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John Tamihere - Men’s Issues Conference

John Tamihere MP for Tämaki Mäkaurau

9 am Friday 6 May 2005

Address to: Men’s Issues Conference

Venue: Waitakere City Council Chambers

To the organisers that had the vision and energy to organise this conference, I congratulate you. I wanted to preface my comments with a few observations and they are made in no order of priority, nor are they exclusive:

Firstly, in advocating issues for men we are always open to the lazy and unfair criticism that we ‘must’ therefore ipso facto, be anti and against others. We cannot be brow beaten by that criticism and therefore have men’s issues caveated and stopped.

Secondly, any conversation or debate on men’s issues cannot be assimilated into any other gendas communication process. Men folk must fashion, define and defend their own communication standard. Why? Because communication defines our values, our nuances, our standards, our ways. Just because our ways are different does not mean they are wrong.

Thirdly, given the locked in long term significant trend in male social mal performance we must have this conversation. A number of us will be vilified and hunted, some of us like me will be unhelpful to ourselves. This must not dissuade us from seeking solutions and having conversations and conferences like this.

Fourthly, let’s be solution focussed. We have much work to do and the urgency of it behoves us to progress as positively and as focussed as possible.

My challenge to this conference is to define in the widest possible context what might be the values, what might be the attributes and characteristics that profile the average Kiwi male. It must be a profile that resonates widely and deeply so that men folk can say “yeah that’s me, I am proud to be”.

I intend to now make observations on a number of key policy areas that I would like a steer from conference on and do so as prompts.
In Education:

We must excite and support male scribes in writing literature in all its forms. Literature about male lifestyles. Male lifestyles that grieve, that are sad, that rejoice, that celebrate, that succeed. We need our own novels, our own poetry, our own short stories and our own songs.

We must excite males back onto education campuses. Rather than all men being possible paedophiles, we must ensure that education campuses become safer places for men to return to. Our young boys, our young men, not just require this return, our society must have it.

We have scholarships to fill a number of gaps, be it in ethnic areas, or be it in terms of certain skill areas. No doubt we will have to look very closely at incentive programmes and the like as we bring men back to education.

The requirement for young men and men folk generally to lift their game over child raring and child caring activities is significant, yet nowhere in the education curricula, nowhere in any conversation or policy debate is there any support or assistance for young men, or men in general in having to lift their particular performance in this particular area. It just seems that men are born to be able to do these things. That is demonstrably not the case. Society has shifted. What about the belts and braces for men in this vital shift?

In Health:

In terms of men’s health related matters, it is clear that men folk do not talk about health related problems, particularly in regard to their private parts. It is clear that they only attend, for medical support when they present in pain and in difficulty.

Americans, because of the way in which their insurance systems work, I suspect, have a health prevention style programme. Men folk there go to doctors regularly because their insurers require it. Furthermore, doctors there are obliged to carry out a range of tests on males less they be sued for negligence. In New Zealand we do not have this culture, we do not have this insurance driven protection provision and we must have a deep and meaningful conversation about men getting more regular health check ups and about doctors being obliged to ensure that tests are undertaken and checks are made as best as possible for prostrate related matters and others.

Men must become more health conscious, just as women twenty five years ago had their Cartwright Inquiry men folk are going to have to change their culture in regard to the way in which they present to their doctors but equally their doctors are going to have to shift dramatically as well.

Men’s suicide rates and health difficulties will require far better researching. The male plea for help often exhibits itself in a range of behaviours which are then managed by the criminal justice system. Let’s have a conversation and debate about what might be the early signalling of these pleas for help which then lead to greater acts of anti-social behaviour.

In Justice:

In terms of justice related matters men obviously and unacceptably over represent in road carnage and crimes of violence against the person. Unless we men take control of the problem we have the default position of the New Zealand Police Force, the New Zealand Courts and the New Zealand Corrections and Prison Service managing our problem.

We must own the problem and we must affect a range of cultural more and clearly demonstrate an absolute lack of tolerance for violence as an option to settle differences. Suggesting that physical contact sports breed violence and therefore we should all play tiddleywinks might be true. I have yet to see any evidence of it.

Whilst it is important to have great programmes in prison to stop recidivism there may be the possibility to extend the programmes that work into our early childhood and primary school sectors.

It seems we place huge resource into managing our problem, rather than addressing their cause.

In Public Relation terms we have never turned up to debate, let alone have a conversation about men’s issues and because there has never been a counter weight debate. We have not featured in policy, programme or in resources. Its conferences like this that are important to have our conversation to harness and to organise.

Its Friday today and on Sunday it’s Mother’s Day. I’m absolutely sure the continued acknowledgement, respect and honouring of our womenfolk will occur, not just on Sunday, but on all days.


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