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Turia speech at Opening of Bilingual Kindergarten

Opening of Otangarei Kindergarten, Friday 20 May 2005

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

E nga iwi e huihui nei ki te whakanui i te kaupapa o te ra, tena koutou katoa.

It is a very special privilege to be here today, to attend the opening of the first bilingual kindergarten in Northland.

It is exciting to be part of a calling to dare to be different, to strive for excellence, even it means paddling a different waka than that which we may have paddled before.

It was uplifting to hear about the endless drive and commitment of such as Jane Blair, the chairperson of the Otangarei Kindergarten Committee, Marama Reweti-Martin, the school principal, and previous principal, Colin Watkins.

And to learn about the dedicated push of organisations such as your marae, kohanga reo, Maori Women’s Welfare League, and other groups, to make a difference in Otangarei.

I also mihi to a very special woman, Ann Dickason. My association with Ann goes back a long way, when Ann was working with the Ministry of Education in Whanganui. I have always admired Ann’s commitment towards the early years, her expectation that our young deserved nothing but the very best. All I can say is that Whanganui’s loss is definitely Northland’s gain.

Today, you have set off on a new journey of discovery, a journey for the future well-being of all these beautiful tamariki.

There is a whakatauki which says

Ko tatou nga kanohi me nga waha korero o ratou ma kua ngaro ki te po

We are but the seeing eyes and speaking mouths of those who have passed on.

When I look around today at all these stunning mokopuna I think about the line of ancestors standing alongside them, and what they would be thinking of the special event we are sharing today.

I wonder about the questions they would be asking all of us here.

Will we promise to give their mokopuna unconditional love and support?

How will we ensure their children are going to be cared for in a safe, abuse-free and secure environment?

What steps will we take to support their children in knowing their whakapapa - and the huge range of ancestors they bring with them into this place?

What efforts will we make to nurture the history of the people of the children attending this centre? The waiata, whakatauki, pu rakau of their own?

Will Otangarei Kindergarten promote the arts and crafts, the weaving, the reo that is truly theirs?

How will the tamariki here learn to respect their elders as the holders of knowledge?

What will the children be taught about how to manaaki manuhiri, how to behave, respectfully, as a guest?

And how will these children know how to contribute positively to the life of the whanau, iwi and community associated with Otangarei?

That is a fairly daunting set of questions for any of us to answer.

Indeed I would hasten a guess that the compliance costs associated with these customs, beliefs, values and traditions are far more demanding than the criteria of the Early Childhood Education Discretionary Grant Scheme!

But it is a challenge that I have every confidence in the whanau here being able to meet.

You have already proven that when you set your sights on something, nothing or no-one will hold you back.

You walked the talk, you made your dreams take fruition.

You were able to convince the ASB Charitable Trust and the Whangarei District Council to believe in your dreams - and they had the generosity of spirit and resource to help to make it happen.

You know one of the features about yesterday’s budget being such a non-event for Maori is that perhaps it was actually a blessing in disguise.

It was devastating to sit through the Budget speech and not hear the word Maori once.

It was equally shattering to think of the foundation of our nation, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, being reduced to a road-show event, rather than the meaningful and honest discussions with all New Zealanders that we need so urgently.

Yet it has reminded us that we cannot depend on this Government to treat our vote with respect.

It has also reinvigorated in us a sense of our own pride, that we can and will restore the confidence we need to take care of our future.

And that is what we are celebrating here today.

A movement of integrity, of visions of who we can become, the unique wonder of who we are.

The living faces of those who have gone on before us, are in a great state today.

The whanau, hapu and iwi that are part of this day have every right to shout your success from the rooftop.

Today we acknowledge you all as an act of rangatiratanga. You have acted on your aspirations, to be a self-determining people.

You have defined the pathway forward for your pepe, and in doing so, you have insisted that all whanau have the opportunity to fully participate in education - and the wider society.

It can not get any better than that - although I remain open to the possibility that you will prove me wrong!

I want to congratulate everybody who has made today possible, and I wish you all great heart and strength in creating a tomorrow that all our tupuna will be proud of.

I wish you great courage in helping the children here to know their own history as told by their own people; to be skilful in their reo, to value what it is about ‘being Maori’ that makes the distinctive difference.

Together you will help to create the foundation which will stay with these children for the rest of their lives.

This is the essence of whanaungatanga.

It is indeed a dream worth celebrating.

Ma te manaaki a te runga rawa, ka piki mai te ora.

Ma te kotahitanga a te iwi, ka mau i te kaha

Ma te aroha a te tangata, ka puawai nga hua a te kakano

With the blessings of our spiritual guides, we will aspire to wellness

With unity of the people we embrace strength

With the nurturing from all of us;

the seed blossoms forth to fruitfulness.


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