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Flavell - Te Tari Puni Graduation 2008

Te Tari Puni Graduation 2008, Rotorua Convention Centre

Friday 15 February 2008;

2.30pm Te Ururoa Flavell, Education Spokesperson and MP for Waiariki

It is always good to be home, but there's a particular reason I was glad to be here today.

I was proud to see the influence of Te Arawa on Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa - the New Zealand Childcare Association.

I am referring of course to your waiata, Te Tari Puna, based on a very powerful waiata which brings close hosts and visitors together, through the shared memories of love and pain, aue te aroha te mamae i ahau e.

This waiata reminds us of those who have passed on before us, mauria mai ra e nga mate, and unites us in our grief.

And it calls us to look at all of our people, working across Aotearoa, spread out far and wide, Titiro e nga iwi e nga mahi o te motu, e hora ake nei e.

Waiata are a very significant part of our culture, our knowledge, our education, our learning. The words preserve the wisdom and the expression of our ancestors.

We draw on them as oriori - the lullabies that caress our children; as waiata aroha - our songs of love for each other; as waiata tangi - our laments; as ngeri - our chants; as manawawera - our challenges.

And whilst they may entertain or engage us at one level, at another they preserve our history, they protect our heritage.

This waiata that the New Zealand Childcare Association has adapted, for instance, takes its origins from a waiata of Te Arawa.

The late Toby Rikihana remembered that this song commemorated the visit of the children of Omaio School near Opotiki, to Whakarewarewa Maori School in Rotorua, back in 1943.

It was a waiata which conveyed the earth-shaking pride of the people in those who went to war, while also grieving for those who have left their tribal home to venture overseas or to take up employment in the cities.

I have taken some time to reflect on your waiata, our waiata, as an example of our shared history as a nation.

Increasingly, our shared experiences and our distinctive differences must shape the very nature of the education experienced in this land.

This occasion, today, in celebrating eighteen fabulous graduands in the conferring of their Diploma of Teaching in Early Childhood Education is indeed significant.

When I looked through the list of graduants I could see the imprint of cultures and peoples from across the world.

I could also see the legacy of our tupuna, as tangata whenua.

What is even more exciting, is to know that the tamariki you will be working alongside in early childhood education are likely to be even more culturally diverse - they may come from communities in which English is a second language, there will certainly be children from cultures with different philosophies and values to your own.

And, importantly, we know that at least one in four children in this age group are Maori.

At the last count, there were some 25,189 Maori children attending early childhood education settings other than kohanga reo or nga puna kohungahunga.

Over ten percent of all early childhood education services deliver immersion Maori programmes -almost 500 centres in number.

Do you get the feeling you are on the brink of transformation?

We in the Maori Party feel very optimistic about the future, as we consider the foundation people like you are making.

I have been so impressed with the commitment made to the future of Aotearoa in all four modules of your diploma across the three years.

* the strength of your professional practice, Te Korowaitanga; * the theories of Ako - the different approaches to learning and development; * the context of our education located in Ao Aotearoa; and * the pursuit of Te Puawaitanga o te kakano in extending and applying te ao o te iwi Maori me nga tikanga in early childhood settings.

It is a Diploma of Excellence in truly nurturing the soul of our tamariki, nohinohi and pepi throughout our whanau.

Your goal now is to give life to the force behind the Diploma by the way in which you care for every aspect of our children's development - all of our children.

How will you approach the different customs, beliefs, values and traditions that your children have a right to?

What emphasis will you give to respecting difference?

It may come through the songs of their tipuna. It may be about the concepts of manaaki manuhiri - how we behave as hosts, how we look after our guests, how we respect our elders as the holders of knowledge.

Other lessons may be taught through our approach to science, technology and environmental education. What value do we place on our natural environment? What are the practices and rituals associated with food gathering and planting through our histories, our folk stories, our art works?

It has often been considered that a graduation ceremony represents the pinnacle achievement, the end of a remarkable period of learning.

I would say instead, today marks the beginning of a whole new voyage of discovery, as you take flight into the world inhabited by our leaders of tomorrow.

Your greatest strength will be in applying the learning acquired through this programme in the real world.

How will the pedagogical studies of play, literacy and numeracy have meaning to the child who comes to you with bruises or scars that have no physical form?

As we strengthen our resolve for this new generation, this new millennium, we must make an absolute priority that our children will be safe, will be protected, will be cared for.

There may be children come through your doors who have already experienced traumatic situations which haunt and torment them. It is the greatest contribution you can make to our future, to help find ways to heal and restore our children, to gain balance and strength.

The key to this challenge will be in the quality of relationship you have with the families and whanau that come to your services. Their expert advice and support will be essential in helping the children to benefit from love and learning and life.

Finally, I leave you with the words of another waiata, this one from the great Ngati Porou artist, Ngoi Pewhairangi.

Ka noho au i konei Ka whakaaro noa He pehea ra te huri a te ao katoa Nga rongo kino e tukituki nei Nga whakawai e hau nei nga tamariki

It is a song which searches for answers to perpetual questions - what is happening to us as people, who are we turning to, what will become of our children, where are we heading?

The answers, like all skilful poetry, lie in the lyrics - the future is already here with us, sitting amongst us.

I wish you all the very best in your journey as early childhood teachers, and as mentors for the possibilities of our future ahead.

Your role is an especially precious one. Our children are our hope and our inspiration for the days yet to come. The motivation that you plant in their minds may well set the scene for their life to follow.

The ideas you share with them, the revelations you too have as you learn from their experiences and that of their families, will be pivotal in creating a strong foundation, the prospects and potential for success.

I congratulate you all on the success that you have achieved in being awarded this Diploma of Teaching. The Maori Party is proud to wish you well.

ENDS

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