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Turia: 2006 Young Pacific Leaders Conference

2006 Young Pacific Leaders Conference
Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings; 24 October 2006 9.30am
Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

‘Pacific Diversities and Commonalities with Tangata whenua’

Tena koe te Minita o tenei hui, Rev Nove Vailaau. Tena korua Tuwhakairiora Williams raua ko Rapi Ieremia.

E nga iwi e huihui nei ki te whakanui i te kaupapa o te ra, tena koutou katoa. Tena koutou, nga whanau, nga hapu, nga iwi o te motu. Tena hoki koutou nga whanaunga no te Moana Nui a Kiwa. Tena tatou katoa.

I was absolutely thrilled to open your conference today, and I did so, without hesitation, because of the importance of our future; our shared present; and our past history. It was an honour that we, the Maori Party, were proud to accept.

Tangata whenua and the people of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa have always enjoyed each other company; we have been fascinated in our differences; reassured by our commonalities.

This occasion today and tomorrow, will provide us with a precious moment in time to share korero about our priorities - debating leadership, succession planning; political engagement; language change and survival; Pacific identifies; social justice - and along the way maybe some good old fashioned fun.

And without a doubt, I know we will be entertained and uplifted by the sounds and spirit of our Pacific souls.

This time last week, the votes were being counted, and it had nothing to do with parliamentary spending - unlawful or otherwise.

The ‘People’s Choice Award’, as part of the 2006 Music Awards, had a prestigious lineup and the competition was fierce. And the Tui went to : Fat Freddys Drop.

What greater tohu could there be, as we headed into the Young Pacific Leaders Conference, to celebrate the exciting jazz, soul, reggae and funk sounds of our truly Pasifika talents?

Fat Freddys Drop has captured the world - indeed last year the BBC awarded them the Worldwide Album of the Year. But that is not the reason I wanted to mention them today. It is the fact that the People’s Choice was for a distinctive Aotearoa brand; a brand where Maori talents sit firmly alongside Pasifika.

Their brand epitomises whanaungatanga - their values have stayed central to their success as a young group of Pacific leaders.
Five of the band members are fathers and their growing contingent, known as Freddys kids, are beside them, wherever they go. It is a concept which tangata whenua proudly share:

Ko te whānau te hunga tūturu, ko te kaupapa hoki o te iwi.
Our family is the natural and fundamental unit of society.

Their success is also about the statement they make as a phenomenally Pasifika band.

Just last month, their Island attitude was demonstrated in their action which spoke to me of kaitiakitanga, when they released a video, showing the destructive impact of bottom trawling on deep-sea life.

So here we have young Pacific leadership blazing the way - not just in the field of Kiwi music, but in vital matters of environmental protection and conservation as well.

That to me, is just one typical example of the talents that Pacific diversities, tangata whenua realities, bring to our nation.

I could, of course, just as easily referred to Nesian Mystik, Jonah Lomu; Sione’s Wedding; Whale Rider; Bro Town; No 2; Tana Umaga; international opera singer Benjamin Makisi; our discus Queen Beatrice; indeed wherever you look, Young Pacific Leadership is making a mark.

In fact if I’m not mistaken, some might say NZ Idol was a Pacific Takeover with 2004 winner, Ben Lummis being of Tongan, Samoan and Ngati Porou descent; Samoan star, Rosita Vai winning Idol in 2005; and of course this week is heating up for the grand finale showdown between the Tongan beauty; Indira Moala and the Samoan superstar, Matt Saunoa (whose partner and baby are of Ngati Raukawa descent!).

I was reading an article about Rosita the other day, and it was so uplifting to read her response to what is the most important thing to you?. She replied “To have your heart in the right place and never forget your roots. I can never forget that I am Samoan”.
That’s what it’s all about; and that’s what this Conference is all about too.

The driving force of Pacific Power is only going to grow and grow. We celebrate today that New Zealand will have greater ethnic diversity in the future. The Māori population is projected to increase 29 percent to 760,000 in 2021; the Pacific population a massive 59 percent to 420,000.

So we are here today to be Brown and Proud; to say out loud; that we are the future of Aotearoa and our leadership will be a significant influence in shaping the direction of this nation.

We come together, many of our iwi referencing back to a common homeland in Hawaiiki. From Te Moana Nui a Kiwa to Aotearoa, we are bound with language, with culture, with lifestyles, with art forms, with korero that unites us.

And here in Aotearoa, the history also is rich with similarities; some of it not so hot.
We recall with pain that just as tangata whenua were brought to the urban centres as unskilled labour, Pacific peoples were brought as factory fodder for a country that welcomed Pacific friends in good times; and created new categories of ‘overstayers’ when times were bad.

