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Turia: Hui Whare Wananga

Hui Whare Wananga

12 June 2006

Te Tauihu; Te Wänanga-o-Raukawa, Otaki

Tariana Turia

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, Ngāti Raukawa, tēnā koutou katoa.

Ko tenei te mihi ki a koutou nga kaimahi o Nga Wananga, nga whanau o nga hau e wha. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

This morning the Auckland CBD ground to a halt. The lights, were literally, out. And all that could be heard was that the buzz of brown brainpower was literally on the move to Otaki.

The power surge of creative thinking and innovation that has become associated with wananga is taking over our nation.

When I’m with our whanau on the river - at Pungarehu, Parikino, Kaiwhaiki - the word is MBS (otherwise known as marae-based studies).

If I'm with our whanau in Whanganui or Taumarunui - the word on their lips is Mahi Ora.

Whenever I meet up with my Ngati Apa whanaunga, Professor Graham Smith, I’m likely to hear more than a few words about the latest developments in the indigenous research laboratory.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the probability of hearing about the latest developments in matauranga Maori, in indigenous research, in iwi and hapu studies is taking over from the weekend’s rugby or league results as the conversation of choice.

The 2005 Tertiary Education Statistics revealed that there were 70,775 students attending the three wananga. That is a phenomenal statistic which you can all claim here as your achievement.

I was delighted to accept the invitation from Te Tauihu to join you as you celebrate the fundamental character of wananga, to pay tribute to your inspirational success in creating an educational revolution for our whanau.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Te Wananga-o-Raukawa have between your three entities, established a tertiary education market, which decade after decade, other tertiary institutions have failed to deliver.

You have breathed fire into our communities, strengthening te ahi kaa while also adding fresh perspectives to invigorate our thinking.

You have urged us to be visionary in growing our future.

You have gently stimulated a transformation of the mind - introducing challenging paradigms, kaupapa based methodologies, which encourage us to shift our thinking.

And you have done this, while respecting the mana of our own whanau and hapu world views, our dialects, our tribal diversity.

There is much to celebrate - and the Maori Party is honoured to be here, joining in the joy and wonder of this celebration.

In coming here today, I was asked to share some ideas about the three themes you will covering in this hui whare wananga:

- the definition of wananga

- the challenge of operating as tikanga-based institutions

- the imperative of reviving and retaining te reo rangatira.

The definition of wananga

Last year, as the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune were being aimed at wananga, I read the conclusions of the Education and Science Select Committee financial review of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, which described it as an:

“innovative educational institution that provided and delivered programmes and courses that target the educational needs of groups who have previously not been well catered for by other institutions”.

If a definition of wananga then, is that it has provided a doorway into higher learning for thousands of tangata whenua who have been alienated or marginalised in other centres, than that in itself is a laudable goal, which you could all be guilty of over-achieving.

But once through those doors, what is it that distinguishes wananga from the eight universities, the four colleges of education, the twenty polytechnics that also share the tertiary education market?

It must be our foundations as tangata whenua, the source of our higher learning in our tikanga, our kaupapa, our matauranga Maori.

The fundamental character of wananga must be such that it centres the learning in te Ao Maori.

That character will be found in definitions of wananga other than as a noun.

For the value of wananga in providing opportunities for abstract thinking, for fluid discussion, to debate philosophy, to stimulate intellectual growth, to deconstruct existing paradigms and start anew, cannot be under-estimated.

I heard an account today about process of wananga that took place over the weekend amongst one of our whanau. It erupted over the discussion of kakahu tangi. Questions arose as to why the colour black was worn. One of the rangatahi quietly asked, wasn’t it just a pakeha thing - what did our tupuna wear before black clothing was introduced?

Indeed, the association with black clothing and mourning has an international whakapapa. The custom of wearing unadorned black clothing for mourning dates back as far back as first century BC, to the Roman Empire, when the toga pulla made of dark-colored wool was worn during mourning. In rural areas of Portugal, for instance, widows will wear black for the rest of their lives. So there is some substance to the questions this impertinent mokopuna asked.

As you can imagine a lively debate was had, covering:

- black clothing was always worn at times of tangi, because "te kakahu pango hei haere ki nga mate, that was what our olds did and who were we to question their authority;

- we must retain the traditions of our marae;

- black clothing is a way of ensuring everyone is tidy, and wearing the same;

- black reminds us of Hine-nui-o-te-po, the great goddess of death, the woman of the night. She who is the source of life for all people, and receives all into her arms.

I believe the importance for wananga - the noun to actively practice wananga - the verb - is to provide every opportunity to review our tikanga, to question where our practices fit with our world views, to throw up for debate - what are the influences that have shaped the customs we adhere to today?

We must actively dare to engage in the process of whakawatea.

It would be inappropriate for me to determine the definition of concepts such as wananga or Matauranga Maori. But I see on your programme the expertise of Dr Patu Hohepa and Professor Hirini Mead who are part of the visionary leadership required for such a debate.

And I hope that the debate will be as free thinking and willing to stretch boundaries as the whanau discussing kakahu this last weekend. There may be questions such as:

- is Matauranga Maori the name given to knowledge taught by Maori?

