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Turia: Address to Diploma of Social Work Class

Keynote Address to Diploma of Social Work Class;

Te Wananga o Aotearoa - Papaioea

Whangaehu Marae; Whanganui

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Thursday 8 June 2006; 12 noon

Tena tatau.

Tena tatau e hui nei i raro i nga parirau o tenei whare tipuna a tatau. Na reira huri noa i te whare tena tatau katoa.

When I received the invitation from Mei Hemi I felt privileged.

I felt privileged not because you wanted me to speak but because our marae of Whangaehu was chosen as the place you wanted to come for your noho marae.

Na reira tena koutou e whakarangatira nei i a matau, nga whanau o Whangaehu.

Mei asked that I should speak on tikanga and its application to social work practice. I will do that and I want to be challenging and honest about how we view the whanau that we work with.

Let me begin by saying that the profession you have chosen is not easy. Whanau do not come to social workers to celebrate - weddings, christenings or birthdays - those happy occasions.

Whanau get involved with social workers because there are issues that need to be attended to.

In other words, kei te raruraru te whanau.

How then do we view these people in to whose lives we have become involved?

Do we view them as:

- deviant?

- dumb?

- lazy?

- dysfunctional?

- criminal, who should be locked up was still young enough?

- people who are not like us?

- people who are an embarrassment to us because they are one of ours?

Or do we view them as people with unrealised potential who are more like us than they are different from us?

And do we view our involvement with them as:

- an opportunity to engage the best of the human spirit?

- an opportunity to engage the best of a diverse and rich whakapapa to do well, a whakapapa of caring, nurturing and loving?

- an opportunity to participate along with whanau to heal the accumulated history of wounded souls?

- an opportunity to stand with whanau, because they are us and we are them?

I do not consider myself an expert on tikanga - except the tikanga which I experienced while I was growing up and which I have continued to learn throughout my life.

In my view tikanga is largely based on how one was raised, the values, beliefs and ways of behaving imparted from childhood and which one lives out on a daily basis.

- tikanga did not start for you today when you were welcomed to the marae.

- tikanga should have started for you this morning, in fact even last night.

- tikanga is not something you remember when you come to a marae.

- tikanga is learnt and taught as a way of life.

How then would you apply tikanga to social work?

Easily I say.

Let us start with a whanau coming to your office - how are they greeted and treated?

They are your manuhiri.

- What are your rituals of engagement?

- What are your processes of welcoming them?

- What work have you done before their arrival, to ensure you know who you are greeting - their tupuna, their people?

- What happens after the welcome?

- How do you behave towards them?

If they brought something along like a koha in kind would you accept it or would there be a clash with the ethics of the profession?

How would you get around this and maintain respectful relationships with the whanau?

Is it different to what happened for you when coming on to this marae?

If it is - should it be, what would the difference be and why?

So there you are demonstrating manaakitanga as the host to the whanau, your manuhiri.

How then would you behave when you in turn visit the home of whanau, where you are not the host but the manuhiri?

Would you follow tikanga (if indeed it is your tikanga) and take along a little something - a koha or whakaaro of some sort - a packet of biscuits perhaps -or would this clash with social work ethics?

Would you accept anything from them if offered, upon your departure?

In discussing whanau in your offices and with your colleagues is this done respectfully or are whanau and individuals within whanau negatively criticised?

Is giving an individual or a whanau a label, a process of dehumanizing them?

Do you make judgments about family size, about individual members of whanau whom you have been in your office before - which you then base your assessment of this new situation on?

If, in your upbringing you were taught not to belittle or speak ill of others, is that a tikanga that you hold to in your professional life?

A question you posed to me was how the Maori Party behaved and how policy is created and acted out.

If I could digress for a short moment and share with you an example of the tikanga of manaakitanga which was demonstrated in the first instance in the Office of a Minister of the Crown and secondly in the Maori Party offices in Parliament.

In the first situation the staff of my ministerial office decided that it would be a good thing to have bowls of fruit at the reception for manuhiri. They did not seek my permission - they just contributed each week to have fruit for manuhiri, most of whom were public servants.

They also purchased arcoroc crockery from the Warehouse, because they did not like the crockery purchased through Parliament - the Warehouse crockery seemed to be more fitting with our whakaaro of treating all manuhiri as honoured guests - it looked like bone china!

