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Turia - Maori Health Symposium

Mauri Ora: Maori Health Symposium Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party Day long seminar held in the Legislative Chamber of Parliament,

Friday 7 April 2006

There is an expression in te Ao Maori which I have been returning to over this week:

Ka riro he au heke, e kore e hoki ki töna mätäpuna anö

The flowing current moves on and never will return to its source again.

It reminds me to take up every opportunity for change, to read the signs of the world around us, and to take action. This week, that current has been flowing fast and furious.

On Tuesday we welcomed Maori from all over Aotearoa to Matangireia, to officially launch the Maori Party campaign to promote the Maori electoral option. It is a very healthy action to get onto the Maori roll. It is as important as push play!

This is a moment of people power, where we can truly make a difference. Where those ever depressing statistics and health outcomes we will no doubt contemplate today, can be turned around by people who actually do give a damn.

As our people gathered to debate the importance of effective Maori political participation, the United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people disrupted the flow of the rapids.

A report which line after line, records the systematic injustice and discrimination meted out to our people.

A report which tells it like it is, that: o Maori have on average the poorest health status of any ethnic group in New Zealand, according to official statistics; o Maori youth have higher rates of suicide than similar non-Maori age groups, and that o significant racial inequalities continue to exist in health, housing, employment, education, social services and justice.

A report which accurately depicts the current health of the nation of tangata whenua.

A report which John McInteer has termed both 'insightful and intelligent' while Dr Cullen dismisses and denies it has any value at all - concluding that while many will read and discuss it, "nothing much will come of it at all". It makes me wonder and hope that all of the studies and analysis that people such as yourself contribute, haven't also been binned by Dr Cullen alongside that of Professor Stavenhagen's report.

And then here we are all today, ready and eager to learn together from those at the cutting edge, about the advancement in Maori health. Mauri Ora tatou !

This day is a day for celebration of our potential.

It is a day to honour those leaders amongst us here, who are planting new seeds of hope in an environment ripe for change. And change we must have if we are to achieve the best health services for our people.

We are at a pivotal point in our nation's history where we can either squarely face up to the reality that we know exists and is depicted in the report from Professor Stavenhagen, or we can creep under the blankets a bit longer, and pretend it isn't happening.

I choose to face the future, as I know many of you do, knowing our situation, understanding how we got there - and looking forward to taking the action to make the change we all desire.

I believe that having a political voice - an independent Maori political voice in Parliament - can help to advance our aspirations.

I also believe that we are the architects, the writers and the weavers of our own future . We will find our solutions within ourselves, and we must do everything we can to support whanau in restoring their rights and responsibilities to do so; and we must restore their sense of hope that they can make things happen for themselves too.

The ideas that we will receive today will provide us with the tools for change. We will be learning about frameworks of racism and their relationship to health to ethnic disparities - balanced beautifully by presentations on cultural identity and wellbeing.

By the end of this day we will be better equipped to understand the experience of Maori mental health providers, the experience of Maori using health and disability and ACC services, as well as specific developments in cancer research, in youth wellbeing, in addressing medical error.

Our vision is a nation in which all people achieve their health potential.

We must look to sustainable long-term solutions - to addressing the determinants of health and well-being such as poverty, housing, income, discrimination and the environment - as well as ensuring there are affordable and culturally safe services and treatments for all, regardless of the ability to pay.

And we must be real about the challenges that face us.

I was so disappointed to learn the Race Relations Conciliator had taken sides in supporting the Government's predicted dismissal of the report from the Special Rapporteur.

The comments from Joris de Bres that the report is "divisive" and "unconstructive" directly fly in opposition to comments from o Ngai Tahu leader Mark Solomon that the report provides the perfect opportunity and platform for setting up a constitution for New Zealand; o from the Federation of Maori Authorities that the recommendations must be seriously considered by all parties, or by o Professor Margaret Mutu, that the Government cannot keep ignoring international criticism of its treatment of Maori.

Today is a day to think big, to face the world in front of us, and to respond to the challenge.

What better way to celebrate the significance of today as World Health Day than to draw attention to the significant work before us all in working to advance the health and wellbeing of tangata whenua as a key indicator in the progress of the nation.

The comments from Mark Solomon, from FOMA, from Professor Mutu lead us to looking at our nation - and how we are perceived in the world. We must all live up to the direction to face the facts and take the action necessary to sustain change.

On this World Health Day I do want to draw particular attention to the commitment, the dedicated loyalty and passion, and the specialist expertise of our health workforce.

We know that around the globe, there is a chronic shortage of health workers, as a result of decades of under- investment in their education, training, salaries, working environment and management.

We must start to value the distinctive difference health workers are making - providing the strategies, the treatment and the incentive to consolidating meaningful change.

Health workers are crucially important for producing good health through the performance of health systems; they constitute a significant share of the labour force and perform key social roles in all societies.

The theme for this year's World Health Day is working together for health - and in this, I want to also refer to the vital role of the health workers who we know are in every home in Aotearoa.

We must not under-estimate the value of the health workforce that resides within every whanau. Barriers to access, treatment outcomes, paths to well-being and prosperity are all dependent on whanau support for success.

As Maori, we can draw on such a proud history of creativity and entrepreneurship. Just two months ago, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor released at Unitec in Auckland revealed that Maori are the world's third most entrepreneurial people.

We must speak of this natural talent for enterprise and entrepreneurship in every home that we visit, in every clinic, in every hui, - and of course here, in Parliament.

Achieving health for all requires a dramatic change in political and economic priorities. A dramatic change in the attitudes of health professionals towards our people is required, as well as addressing our own judgemental behaviours too. Health is a right, not a privilege.

With these thoughts, I therefore welcome you all here to Parliament, knowing that the strategies and solutions we discuss here today will help to determine the kind of society Aotearoa will be in the future.

Tëra te rä e whiti ana kei tua atu Täwauwau Look to the sun, the dawning of day - beyond the horizon.


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