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The Peace of the Raukura - Te Ururoa Flavell

The Peace of the Raukura - Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki
White Ribbon Day: Rotorua City Focus Programme
Friday 23 November 2007

Me whakamutua nga mahi tukino tangata, wahine, tamariki hoki

I am honoured that the Rotorua Family Violence Prevention Network has invited me to share such a significant occasion for celebrating the potential of our whanau.

I’ve been looking into the tradition of the white ribbon we wear to demonstrate our determination to eliminate violence from our lives.

It’s a tradition that stems from the men’s movement in Canada and has been adopted by the United Nations as a marker for the international day for the elimination of violence against women.

And it makes me think of our own symbols of peace, of strength, of solidarity. Having had the privilege of living in Taranaki for some years, the raukura springs to mind as one such symbol for Aotearoa.

The Raukura represents the violence of land alienation and confiscation, and yet also the strength of passive resistance.

It is associated with the origins of Parihaka; the leadership of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi and their inspirational commitment to peace and to upholding the rights of justice.

It is, also a symbol that has been associated with the Kingitanga movement – custom has it that at the coronation of the King a white feather was presented as an emblem of purity and truth.

And in a watercolour of Te Rauparaha in 1843, he was shown wearing the feather of the toroa in his left ear, and a white feather on his head.

In fact, so universal is the concept that the Conference of Churches in Aotearoa adopted the white feather as their symbol to represent the Decade to overcome violence.

I believe symbols such as our raukura, or the white ribbon, are important in inspiring hope, and reminding us that through collective action, through our tikanga and our kaupapa, we have all the resources we need to restore our whanau to their full potential.

Everyone here would have a story to tell of the scars, the pain, the devastation of violence. Those stories need to be told – but importantly, we also need actions and strategies to make changes to take us from sadness to practising whanau once again.

The stories must be shared within and across our whanau to encourage ownership of violence as a whanau problem – and therefore able to be resolved with whanau-based solutions.

I was really pleased to see the theme this year being about men speaking out against violence – and of women celebrating respectful men.

It is appropriate at this time, to acknowledge Toby Curtis and the leadership he provided not just across the Curtis whanau but broader across whanau, hapu and iwi throughout Aotearoa, when he came out in August of this year, to stand and take responsibility for the tragic death of Nia Glassie.

It was his contention that if the accused had not been responsible for the assaults, they were guilty of neglecting to act. He had expressed the view -"Whether one or all, they are together that same family." If one person was responsible for the violence, the others should have stopped it. If they were all responsible, "we have a problem", he had said.

It was essential for the future health of his whanau that they faced this situation with support for their three relatives - but without making excuses.

That Toby would take such strong leadership and brave ownership of speaking out against violence has been extremely significant in helping whanau to find our own solutions; in working towards achieving a non-violent community.

The Maori Party absolutely believe that it is in whanau that we will find our greatest strength, and I want to commend the organisers of this White Ribbon Day for reminding us all, that we are all the artists of our own destiny.

We have within our whanau, all the resources necessary to create our own answers. We all know how an innocent question from our mokopuna can stimulate the thought, or the words that aren’t said by our uncle leave us searching for the truth that he wanted us to find for ourselves. That is the wonder of whanau.

The solution lies in working with families, to restore their natural responsibilities and obligations to care and protect for their own.

Today I want to also mihi to the Tuhoe legend, Tamati Kruger and to all of the dedicated team at Te Korowai Aroha o Aotearoa, for the leadership they have been sharing with whanau through Project Mauriora.

Project Mauriora is based on three simple steps:

1. dispelling the notion that violence is normal and acceptable

2. teaching change practices based on Maori cultural values and beliefs that provide alternatives to violence; and

3. Removing opportunities for violence to be practised through education for the empowerment and of whanau, hapu and iwi.

De-programming the Mind
Well that all sounds pretty flash, but in essence what it means is that we start looking seriously at the way we talk, the looks of intimidation, the actions of violence – and name it as such.

It means that when we catch our kids playing with toy guns, we think about it and the message it promotes.

When our babies play at wrestling, we don’t just laugh and dismiss it as a bit of harmless fun.

It may mean we think twice before using some expressions – this is all part of the de-programming that we take on, to restore to us ways of being that are free from abuse.

Teaching Transformative practices
The second factor that Tamati talks about is seeking the strength of mana atua, mana tangata and mana whenua to rebuild new ways of relating to each other – based on our old ways of being.

The infinite possibilities inherent in whakapapa, tikanga, wairua, mana and mauri provide us with concepts that can lead us to mana-enhancing behaviours.

As an example of this, one only needs to think of the names and faces and events that have captured the media attention this year. They have been treated as isolated outcasts, their names become etched on everyone’s lips, and the individuals held out to dry for their violence.
While I am a firm believer in the importance of taking responsibility, I remain committed to the notion that it is whanau that offer the greatest potential for change, and we must look to our own for support and strength.
Responsibility, not blame; ownership and collective courage; not shame.

My belief is that if we were able to restore and recognise the wealth of experience available through grandparents, siblings, aunties, uncles in helping to impart the duties, responsibilities and obligations that exist within whanau, we would be able to strengthen the whanau to cope with all adversity.

We know that there are layers of generations we can draw on to ‘parent’ the child. One of the incredible gifts that whakapapa provides us with, is the wide range of choices which genealogies offer.

Every child born has a huge range of ancestors to learn from; the history of their people; the origins and the adventures of their ancestors; the songs, proverbs and folk stories left to them.

These experiences can be used as resources for resilience – building the capacity of the whanau to determine their own solutions, through the practices that are in their own history.

Empowerment and liberation of whanau, hapu and iwi.
The third factor that Project Mauriora promotes is supporting our whanau in restoring their rights and responsibilities to care for their own.

We have many whakatauaki which locate the child as the greatest treasure of the whanau –ko te tamaiti te putake o te whanau.

The challenge in front of us all, is to actually live that kaupapa, to act in ways which reflect the unique treasures of our next generations.

At a domestic violence hui in Rotorua last year, one of our elders told us that when he was a youngster growing up in Ruatoki, and whanau and hapu heard that one of their womenfolk was being abused, they would send people to fetch the woman and her children to be returned home and cared for.

The violence and the offence was not hidden, it was openly discussed with best solutions being sussed out in order to seek a long-term resolution.

The protection of whakapapa, tapu, mauri, wairua and mana were paramount.

I have heard other korero, where our whanau are saying that the whanau member who is inflicting the violence should be the one that is removed from the home – leaving the home as a sanctuary.

Treasuring our whanau, protecting our homes as havens of safety, are things that we can all do in our resistance against violence.

When I see those kuia of Parihaka with their raukura in their hair, it speaks to me of their history, their journey of pain, the ravages of colonisation; the brutal attack upon their people.

But it also shines through, like a torchbeam, that their passionate dedication to the cause of peace has never led them to surrender. Like the raukura standing strong, they continue to believe in their whakapapa, their tikanga, their whanau, hapu and iwi as being powerful advocates of justice and of freedom.

There are so many people here today, that remind me also of that strength.
The cause champions who are responsible for this white ribbon day; the members of the Rotorua Family Violence Prevention network; women’s refuge workers; practitioners; whanau who have experienced the success of strategies that work and most of all our whanau.

This day of peace, the peace of the raukura, may be the day that someone amongst you stands strong in their own home, to commit to the process of liberation and transformation from violence.

It is a hope that we all have the right to foster. It is a hope that we can make a reality. It is the hope which will lead us to a future, free from violence.


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