure te käkano i ruia mai i Rangiätea, ‘indulging’, if you like, ourselves and our children, in the values, the tikanga, that will set us in the right direction for our lives ahead.

I know that circumstances do not always make it easy. But we can and we must set the gold standard for us all to aspire to.

I am delighted now, that for my whanau if nothing else, we have a wonderful resource in the form of the report produced by the Taskforce, which can help us in our commitment to whanau wellness and well-being.

The opportunity that this nation has to benefit from Project Mauri Ora is an immensely significant one.

This project will have fundamental and radical outcomes for our communities. Liberation of our whanau – including those whanau members who some agencies would define as victims or perpetrators – will be achieved through building the capability of tangata whenua practitioners to work with their own communities.

Transformation is well and truly now within our grasp. It is a dream given shape by the talents and experiences of so many leaders gathered here today. Your passion and endless commitment has gifted us with a reality which challenges the normalisation of violence.

I want to finish with a call that was given out, in a report released some years ago, on Maori family violence in Aotearoa.

So the children will see it too, in terms of the process of the korero, the discussions. They must be included within that discussion so they hear it, they feel it, so that they are not excluded if we take it from the beginning , the tikanga and the kawa, in its true practices. it is an every day, 24 hour, the way you breathe in the way you breathe out, a 24 hour cycle.

You have heard that call, and you have crafted magic in bringing about a transformation from violence, informed by te ao Maori, te ao hurihuri and the concept of revolution, of restoration, of revitalisation.

It is now up to us all to follow suit, every day, the way we breathe in, the way we breathe out, a 24 hour cycle of transformation.


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