Many of the people who came to my Office during that period probably thought it was being paid for by my Ministerial budget - not so, it was the staff who decided themselves that was what they wanted to do.

One group sadly totally misunderstood the manaakitanga demonstrated by the Office when they wrote in their newsletter about the opulence of my Office, about the fruit, the “bone china” crockery and the artwork - most of which were gifts, posters from the Ministry of Health and treasures which I had purchased myself.

The staff was offended by the newsletter written by a group ungracious in their reaction to the demonstration of manaakitanga.

Currently with the Maori Party, all of us, staff and Members of Parliament contribute to an Office putea for the purchase of fruit and groceries for the Offices for us and for manuhiri. When we invite guests for a meal we use this fund.

The point I am making here is that if the spirit is willing and the belief in tikanga strong enough, workers within offices can demonstrate manaakitanga without recourse to others having to pay for what you believe in.

The staff in both the situations I have just related to you believe in manaakitanga, some are youngsters in their twenties and we have both Maori and Pakeha. Nobody has to contribute but we all do according to what we earn.

I would recommend you try it out in the Offices you eventually become employed in.

While I am not aware of the content of your course of study I am of the view that too much social work is problem as opposed to solution focused.

I know that there is much rhetoric about a strengths perspective and focus.

And yet the correspondence I receive in my office from whanau appears to indicate that much of the focus is negatively based. It demonstrates a lack of ability by workers to positively engage whanau and the communities in which those whanau live and work, to address the issues of concern.

I believe that in the majority of cases social workers do not, as they once did, see themselves, as advocates for the poor and impoverished.

I never receive correspondence from social workers advocating for the children and whanau/families of the poor.

I get all sorts of other groups advocating for their client groups but never social workers, I wonder why that is?

It does concern me that too often negative judgments are made of whanau to the extent that Maori politicians are now saying in Parliament that it is “tedious” and “trying” working with Maori. I have never found it so, I hope you won’t either.

I have found engaging with whanau and hapu as an opportunity to learn and to achieve despite the often negative circumstances, which bring us together in the first place.

I do think it important that you believe that positive change is possible, that all people have potential and that whanau have within them the solutions to the issues which at first may seem insurmountable.

Many of our people are alienated from each other; the challenge for you as social workers is to connect people back with and to each other. It is not an easy task but it is a challenge worth taking up.

We cannot continue allowing our people to be more alienated than many of them already are, and social workers do have a role in calling hui and connecting whanau to each other, often despite what individuals in those whanau might want.

If we are to restore faith in ourselves as a people we must believe in our ability to heal ourselves, we must believe in the potential of whanau to rise by their efforts above the mire they often find themselves in and we must demonstrate to ourselves that we are able to practice what we say we believe.

Anything less than that is unacceptable.

The creation and the health of the Maori Party is testament to what can be achieved by firstly having a belief and then acting to give that belief substance.

The Maori Party is born of the dreams, the aspirations and the beliefs of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for whanau, hapu and iwi within their own land; to speak with a strong, independent and united voice, and to live according to kaupapa handed down by our kaupapa.

Our kaupapa are our driving force. All of our policies and practices derive from kaupapa tuku iho - a set of values that provide for the well-being of all. In its most basic sense then, a bowl of fruit may seem like a luxury to some, but to our team it is one way of living out our belief system, our commitment to manaakitanga. Through actions such as these we confirm the importance of kotahitanga - the unity of purpose and direction which can give shape to our dreams.

The Maori Party has achieved what we have because the Maori Party is the people - and people believed - and faith was restored to the people by the people’s actions in talking the talk and then walking the walk. You can do the same.

There is much that you can do to restore dignity and hope for the whanau you will be privileged to work with as social workers.

Whanau who will share with you private and often intimate details of their lives. In many cases it will be information not shared with others, the more they trust you the more they will allow you in to their lives.

Treasure that information, respect the trust they put in you and work with and encourage them to resolve the issues of concern.

In ending therefore I want to quote the late Waho Tibble who said:

“Whakahokia mai te mana o te iwi ki te iwi, o te hapu ki te hapu,

O te whanau ki te whanau o te tangata ki tona rau kotahi”

Return the authority of the iwi to the iwi, of the hapu to the hapu of the whanau to the whanau and of the individuals to the individuals representing as they do the generations of the past and the present.

Love the people.

Na reira tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


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