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Tariana Turia - Te Kahui Whetu 2006; NZEI Hui

Te Kahui Whetu 2006; NZEI Annual Hui
Hato Paora College; Feilding, Sunday 2 July; 6.30pm
Tariana Turia; Co-leader, Maori Party

For Whanganui, the beginning of our Matariki is with the first bright star to rise, the Puanga, rising close to the east. Puanga gives us that vital early notice of the approaching dawn, as if the sun itself is pushing it from behind.

Over this last weekend, while I have been home in the valley of Whangaehu, I have been awed by the brightness of the stars, the clear signal for a year ahead.

So I come here to Te Kahui Whetu, the coming together of all our star clusters, with great optimism for Maori education - and for tangata whenua.

Matariki is also a time to remember those who have gone before us.

None of us can come to this hui without remembering those who left us right on the cusp of Matariki - Hapimana Toby Rikihana, Rob Hotorene - and indeed all those significant leaders in Maori education who have passed on over this year, including of course the much loved, Te Ao Pehi Kara.

I think of their challenges - Toby was a ferocious fighter for te reo Maori - writing to me, regularly, to remind me of the importance of preserving the reo. His life’s work was to promote the idea that the use and knowledge of te reo is fundamental to the preservation and vitality of tangata whenua.

Their challenges will be much on our mind, during this night, and the next two days.

I want to congratulate Laures Park, the Matua Takawaenga for NZEI Te Riu Roa; for the opportunity provided by Te Kahui Whetu for your members to talk together about the shared goal of a quality education for the tamariki Maori of Aotearoa.

I understand you come from many spheres - from early childhood education and schools, from kura kaupapa, bilingual units, and I commend you all for the commitment you are making to Maori education. Our future is richer for your contribution.

Our korero around Matariki, and our navigational stars, is a universal concept for setting future direction.

Some of you may be familiar with another world view, led by a stargazer called Walt Disney, which charms children with the message, ‘when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you’.

And so my message for this hui, is what will be our future direction for our tamariki of Aotearoa?

Three days ago, as you were closing your classroom doors, and preparing to head to the hui, history was being made.

The Human Rights Council of the United Nations, endorsed by majority vote, a resolution on the rights of indigenous people which has been some twenty-one years in the discussion.

The resolution will now go forward for final endorsement at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples challenges states to ensure indigenous peoples have the right to be free from discrimination, to exercise their rights, and to have the right of self-determination.

The announcement, right on the brink of Matariki, is extremely significant for us all here.

It celebrates and promotes the survival of Maori as people, encouraging us all to continue in our life’s work to defend Maori rights and to advance Maori interests for the benefit of the nation.

For education, our priorities in hapu and tribal education, in kohanga reo, early childhood, kura, schools, and post-schools, can look forward to increasing Maori involvement and leadership in education at all levels.

We must stay intent on increasing the proficiency of Maori language speakers, on strengthening our whanau and hapu leadership, on improving the quality of Maori education.

And our goal must be firmly on taking control of our destiny, achieving tino rangatiratanga in economic development, in cultural revitalization, in social opportunities.

Crucial to our self-determination must be the knowledge that this requires our own leadership and initiative.

For at this crucial turning point in the history of indigenous peoples, it is to the shame of the current Government, that one of the two votes opposing at the United Nations Forum (out of 47 members) was the vote put forward by Canada, which represented the position of New Zealand, Australia and America.

A statement reported by the Government had a host of colourful adjectives crammed into one sentence of rationale, justifying that they found the text confusing.

The statement talked about how “separatist or minority groups” could “exploit this declaration” to claim “exclusive control."

Such a strong statement is particularly disappointing when we consider the collective voice of over 1000 New Zealanders who signed a petition at the beginning of this year, responding to New Zealand’s approach to the Draft Declaration.

Such a statement is hardly surprising however, when we remember the Government ignored both those thousand people - and the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur earlier this year which outlined the “underlying institutional and structural discrimination that Maori have long suffered”.