- Is it sourced in pre-European tradition?

- How does contemporary thinking become defined as Matauranga Maori?

- How do wananga contribute to the transition from western-based paradigms to the journey towards rangatiratanga?

- What part does decolonisation play in removing the blinkers, which have obscured our vision of who we can be?

This is a debate which must be had in wananga - and it is absolutely right that it be considered part of the educational entitlement for all citizens of Aotearoa.

For although your invitation discarded the need for “support from politicians and government agencies” I consider that support from the Crown must remain to be an essential factor of your success - as an Article Three right.

It is a right which is shared with every other citizen of Aotearoa. No ‘special privilege’ here - or ‘superior status’ (Dr Brash’s latest slogan).

This nation is indebted to nga wananga for the way in which you were prepared to settle a Treaty of Waitangi claim significantly below the capital funding per student enjoyed by all other tertiary education institutes. That is the sort of commitment your institutions have taken on, for Aotearoa.

The capital funding per student equates to barely one third of what the lowest funded of the TEIs have enjoyed -in other words approximately $5000 per student compared to the average polytechnic $15,000. Is this special privilege? Yeah right.

The Crown should have been prepared to fund wananga at the same funding level as its brother and sister organisations in the tertiary sector. It makes good financial sense as well, of course as contributing on a massive scale to the intellectual wealth, to the pukengatanga of the nation.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research reported that for every one dollar invested in nga wananga, the New Zealand economy could benefit by $8. That’s a pretty good return by any one’s standards.

The challenge of operating as tikanga-based institutions

But simply accepting the citizenship right of equitable resources to wananga should not detract wananga from the important task of self-determination.

Nga wananga must be able to support and reflect rangatiratanga, to manage our own destinies, according to our tikanga, and in pursuit of our aspirations. That does not mean we just import a mainstream model and flavour it with ahuatanga Maori.

The challenge of operating as tikanga-based institutions also requires that the world of our tupuna, our language, our customs, our habits and philosophies, are best imparted by those who whakapapa to the taonga that link and bind us.

Matauranga Maori is not found in the treasures from foreign shores. It is inspired by our histories and traditions as descendants of Io-matua-kore.

By Maori, for Maori, about Maori; or by mana whenua, for mana whenua, about mana whenua.

And I want to emphasise - there is no contradiction between rangatiratanga and kawanatanga.

In the health sector, it is evident that the Government subsidies allocated through each health dollar do not bind each doctor or health professional to a prescribed, standardised means of practising medicine. They can operate self-determining entities in line with their particular client constituency.

Government would not dare to dictate to health enterprises their terms of engagement with their people.

In much the same way, wananga must be able to recognise the authority of whanau, hapu and iwi and to assert tribal differences; to establish their own style.

In our histories we were never known as Maori. We were Whakatohea or Whanganui or Ngati Raukawa - our maunga, our awa, our tupuna distinguished us.

Our own genealogies, our environments, our taonga were preserved in our waiata, karakia, püräkau and pakiwaitara, rooted in the mana of our tribal traditions.

My world was - and still is - defined by ‘e rere kau mai te awa nui, mai te kahui maunga ki tangaroa, ko au te awa, ko te awa, ko au’.

I will therefore actively resist the one size fits all approach, of creating a nationalised, standardised template for matauranga Maori. Our tribal realities, our hapu differences, our whanau priorities must challenge wananga curriculum to look outwards from within - our greatest commonality is our difference.

Finally, I want to refer to te reo rangatira. While I am certainly not a native speaker, I am extremely supportive of the investment we must make in seeing te reo as helping us to maintain a leading edge.

The Maori Party kaupapa refers to te reo as essential to the survival of the people as Mäori and the uniqueness of Mäori as a race. No other race or people will preserve the means by which we best express our world. It is critical that all of our tangata whenua institutions - our wananga, our marae, our kura - promote the development and growth of the te reo Maori both as the indigenous language of this country, and as the appropriate language to carry tangata whenua knowledge.

We need to carry the standards of scholarship and excellence to our reo, our tikanga, our matauranga.

Once ignited, the light of learning can never be extinguished. The liberation of our minds must apply to every situation - whether that be ensuring our tikanga remains dynamic and evolving - or whether it is in the application of our tikanga to contemporary situations such as blood donation and organ transplants, free trade or fair trade agreements, or micro-chipping of dogs.

The pathway to the future of our nation requires the intellectual rigour of your programmes. The Maori Party will rely on analysts and researchers from within your midst to ensure we are steering the waka in the right direction. We are calling for you to browse the Parliament website, to review the Bills in progress, and to flood with your advice and ideas for change.

Statistics New Zealand is predicting there will be 750,000 Maori in Aotearoa by the year 2021. We must all prepare well for that future to ensure the rates of entrepreneurship, life expectancy, educational achievement, average income, material wellbeing - and other indicators of genuine progress are approaching world-class standards.

This hui is a brilliant opportunity to sign up to the future plan. A chance to not only teach about liberation but to actively do something about it. To become change agents, to walk the talk, to make our vision become a reality. There is no better time than now.


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