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Turia: Collective Iwi Maori Social Services AGM

Te Kahui Atawhai o te Motu: AGM

National Collective Iwi Maori Social Services

Copthorne Hotel, Waitangi

Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Social Services Spokesperson for the Maori Party

Friday 6 October 2006; 10am

Tena koutou, o Nga Puhi, o te Tai Tokerau, o nga mata waka kua tau mai i tenei ra.

I want to thank you for providing me with an opportunity to feed the soul.

I am always hungry for any occasion, which will enable sustenance of the soul. The chance to be immersed in a collective force to empower the holistic well-being of Maori is such an occasion.

In a world where our Treaty is being deleted and removed; where our lands are being confiscated; where our very identity is being dissected into parts and spat out for political headlines; the soul is sorely in need of opportunities to strengthen our heart and purpose.

This Annual General Meeting I hope, will provide you all with the time and stimulus to strengthen your purpose as a national body for Iwi and Maori Social Services.

And I want to commend Arapeta Hamilton and the executive for your ongoing leadership in continuing to uphold the rangatiratanga of whanau, hapu and iwi as central to our transformation.

We need days like this, to nurture the seed sown in establishing this organisation, and to keep the branches flourishing, the vision blooming, the people thriving.

Those moments where you know your spirits have been revitalised are indeed precious moments in time.

Such a moment was brought home to me last week, when the story of three teenage boys of Waipukurau hit the headlines.

Horizon Tamati-Smith, Marvin Beets and Halen Eru were on their way home from the skateboard park when they noticed smoke billowing from a burning home. In a flash, they dropped their bikes, and put into plan the lessons they’d learnt at school.

Horizon ran to alert neighbours, Halen went to a dairy to dial 111, and Marvin kept watch at the house. When Horizon returned, he held his t-shirt over his nose, ran through smoke and fire, and rescued an eighty-nine year old war veteran, Tim Tocker, who was in Horizon’s words, ‘freaking out’.

Horizon said later “I had to do what I had to do. I didn’t want the man to die”.

These three boys had the skill - and the will - to make a difference.

They knew to close doors so that the oxygen wouldn’t feed the fire. But they knew also, the act of manaakitanga, the generosity of spirit that meant they overcame their fear in the ultimate act of bravery to save the life of another.

And they will never forget the day they were hailed as heroes. When asked later, how it felt to be saving the life of a war-veteran, Horizon replied, ‘we saved a man who saved us, that’s cool’.

Hearing their story was one of those heart-stopping moments when you cannot help but be impressed at their courage; and their strength in taking on what could easily have been a fatal risk. They did what they had to do, in the pursuit of survival.

That same sense of skill - combined with will - is an aspiration I hold for all our whanau.

I wonder how much Te Kahui Atawhai o te Motu is doing to nurture the skills and the inspiration for our whanau to be transformed? Will you do, what you have to do, for our whanau to survive?

I look at your logo, and I see there an emphasis on Mauri Ora - the life force emanating from the centre of the being. The logo also encompasses two koru representing the flow towards the centre, the journey inwards.

Are these values inherent across your organisation?

Are the ten regions of Te Kahui constantly referring back to the vision of your roopu - and even more so, the tribal mana of their whanau, marae, hapu and iwi - to guarantee that their practice is culturally safe?

Is the journey inwards a journey which embraces the wairua, hinengaro, ngakau alongside the physical safety and strength of the whanau?

How does the social service practice that you are part of, make a difference to the lives you are privileged to have entry to? How have you measured that difference?

Are you equipping those lives with the skills of the knowledge, the kaupapa, the tikanga that will enable them to stand strong against the relentless force of the challenges that arise with modern life?

Is Te Kahui also investing in the skills of your workforce to ensure you have the cultural competency to safeguard the mana of whanau, hapu and iwi?

I was interested to see in your range of services an emphasis on ‘influencing Crown agents’; ‘strategic planning’; ‘quality management systems’; ‘business planning’ and the advice to local and national government.