Such a statement is again not unexpected when we remember the Education Amendment Bill the Government passed in May. The Maori Party put forward a range of amendments to improve the Bill to advance the rights of Maori. One by one, the Government voted against the changes put up by Dr Sharples. Changes such as:

- Maori owners who gave their land for education purposes last century and which land is no longer required by the Minister - should be offered back to the Maori owners. OPPOSED.

- An amendment proposed by Te Runanganui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori for all kura kaupapa Maori to retain Maori control of their special character. OPPOSED

- An Amendment endorsed by the Early Childhood Council recommending that instead of the Ministry of Education being allowed to prescribe the criteria by which early childhood standards are assessed, the advice should be in the form of guidelines. OPPOSED

We went into the process for that Bill, guided by some basic questions, such as:

- is there sufficient protection given to kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Maori?;

- is Mätauranga Mäori included in these changes;

- will the participation and achievement profile of tangata whenua be improved by the proposed amendments?

The answer was a resounding NO.

So as we look at this Matariki to a new direction, we know we must depend on ourselves to achieve that which our heart and soul desires. The timing is right.

You may be aware that after nine years delay, the Waitangi Tribunal has resumed hearings on WAI 262.

In its broadest sense it claims that the Crown has failed in its responsibility to allow Maori to exercise their rangatiratanga in respect of their taonga, including flora and fauna, te reo Maori, Matauranga Maori, Maori cultural property.

We must do everything we can to preserve and protect all our taonga Maori.

Sometimes they may seem little things - but every step is a milestone towards our destiny. Last week, Te Ururoa Flavell endorsed the actions of Hawea Vercoe, from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rotoiti.

All that kura wanted was to have the sign, kura, on the side of their school bus - but the Land Transport Authority and the Ministry of Education objected. As we asked then, when is an official language not an official language?

The important thing is to take the action, to be change agents, to speak out and demand nothing less than the best.

We are coming to the last month of the campaign to promote the Maori Electoral Option and have been trying to talk to as many people as possible about doing exactly that. Taking the stand, making sure their whanau are all enrolled, being on the roll to take charge of our destiny. If every Maori person enrolled on the Maori roll we could have thirteen seats in Parliament -tino rangatiratanga becoming a reality in our lifetimes.

Over this last weekend, John Tamihere has revived the discussions around budget-holding that many of our hapu and iwi have talked about for many years. The Maori Party supports any moves to reduce welfare dependence. But our key issue in this area is that Maori must be involved in decision-making rather than others making decisions for them, including the authority proposed by John.

I would imagine however, as this hui considers the challenge of the draft declaration of the rights of indigenous people that you will be looking keenly at this idea - as well, as the tino rangatiratanga Maori Education Authority.

The call for Maori education authorities, iwi education authorities to oversee Maori education - has been debated passionately for many years. The Maori Party will be keen to hear any further thoughts that come out of your hui about this.

We will also be looking forward to hearing the priorities and issues that come across all your sectors, including areas such as:

- how are our rural schools faring?;

- what progress has been made in staffing and relief staffing for kura and bilingual units?

- How strongly do the priorities for early childhood care and education feature in the agenda of NZEI Te Riu Roa?

And most important of all - if we know there were 29,579 students receiving Mäori medium education in July 2004, then we know there are many many thousands of whanau members who care and share our broadest educational aspirations for their tamariki.

How do we respect whakawhanaungatanga? How will our discussions at this Kahui Whetu create the turning point for change?

The last few weeks has been profoundly disturbing as we have absorbed all that is said about us on talkback, on tv, in the House as well. The urgent and tragic context of child abuse and family violence must be something that we all turn our best thinking to.

We have a lot of work to do - and fantastic resources within our midst. I absolutely believe that within every whanau, leadership resides. The greatest challenge for us all is to locate that leadership, and work together, taking collective courage, to live up to the promise of the Puanga - the bright dawn before us all.

ENDS

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