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Mokopuna Ora: What does it mean for Maori Party

Mokopuna Ora: What does it mean for the Maori Party?

Orakei Marae, Auckland

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Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Thursday 24 August 2006

E nga mana, e nga reo, tena koutou.

Tënä koutou te manawhenua o Ngati Whatua, kei te koa, kei te hari kua tae mai anö ahau ki waenganui i a koutou.

E nga iwi e huihui nei i tenei ra, tena koutou katoa.

By the time I have finished my korero, a baby will be born.

Indeed, Statistics New Zealand tell us that a baby is born every nine minutes and 13 seconds.

And the chances of that baby being tangata whenua is pretty high.

Last year, 28% of all births were Maori babies, and 15% were Pasifika.

The focus of mokopuna ora, the wellness of being, must be of the utmost importance to us all.

The Maori Party in fact, is so overwhelmed with the importance of mokopuna ora, that on the 21st July of this year, one of our members sought to issue an urgent release, from which I will now read:

“The Maori Party’s lowest-ranked and often less-than-honourable Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira, is happy to announce that he has become the grandfather of the world’s most beautiful baby girl, Maioha.

Maioha is fair, with dark hair, beautiful dark eyes, long of limb, of superb intellect and the highest of breeding, strong of voice, and hungry as a wolf”.

And so it went on….and on….and on……

On this occasion, however, I was happy to look kindly on the Member’s excesses - only because in that same release, he also made mention of another equally historic occasion, the day that the mascot of the Maori Party, my very own mokopuna Piata, started school at Te Kura o Kokohuia.

I am delighted to come here today to the ‘mokopuna ora’ national conference, he kaupapa motuhake.

It is such a great novelty, to respond to an invitation to talk about the wellbeing and health of our children - instead of the incessant pre-occupation with whanau as sources of dysfunction.

By far the majority of whanau are healthy and positive in their support of mokopuna, and are sound examples of stability, security, development, nurturing and sustenance.

And yet if you were to look back over the last two months in the eyes of the media, you’d get a vastly different picture.

I have to state, upfront, that my preference is not in singling out mokopuna ora as a special target group - just as I shy away from single foci on tane ora; wahine ora; rangatahi ora or the like.

The Maori Party believes that children belong to whanau, hapu and iwi; and that indeed, whanau are the ideal model for collective economic, social, and cultural advancement - whanau ora.

I was talking with my daughter-in-law last night, about our beautiful mokopuna. We were talking about the times we all got together as whanau - going to the beach, gathering even more shells and driftwood to add to the precious collection at home.

We talked about how a treat for the kids was cutting up bits of fruit, how vegetables were the staple diet, the days before snack packs and junk food entered the home.

Our greatest joy was - and is - in being together.

Whanau ora is our investment policy in our future. It is our strategic plan for the development of our whanau, hapu and iwi. It is our strength, our major asset, our greatest resource. And it must be something that at this time, when we are under our greatest pressure, that we do not abdicate or deviate from.

Healthy and positive whanau do not shy away from their internal and external responsibilities and reciprocal obligations.

Within this, the significance of whakapapa, is sacrosanct. Whakapapa provides a resounding basis for decision-making. It is the way in which we establish tribal networks which can be called upon for support.

Systems based on whakapapa and whanau, mean we are always monitoring and watchful of the wellbeing of our mokopuna, who are the reflection of our past, and our signposts for the future.

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.

Our greatest responsibility must be in reviving and restoring a sense of collective responsibility, which encourages us to intervene when necessary, to love and nurture all our mokopuna.

I absolutely believe that you cannot achieve mokopuna ora if you only focus on the mokopuna in isolation of whanau ora.

Whanau ora is the sum of many parts. It is not a focus purely of health, of education, for the justice sector.

Whanau ora will be supported through the intimate connection of the people to our maunga, awa, moana and marae, and to tüpuna and atua.

Nothing gladdens my heart more, than when I reach the top of the Whangaehu Valley, and my mokopuna recognises her matua tupuna, Maunga Taranaki and Ruapehu. Or when we cross over the river Whanganui, and she talks to her koro’s awa.

I recall too, being moved when I read a comment by the late Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, about the enduring qualities of her weaving.

She said:,

“As I've got older, I've thought about legacies ... I want each of my thirteen or fourteen mokopuna to have a cloak. But I also want to leave the legacy of the technique”.

For Erenora, the artistic excellence, the unique transfer of skills and knowledge reflected her thoughts about whanau ora. It was not just about holding those taonga in their hands - she also wanted her mokopuna to learn the legacy that would in turn be shared with their mokopuna.

Whanau ora means we willingly, openly welcome the knowledge that rights and responsibilities for raising our children are shared. It’s the equivalent of the open door policy - and brings with it endless riches for whanau wealth.

An emphasis on sharing the rights and responsibilities for child-raising represents the availability of a full range of skills and resources to the child.

And it works both ways. I firmly believe that we need to always encourage our children to know they too, have rights and responsibilities to their whanau. Ani Mikaere suggests,

Just as children had the right to know their whakapapa, to be secure in their identity, and to expect support from adults within their whanau, the principle of reciprocity operated in order to ensure that they also carried responsibilities within their own whanau.

One of our team this week, has been a frazzled Mum, coping with vomiting children, broken sleep, beds stripped, washing machine loaded, and sympathy required. In the middle of the night, those qualities of enduring compassion are sometimes sorely tested, so it was the six year old younger child that took on the caring, nurturing role of the sick child, while Mum turned to the linen.

The tangihanga of the “Lady” also showed how the young and the old worked together for a common goal and purpose. While there were the images of oratory and pathos on the marae atea, at the back in the food preparation areas there were those working to ensure the reality of those oft quoted words of ours:“ Ka tika a muri, ka tika a mua”

Indeed one of our security guards at Parliament talked about his young son who went to the tangihanga to pay his respects and stayed behind to help in the kitchen for a couple of days - his koha to the “ Lady” and the Kingitanga. He was welcomed in by strangers and set about washing dishes for a couple of days. He, a stranger from Raukawa, bound to the other strangers by a shared whakapapa, working together.

And that is absolutely how it should be. We need to remind ourselves of the importance of collective responsibility, that our obligations and duties do not just have to rest with one parent figure, with one individual, with one mokopuna.

We are our greatest strength.

As we say, E hara taku toa, i te toa takitahi ēngari he toa taku tini

My strength is not from myself alone, but from the strength of the group.

We must never forget that. Mokopuna ora, whanau ora, has worked for generations upon generations of tangata whenua being cared for and nurtured within our extended family kin groups.

At this time, more than ever, we must refocus on our cultural strengths in order to meet all the social challenges ahead.

We must believe that whanau are best able to determine their own solutions, and we must support them in restoring their rights and responsibilities to do so. Our future depends on it.


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