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Tariana Turia - Speech At Graduation Ceremony

Graduation of the National Certificate Courses in Support of the Older Person
Level 3 and Youth Work Level 4
War Memorial Hall; Whanganui

Thursday 7 February 2007; 6pm

Tariana Turia, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauauru

Tini te whetu, iti te pokeao—

A multitude of stars may be
obscured by a small dark cloud.

I was greatly heartened by the opportunity to share with you all, the privilege of congratulating the fifty fabulous students who are graduating tonight.

And I say privilege deliberately, because it is always humbling to be in the company of people who have dedicated themselves to the vital work of supporting others to thrive in life.

The challenge you have set yourself is to willingly put the effort in, to make a difference in the lives of the elderly, the lives of our young.The graduation tonight, brings together students who have chosen to work with people at opposing ends of the lifespan – those who are experiencing the dawning of life’s adventures – and those who are embarking on what we may call the twilight years.

Your mission – to prepare our young and our old to embrace the sunrise and sunset with their full might, will also transform you.

You will be enrichened by their life experiences, confronted with questions which will lead you to make discoveries that will enhance your own learning to date. The people you care for will in turn also contribute to your own life journey. In short, life will never be the same for you!

I have headed my address to you with the whakatauki –Tini te whetu, iti te pokeao, which broadly means, ‘a multitude of stars may be obscured by a small dark cloud’.

In this very time in Aotearoa, our horizons are being blighted by a small brooding cloud called ‘youth crime’.

But the question we must ask ourselves is – is it the problem of ‘youth’ that constitute the greatest test to the nation?

Or is it the problem of a culture of violence that is being manifest amongst all sectors – but given particular profile through the actions of some of our young people?
A culture of violence in which murder has been justified, in which senseless violence is normalised, in which abuse occurs in all settings, including our most vulnerable – the very young and old.

In the last week, I have raised my concerns about the context in which the activities of taggers have been discussed.

I want to be quite clear - any defacing of property is offensive, it is annoying, and it must be addressed.

But I was utterly horrified that a young tagger was chased and killed for tagging.

And I was even more horrified to hear a Christchurch City Councillor suggest that if he was on the jury, hearing the case against the murder of this young man, he would let the accused ‘get away with it’.

Or to hear a neighbour of the deceased suggest that while he didn’t deserve death, an alternative punishment could have been to just beat him to the point of hospitalisation.

And so the question that keeps me awake at night is – which is the greater crime – the property crime committed by the young boy, or the hunger for vigilante action and the willingness to turn to violence as a solution that is increasingly bubbling to the surface in some sectors of our society?

When I appeared on television, asking us all to consider other ways of responding to tagging than by violence – taking time to look more holistically at the causes and ways we can address this activity – I received an avalanche of hate mail asking why would I stick up for these so-called thugs.

And so, it made me think about our young people – and the environment in which they are growing. It made me think about the value they're accorded and how that affects them.

As we embark on Election Year, the korero that we have heard this week about young people from a Labour MP was that some of them act like ‘unfed dogs’ while last week the National leader was describing them as “unexploded human time-bombs”.

Well the Maori Party knows perhaps more than any other party, just how vital our young people are – and as a consequence how crucial it is to make an investment in their potential and truly value, their potential.
We in the Maori Party are opposed to violence in any form and we believe we must change our behaviour and become more gentle, loving and caring as a society. It does not cost anything.
It is about believing that the ‘cure’ which politicians seem to be looking for this past week can be found if we cared more for people. In short the ‘cure’ is in the ‘care’.
You graduates here this evening will be embarking on a career of caring as professionals, but all of us here tonight have the capacity to care, whether it be for a whanau, member, a friend, a neighbour, a person in need.

We know that at this very moment, 46% of the Maori population is under 19 years old.

We are literally flooded with a multitude of stars that are paving the way for our future.

The new and aspiring generations are of fundamental strength to our population – and will be essential also, to the further advancement of Aotearoa.

We must get it right today, if we are to prepare responsibly for tomorrow.

We must not become so focused on the problems that are emerging from a very small number of young people, that we overlook the bright talents and energies of youth.

And we must not also callously cast aside that worrying segment of young people who are causing such chaos.

We must have the courage to tackle this issue, to work with our young people, to respect their advice, to consider options to restore our alienated young people to their full potential.
And as we think of that challenge, it makes such sense to me, that your training has brought together the young and old, the merging of past, present and future.

We have another saying in Maoridom:

Ka pu te ruha – ka hao te rangatahi

Now some may interpret that literally as meaning, the old net is laid aside while the new net goes fishing.

I have another view.

With the wisdom of those who have gone before them, the youth forges the future.

And when wisdom emerges, transformation occurs.

We will be ably prepared for the future in front of us, if we have been blessed with the support of our elders.

I want to say to you all today, that there is nothing more rewarding than caring for our elderly. They are the repository of such great knowledge, they are the foundation upon which hope can be built.
About thirty years ago now, I worked in an occupational therapy unit with some elderly people. From that time and those people, I have memories to cherish, lessons that I learnt to help me chart my own life journey.
And again I come back to that word – Potential.
While we may often look at our young people and invest in the hope we hold for their greater potential; our elderly are often a source of amazing untapped potential – just waiting for the right questions to be asked, the moment for experiences to be shared.
The fifty graduates gathered here tonight are on the brink of the ride of your life.
Be sure to hold on tight to your focus – restoring and developing the ongoing wellbeing of all those you care for.
But while you stay fixed on that goal, be prepared also to be unsettled – to ask the questions, to enjoy uncertainties, to take the risk of learning from the old and the young.
Your training with Workforce Development will have given you the skills and the knowledge to try different approaches in order to unleash the potential of the people you support.
But I want to also acknowledge the tremendous achievement that you have all made will have been because you have benefited from people who have cared and continue to care for you.
Your tutors, your peers and friends, and of course your family.
The wealth of whanau – the close support they offer, the haven they provide – will continue to be a significant resource in your ongoing development. I absolutely mihi to all of those who have nurtured the graduates to achieve such success – their success is also yours.
Finally, I leave you all tonight, with one more thought from Maoridom.
Maku tenei, ma te ra e to ana. He aha kei a koe?
Kei te ra e huru eke ana.

Leave this for me, the setting sun. And what is for you?
The glowing sun is the rising sun.
Our greatest ambition as a nation, must be to believe that all people are capable of shining forth; that all people deserve their place in the sun.
We must consistently focus on the capacity for success to be experienced by our young children, our youth, our adults, our old.
Let us move from the preoccupation with shadows and with despair. All of us have the responsibility for making our future the best that Aotearoa can be.
I wish you all great fortitude and courage, in taking our journey as a nation forward. Your work will be important – and you are all to be commended for standing up to the challenge it will require.

Tena tatou katoa.

© Scoop Media

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