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Valuing Our Elderly: Kaumatua and Kuia - Speech

Valuing Our Elderly: Kaumatua and Kuia

Te Kao Marae; Te Kao

Friday 17 November 2006

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

I’ve come here to Te Kao, to share the secret of our success.

It’s something I’ve always kept quiet to myself – but this week, I discovered it was a secret my colleague, Te Ururoa Flavell, also shared.

Our grandmothers.

In my case, Hoki Waewae, remains a key guiding force in my life.

And for Te Ururoa, it was when I saw him clutching the portrait of his kuia, Ranginui Parewahawaha Leonard, that it all fell into place.

He talked of her sharp intellect, her fitness of body and mind (she was a kuia who lived to the ripe old age of 112) and how her distinctive presence has been a very strong influence on the person he has become.

And it made me wonder – who else is walking with us through our lives? It made me reflect again, on the wonder of our elders, knowing the significance they continue to have in our lives.

When one thinks of our elders, up here, in Te Kao, you are exceptionally lucky.

I was looking at the Northland region stats before I came, and it appears at the last Census Count there were ninety kuia and koroua in Northland over 85 years young.

Now that’s ninety great reasons to celebrate.

There’s also 168 pakeke between 80 and 84 years; and 315 between 75 and 79 years.

So there must be something in the water up this way, that is the key to your longevity.

And the signs are all on the up and up – according to the researchers, we are facing the prospect of a six fold increase in those over 85 years, by 2050.

That would mean instead of 90 – you’d have 540 elders up here in the North! Now what a force to be reckoned with they would be!

I’ve been thinking also of some of the treasured leaders we all associate with Te Kao.

Almost ten years have gone since we lost Matiu Rata.

Thousands flocked to Potahi Marae before his final resting place in Te Hapua, to pay their respects to a leader of such magnitude.

We remember his enormous contribution as Minister of Maori Affairs; as Minister of Lands; the architect of the Maori Affairs Amendment Act which gave tangata whenua greater control over our lands; and of course the 1975 Waitangi Tribunal.

We remember his legacy through the Mana Motuhake Party. And we honour him as a leader of Muriwhenua.

Being here at this time, my thoughts also turn to the Reverend Puti Murray whom we lost just over a year ago.

The spectacular way in which she left us, was of course entirely appropriate for a woman who was a trailblazer – not just in Te Kao, but throughout the motu, with her leadership as the first Maori woman priest.

As I flew up this morning, I thought about her last hui, the runanganui of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa. I had been speaking at the hui on the Friday, and had shared my views on the urgency of addressing the tragedy of family violence.

Rev Puti, who had done so much in her work in South Auckland – setting up Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri, an Anglican sanctuary for abused women and children, was sitting there, encouraging me with her strength, her determination and her fearless faith, that we must do more to support our whanau. In her mid eighties, and yet still able to stir up the hui, with a look.

The next day she gave a passionate korero on the traumatic impact of the foreshore and seabed bill of confiscation. The next task she turned to was in supporting a resolution to the runanganui to resolve “to commit itself to eliminate family violence and all forms of violence between God’s people.”

Less than an hour after that remit had been passed, she died.

And then just three weeks ago, Te Aupouri; Ngati Hine; Te Rarawa, Ngati Kahu, Ngapuhi - the peoples of Muriwhenua turned out in force to welcome Kingi Tuheitia in his first official visit to the North.

From what I hear, the hui was constantly reminded of the influence and inspiration of the new monarch’s grandmother, Francis Paki, the Te Aupouri kuia Kiri Tokia, Ngati Hine tupuna Rongopaatutaonga; Heningarino; and all of the leaders and beloved tupuna from whom the King descends.

And our thoughts are with all those who are making their way now to Pukawa, to attend the Kingitanga’s 150th anniversary tomorrow.

Amongst them, no doubt, will be descendants of Tamati Waka Nene who had attended the Pukawa Hui in 1856 at which the Kingitanga movement had been born. A leader whom we remain influenced by through the inspiration he left for his descendants, including of course, the local Member, Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira.

The richness of whakapapa; the wealth of whanau; means we are never truly alone.

And it is in that special realm between this world and the next, that I believe our elders are to be accorded every respect.

It is our elders who are uniquely situated to tell us stories of their tupuna, which we duly pass on to our mokopuna.

Our elders have that treasured insight into a world far beyond that which our babies inhabit.

But it is a world which provides the key to ensuring the foundation for future life is sound. Indeed, our elders are the secret to our success.

To this day a shiver will run down my spine; or I will know intuitively that I am in the wrong place, at the wrong time, because of the influence of my grandmothers, my aunties Waiharakeke and Paeroa; my dad, Tariuha Manawaroa Te Awe Awe.

I can see them, I can certainly hear their voices ringing in my ears; and I know what I should – and shouldn’t be doing.

That world that our elders live in, is also made real through the kaupapa and the tikanga that we uphold.

We are so proud that the Maori Party is driven by kaupapa tuku iho which encapsulate the very essence of Maori worldviews.

These kaupapa and the tikanga which spring from them, reflect the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua mai ra ano.

They remind us of the drive to achieve self-determination for whänau, hapü and iwi within our own land.

And most of all, they are the framework by which we live according to the values handed down by our ancestors.

E kore au e ngaro, he kakano i ruia mai i Rangiatea.

This statement encourages us to focus on the long-term survival of Maori. We are a people who have withstood the threat of extinction – and we will continue, defiantly, passionately to do so.

The Maori Party stands up in Parliament every day, to say, the kaupapa and tikanga that have been handed to us from generations gone, provide us with an ongoing source of challenge, of knowledge, of courage.

We know the true meaning of these kaupapa because of kaumatua and kuia such as yourselves.

It is your model, your lives of inspiration, which lead us onwards, and it is my absolute honour to be in your company today.

It is through your encouragement, your leadership and your example that we know the paths of prosperity for our people.

It is in your words and the looks; in your tautoko; in your waiata; in your karakia; in your presence – that we believe our survival is in good hands.

I want today, to thank you for the role you have played in the birth of the Maori Party. We are much stronger for your support.

And most of all, I want to acknowledge each and every one of you, for the gift you are to your children, your mokopuna, your whanau, your hapu, your iwi.

You are our living treasures and the gentle encouragement that you provide to all of us, is the source of a strong future. You are our guiding light onwards, your legacy inspires us to reach for the stars.

Tena tatou katoa.

Ends


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