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Turia Speech: Maori Community Health Workers Hui


Opening Address to the national Maori Community Health Workers Hui, te Poho-o-Rawiri marae, Gisborne. 12 April 2005

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Rau Rangatira ma, tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra.

Tena koutou nga mana whenua o tenei rohe, nga poutokomanawa o tenei hui whakahirahira, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri me Te Aitanga a Mahaki.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutoa katoa.

I was intrigued by the reference to the tangi o te pipiwharauroa in the materials promoting your conference. For a bird not much larger than a sparrow, their migration path over some 3000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean to the Solomon Islands fascinates me. I wonder what resources it takes to sustain them as they make their way south to Aotearoa. And I marvel at the call on their return, which heralds the advent of Spring.

For the people of Turanga, the call is also associated with the monthly panui of the people, Te Pipiwharauroa. The initiative of Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa to produce your own newspaper is a wonderful way of describing the world, the way you see it. It is indeed a call for a brighter future.

It is also a call firmly anchored in the excellence of our past. Indeed in the late 1890s in Aotearoa, the call of the shining cuckoo was the stimulus for a group of young Maori men to produce another paper of the same name. Particular attention was given in Te Pipiwharauroa to matters of health; medical articles were translated into te reo, health department notices promoted.

The newspaper served as a vehicle for people such as Sir Maui Pomare, Dr Tutere Wi Repa, Sir Apirana Ngata, to provide a source of inspiration and aspiration from which we are still realising hope.

And so in coming here today, to this national hui of Maori community health workers, I can’t help but turn to the source of inspiration provided by this small, unassuming manu.

The heralding of a new dawn, the celebration of the warm season of growth, seems to me a profound calling for the opening of the National Maori Community Health Workers Hui. You have paved the way to this moment through a national hui in 2003, and a series of twelve regional hui held last year. You are establishing a national body, a collective of Maori community health workers brought together under the umbrella of Te Whiringa. And in this hui, you will take that next step to making the future real, by developing a proposed action plan for the development of Maori community health workers. I want to commend you on taking the initiative to prepare for a new dawning, to support the well-being and wealth of our people. In designing your pathway ahead, I will be interested to see the breadth of your competency framework. How will the competencies reflect the cultural wealth of our people? Will they advance the well-being of tangata whenua through our own standards of excellence? Taking ourselves forward will mean timely access to high quality and appropriate health care, regardless of the ability to pay.

This is an article one right which we are entitled to within the constitutional framework of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Preparing for our future will also guarantee that the Mäori partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi has rangatiratanga over all their taonga including the well-being of whänau, hapü and iwi.

How we do this, will establish our distinctive status as tangata whenua.

And it is in the ‘how’, that I believe Maori community health workers can really shine.

You know your communities.

You understand the ‘common-unity’ amongst your people.

You can balance the demand for appropriate health care interventions with ongoing health promotion and prevention.

It is that flax roots knowledge that is your greatest strength.

In many ways, the Maori Party is driven by that same thirst for achieving ‘common-unity’ in preparing our pathway forward.

We face the same challenges that no doubt the national body, Te Whiringa, will also need to address.

What is the role of a central body in a social structure which places its foundations in the strength of whanau?

It is for that reason that we have said from day one, don’t ask what the Maori Party can do for you, ask what we can do for each other.

We need to throw off the shackles of dependency thinking, to liberate our minds for transformation.

We also believe, this movement is not about one person, or one policy position, one political response.

This movement is our opportunity to be an advocate for the nation: for all citizens, tangata whenua and all those to whom this land is home.

Our party policies will reflect our sincere belief that genuine progress for the nation is best achieved in caring for ourselves (in fulfilling the aspirations of whanau) in caring for each other (as envisaged by Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and in caring for our nation and the world (through a sustaining and innovative economy).

We are not setting ourselves us up with pledge card promises and election commitments. The plucky pipiwharauroa does not require manifesto statements to navigate its migration path. So too, we need to recall the experiences and time-honoured strategies which have enabled tangata whenua to survive and thrive over the centuries.

Our biggest challenge must be to listen out to the call of the people, to listen, and then to reflect the common-unity that we must represent.

In many ways we are just part of the bigger picture of Maori community health workers.

We know our biggest responsibility – as is yours – is to listen to the heartbeat of the nation.

We must be focused on strengthening the capacity of the whanau to provide for and enhance the well-being of our most vulnerable.

And we must actively resist the temptation to take control.

The future is something we all create. And the all reminds us of our responsibility and obligation to search out those members of our whanau who may not be out in front, but deserve to benefit from genuine and sustainable prosperity as much as the next person.

We must search for the outcomes that unite us, rather than looking at the differences that divide us.

And it is because of this that we believe our connections across and between the distinctive cultural communities of Aotearoa are what will bind us together.

As the Maori Party has evolved, we have remained firmly focused on the challenge to bring our kaupapa into the House.

We firmly believe that the values which have inspired us from mai ra ano, are the ‘key competencies’ for a successful future.

Take for instance the concept of manaakitanga. Through manaakitanga, we seek to ensure that the relationships we cultivate and maintain, must be elevating and enhancing for all parties.

Manaakitanga is about recognising the aspirations of all people to nurture the essence of who they are.

This is a profoundly different approach to the politics of parliament.

It means that when the reporters come rushing for our comments on yet another outburst from a loose-lipped backbencher, we respond in ways which are mana-enhancing, not mana-minimising.

As community health workers, you will understand the importance of walking the talk, following through on commitments made, demonstrating integrity and honesty in all your actions.

It’s no good preaching the auahi kore message if you yourself are unable to kick the habit.

We must actively live our kaupapa. If we genuinely believe in whanaungatanga we must know when it is the right time to actually withdraw to ensure our families can build their own capacity rather than reliance on another ‘helping agency’ – albeit a tangata whenua one.

The time is absolutely right to rebuild our tikanga, our iwitanga, our haputanga. Self-determination is about us determining ourselves: it is our time.

I am tremendously excited by our people. The momentum we experience as we travel the motu is about enthuasiam and absolute passion in doing it for ourselves.

And it is also extending manaakitanga, to ensure that all others who live in this land, are given the opportunity to explore the essence of who they are.

Maori Community health workers; Maori party members; tangata whenua, tauiwi, Pasifika, tangata rawaho, we need to rise up to the call of the Pipiwharauroa, to take the steps to create our tomorrow. It is through our shared commitments that we can really get the heartbeat of the nation pumping – so let’s go to it!

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