Who could forget the Dawn Raid - before it became a hip hop label that is?
The dawn raids that immigration officials confronted Pasifika families with in the 1970s, in search of those suspected of ‘overstaying’ their work visas; reflected badly on a land once dubbed the new Pacific paradise.

And yet despite such shame, it has been Pasifika peoples in large numbers who have joined in solidarity, to support the Maori Land March; the various sites of resilience; as tangata whenua have resisted the onslaught of colonisation last demonstrated of course through the Hikoi in response to the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

There will be other experiences of dis-possession and alienation that we may share, in thinking of our commonalities. Christchurch musician, Scribe, talked about the pain of language loss:

“The thing is, my dad was born in Samoa but he never talked to us in Sa’. Because he had been the first generation of Samoans to come over here he had a lot of bad experiences with the language barrier”.

The seriousness of this is illustrated by figures from the 2001 Census that show that for those New Zealand-born people of Pacific descent who are able to hold an everyday language in their original Pacific language for Niuean it was 15%, for Tokelau 29% and for the Cook Islands only 5% were able to speak their language.

While for generations of tangata whenua, we too are scarred by a history back to the 1880s when law was introduced to forbid the speaking of te reo Maori at school.

These experiences we share create a strong foundation for how we now grow and develop, as proud peoples of the Pacific.

I was interested in looking at an article from Linda Tanoai, at a Pacific Island Women’s fono held in Auckland in 1982, almost 25 years ago. In that article, she talked about the inspiration for setting up the fono, for Pacific women to discuss “where do Pasifika peoples fit in the fight for the sovereign rights of the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa?” Linda Tanoai said at that time:

“In our terms we are one family. ….Somewhere along the line our paths met again through our common middle-man: the trader, the missionary, the educator, the empirialist. Insidious white rule. We see each other through their eyes, we define each other on their terms and they continue to divide us”.

This sense of being identified from outside, - and the subsequent journey to reclaim cultural identity - is a struggle that we have all experienced as we work towards unity for us all in Aotearoa.

The practice of others deciding a ‘Group name’ emphasizes of course there are similarities ; but it may blur distinctions which are important to groups and individuals.

And I’m pleased that Statistics NZ is no longer prioritising ethnic group responses to only one per individual - in previous times you were either Fijian or Tongan - not both!. I think of my mokopuna who has a Niuean father and I wonder what part of her whakapapa would she have to deny if the statistician would only record one line of descent?

The rich histories and experiences of communities proud to identify as Cook Island Maori, Fijian, Niuean, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan and Tuvaluan peoples is diminished by a casual reference to ‘PI’.

Samoan poet, Albert Wendt talked about the labeling practice:
“Pacific Islanders exist only in New Zealand: I am called a Pacific Islander when I arrive at Auckland airport. Elsewhere I am Samoan”.

In much the same way, I only ever see myself as Whanganui; Ngati Apa/Nga Wairiki; Tuwharetoa; Nga Rauru - although I know others may like to see me as Maori.

When you and I meet; we connect through our whakapapa ties and obligations, our oratory, our songs, our tributes recognise and reflect the whanau histories that link us together. Every hui, every fono, is an opportunity for us to each to assert our pride and our cultural independence.

And I want, finally, to acknowledge, the commonalities, the whakapapa that Maori and Pasifika peoples are creating today, which will shape the new Aotearoa.

A couple of weeks ago, not far from here, Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao celebrated its seventh year as a mentoring programme in science; architecture and design. Senior undergraduate and post-graduate Maori and Pacific Nations students act as mentors to students, especially those in their first year of study.

I have been so excited watching that programme develop - and I know that there are others throughout Aotearoa - which pool on our cultural strengths to enhance and influence social and economic opportunities.

Last year, in our list of candidates, were seven outstanding leaders of either Maori and Pasifika heritage, or solely Pacific. We were humbled by their enthusiasm in standing for the Maori Party, and truly believe that it is through working together that our future lies.

We have a powerful pool of talent amongst us. Acceptance of cultural differences; the rich diversity we celebrate here today, will enable New Zealand to capitalise on the enormous resource of different skills, perspectives and networks that come with Young Pacific Leadership.

Our cultural foundation is absolutely pivotal to this, to maintaining our well-being and our success.

Whether it is on the boardroom, in the design studio, in the lecture hall, or the sportsfield, Maori and Pasifika peoples are exhibiting leadership in both Aotearoa and the world. The Browning of Aotearoa is a driving force in our future - these next two days are but the start of an exciting pathway ahead.


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