While these are vital roles for your organisation, it is equally vital that the concept of tikanga mau painga; a strengths perspective; is also uppermost in your identity as whanau, hapu and iwi workers.

Literally, our strength as whanau, hapu and iwi workers is shaped by the lessons of our tupuna; the realities of our history; the application of our whakapapa.

The journey inwards will enable us to project outwards, aspirations, which will be in the best interests of those for whom we are working. Inter-generational wisdom gives us a firm foundation for achieving change, step by step. The key issue is in whether we choose to give this wisdom priority over day-to-day realities.

In many ways that was the wonder of Puao-te-ata-tu. At the heart of the issue was that the most effective way of attacking and eliminating racism, deprivation and alienation from the social welfare system, was to reinstate proper responsibility and authority for decisions with Maori; to give due priority to tangata whenua.

The inequities and disparities which reflect the fundamental injustice of a monocultural department, would be properly addressed by giving value to the culture, beliefs, the tikanga and kaupapa that has been passed down through the generations.

We must never lose sight of the value of Puao-te-ata-tu - which in essence reflects the value of tikanga Maori.

As social workers, there is always a potential pitfall that our energies become absorbed in meeting our compliance obligations, to the extent that we work to the contract rather than the whanau.

To be effective whanau, hapu and iwi workers we need to be clear that all our actions assert the mana of tangata whenua - that we honour iwi autonomy; that we base any intervention on the understanding that children are best cared for by their own.

I know that your experience as Maori practitioners and providers in the fraught area of social services means you are often working way beyond the call of duty.

My caution would be to be wary of the obligations that are implicit with the hand that feeds. I am not often in the habit of quoting the pop star, Madonna, but she makes sense when she suggests, “Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another”.

Our liberation, our reinvigoration as tangata whenua, must be unconstrained and free of the fetters attached to political favour.

We all require the skill to be competent practitioners, driven by the legacy given in our tikanga, our kaupapa, our histories as we define them; our knowledge, our processes, our values.

But we must also apply the will that is sourced in affirming our culture as the ultimate resource for optimal well being.

It is that sense of momentum, that pride in being Maori, that is lived every day in our kaumatua. I will be really interested in learning about the expertise and lived wisdom reflected in your Pakeke Project - it is the treasured tales of our lifetime leaders in this area, that really enhance your growing as an organisation - and indeed our knowing as whanau, hapu and iwi.

And I want here to particularly acknowledge the unique input that Te Maari Joe has gifted to Te Kahui Atawhai o Te Motu - and wish her plenty of opportunity to relish the pleasures of te Ao Maori in her retirement.

Finally, I have a last project to add to your ‘Knowing is Growing’ campaign. The best news of all - the work has all been done for you. The draft has been consulted on. The policy has been written.

Between August 1985 and April 1986, a total of sixty-nine consultation meetings were held, thirty nine of these at marae or community venue. Approximately 3000 people attended the hui. 1500 verbal submissions were received; 267 written.

The advising staff for the project were all qualified and practising social workers. Members of the Project Committee were experienced, knowledgeable, and qualified; and the Maori members were adept in the Maori world.

The Chairman, was a qualified and practising social worker and was steeped in Tuhoetanga.

I am, of course, talking about Puao-te-ata-tu: the report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Maori perspective for the Department of Social Welfare.

I know you all know this history. I read, extensively, about this report in your booklet, ‘Kids thrive on tugs of love’.

And so I say to you, how do you make Puao-te-ata-tu live? How do you build hope and resilience in our whanau? Or are you prepared to relegate this document to the reference section of your library, filed as ‘rhetoric’?

Puao-te-ata-tu was a document of the people. You don’t need CYFS or MSD or the Government or even the Mighty Maori Party to make it work.

The document encapsulates the skills you need to deliver hope for our future; all it takes now is the Will.

Tena tatou katoa.


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