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Tariana Turia: Inaugural Kaumatua Provider Conf.

Inaugural Kaumatua Provider Conference
Frankton, Hamilton
Wednesday 14 November 2007
Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Sometimes gifts appear out of the blue, just when life appears to be all a bit of a challenge.

The gift that appeared yesterday, was the gift of the present – the promise of the day - this day that I would spend here in Kirikiriroa, at the "Hei Manaaki Ngaa Kaumaatua: National Kaumaatua Service Providers" Conference.

And as I pondered about the privilege that had been handed to me in being able to spend a day indulging in ‘kaumatua wellness’, it reminded me of the importance of connections.

Connections with our kuia and kaumatua; connections with those who provide services and support to our pakeke; connections with those who challenge our thinking, who help us in accessing funding; who stimulate our strategies.

Connecting with others means being able to speak our truths, even when those truths are hard to hear.

And I am hopeful that whether it be listening to Lucy Manukau share her knowledge on what keeps kuia well, or whether it’s the combined challenges that come from grandparents raising mokopuna, there will be plenty here today to stimulate the soul and refresh the mind.

Today is a day to focus on being leaders in the way we care for our kuia and kaumatua within the context of whanau, hapu and iwi.

It is day to focus also, on the leadership and wisdom that our elders are constantly sharing with us all.

Creative leadership is about developing relationships, connecting the seemingly unconnected and being able to get your message across.

What are the factors that enable us to speak a common language; to share aspirations and values; to construct an optimum environment for success?

As I thought about the challenge you have set yourself, to develop a collective focus on delivering excellent services for elders, I came across a study from the GLOBE which, excuse the pun, shed some light on aspects of Maori leadership.

The GLOBE– Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour and Effectiveness Project – includes within its broader survey, a Maori sample from some 160 participants representing over forty iwi and hapu which they compared with the GLOBE data.

The connectivity between the two data sets was fascinating.

Four out of five of the highest rated dimensions were the same for Maori and Pakeha counterparts, namely:

Being inspirational – motivating others on the basis of firmly held core values;

Being participative – involving others in making decisions;

Being visionary – ready for future events, goal planning and ability to motivate others; and

Being performance orientated.

But whereas the same dimensions were valued, what was distinctive was the way in which each of these factors was enacted.

For instance, in the dimension of beinginspirational, the Maori Party has always stood proudly on a basis that sources our meaning from kaupapa handed down by our ancestors.

We are driven by a set of kaupapa tuku iho that are values that provide for the well-being of all – values such as:

Manaakitanga: behaviour that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own;

Whanaungatanga-the recognition that the people are our wealth; the rights and reciprocal obligations consistent with being part of a collective;

Kotahitanga: the principle of unity of purpose and direction. It is demonstrated in that sense of moving as one.

As a Party, we are driven by this set of principles – it provides us for a philosophical basis for operating as politicians, as people.

When the going gets tough, as it occasionally does, it is always our philosophical basis – the dearly held principles - that we return to, to remind us of the dreams and aspirations of our people, and how we can keep the faith with them.

As an example from my daily workplace in Parliament, we may look onwhanaungatangaas the model for good collective arrangements between different parties.

We try also to operate as a parliamentary team that can work together and are committed to speaking with a single voice on behalf of Mäori through our belief in kotahitanga.

Name-calling and personal attacks are not consistent with our party philosophy. This last week, we have seen far too much focus on attacks made against the person which ultimately cause offence. It is an assault on kotahitanga; a breach of manaakitanga.

Change and leadership is about putting our principles in action.

We drew on these kaupapa when earlier this year we signed up to a Code of Conduct with the other MMP parties, ACT, United Future and Green.

Our reasons for doing so were kaupapa based – the other three parties no doubt had their own philosophical context to draw on - but we agreed together that values of integrity, respect, accountability and transparency were all factors that we believed any MP should be proud to honour.

This is where we believe leadership is best demonstrated – in maintaining our own value base and unique way of looking at the world – while also working to develop co-operative and effective relationships with each other.

What we know about the great web of life, is that we are all but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we therefore do to ourselves – each thread inter-dependent on each other, connected but separate.

I am so delighted that as service providers, you are joining forces, to unite with a group of like minded people; to build and consolidate your combined strengths, and to do what you can to maximise the contribution our kuia and kaumatua continue to make.

As combined threads in the most precious of our korowai, the love and respect of our elders wrapped around us, you are working in an area of great importance to us all.

And I am under no illusion that it would not also be an area of considerable challenge and conflict.

As I was thinking about this hui last night, I looked through a resource which provides an excellent glimpse into the lives of our older Maori, Nga Ahuatanga Noho o te Hunga Pakeke Maori.

In that resource, it draws on a statement from Professor Mason Durie, whom I know will be honouring the hui with his presence later today. Professor Durie outlines the roles of kaumatua, and I quote, as:

“resolving disputes and conflicts between families and between iwi, carrying the culture, recognising and encouraging the potential of younger members, cultural guidance and advice, maintenance of protocol, reception and care of visitors, protection and nurturing of younger adults and children, performance of ceremonial duties, spiritual leadership and attendance at tangihanga”.

Hardly the image of a sweet wee granny, rocking on her willowchair, idling away the sunrise years of her life.

And so I applaud all of you, who take on these tireless teachers, these determined drivers, these relentless workers, these utterly busy people who show us all the meaning of hard work.

Your job, in trying to get them to stop and catch breath, to take time out for themselves, to heal their injuries, to feel the benefit of tai chi, to treat themselves to mirimiri, to manicure, to facials, to rongoa, to even a bit of line dancing, is far from easy.

But if you approach each and every relationship with integrity, empathy and taking the time to truly listen and learn; then your pleasure will be priceless; your success immense.

It takes work, it takes discipline and it takes energy.

And the greatest gift that can possibly come from the work you are involved in, is the learning that is to be found in the legacy of leadership all around you.

To call on the words of Sir Isaac Newton:

“If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”.

You will all have generations of giants; leaders from the past and present, who you connect to in your experience with leadership.

Those giants are with you, every day, helping to inspire others, and importantly reminding you of the need to remain inspired yourself.

You are my giants – your inspiration, your enthusiasm, your leadership is exactly what we in the Maori Party need to keep us focused every day on being that independent Maori voice in Parliament, who can see further than others, because we are based on your example.

ENDS

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