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Turia: Health Care Aotearoa Annual Hui

Health Care Aotearoa Annual Hui; 14 March 2008

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Te Tiriti, Te Ara, Te Hikoi, a mua:

The Treaty and Social Transformation

It is indeed significant to be attending your hui on The Treaty and Social Transformation in the lands of Taranaki, in this annual hui hosted this year by Hauora o Ngati Ruanui.

As I drove here this morning over the lands of Pakakohi, Tangahoe, Nga Rauru and Ngati Ruanui, I remembered the legacy of the unjustified acts forced upon you by the Crown in the 1860s, including waging war, confiscation of land, imprisonments, the return of some land under unfair leasehold arrangements and the assault at Parihaka.

It has been a hard road to plough, as the Waitangi Tribunal noted:

“As each generation of Maori succeeded to lands they could never walk on, they inherited the history of war, protest, imprisonment and dispossession. They succeeded not only to lands under perpetual leases but to the perpetual reminder of forced alienation.

They were denied even the right to forget”.

Transformation will come from understanding our histories, from failing to forget, from resisting the ravages of colonisation.

Transformation is about respecting our heritage, and drawing on our memories to challenge and confront the injustices that continue to impact on every day life.

The tipuna of Taranaki stand tall in those memories as passionate role models for us all. They have shown us that there are ways of defying the statutory theft of land confiscation which are sourced within a campaign of peaceful, passive resistance, Aotearoa style.

I am so proud of the way in which this organisation, Healthcare Aotearoa, has always lived by a formal constitutional commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi – seeing it as a tool of social transformation for us all.

Your belief that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the whariki upon which true partnership for health is developed has always been a source of inspiration for me about how to demonstrate the Treaty in action.

Your commitment to Te Tiriti, is given life through many forms.

- The use of treaty based caucuses and consensus decision-making;

- The guidance provided by your kaumatua kaunihera in pursuit of the tikanga of your organisation;

- The structural partnership of ensuring tangata whenua comprise at least half of the executive committee;

- Even holding your annual hui on marae – such as today, gathered together at Taiporohenui Marae, here in Hawera.

But how does this commitment translate into health and wellbeing?

Can Te Tiriti o Waitangi provide a model of wellness; a partnership between the Crown and tangata whenua which recognises Maori sovereignty, as well as a foundation for fair and just social development in Aotearoa?

How do we honour the vision of those who signed the Treaty, support tangata whenua rights to control and authority over our treasures, as well as promoting the Treaty’s commitment to partnership?

The Maori Party commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of this nation is reflected in our adherence to kaupapa Mäori, the foundation principles of the Mäori world.

It is our steadfast desire to demonstrate tikanga, consistent with kaupapa Mäori – and it is from this experience that I want to share a few ideas with you today.

How do we live by our values, such as manaakitanga?

Part of our thinking – as I am sure is the same for the 55 member agencies of HCA – is that our belief in manaakitanga must drive our efforts to promote a fair and just society.

In acknowledging the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than our own, we work to eliminate poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is still important.

Of course the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect goes both ways. It can’t be a one way street.

One only has to look at the settlements process to see that the absence of manaakitanga has had adverse impacts on the well-being of people.

Ever since the settlement process began, claimants and lawyers have been expressing grave concerns about the process itself, the terms of settlement, the amount set aside for settlement, and the agency charged with managing settlements.

What the official documents give lip-service to, is that settlements are supposed to be about settling grievances.

If that was the case, the settlement process should therefore be agreed to by both parties. Yet what we all know, is that the Crown has actually set all of the terms of settlement.

The Crown insists on approving the negotiators who can represent claims, determining who has the right to represent the Treaty partner in the settlement process. More recently, the Crown has been insisting on dealing with large, natural groupings, while smaller hapu and iwi claims are denied due process.

Manaakitanga is not being practiced by the Crown, but it is a clear expectation that the iwi who are pitted against each other, are always set up to compromise, to collaborate, to give way, to resist the divide and rule tactics of the Crown.

So how does this impact on our health status?

As many of your health promotion people would tell you, the alienation of people from our land and culture has fragmented our identity and, resulted in a loss of possessions, a loss of spirit.

I think, particularly, of our responsibilities as tangata tiaki and the traumatic toll that the damage and devastation of our lands can have on one’s soul.

We have an ancestral obligation to ensure that taonga are protected and managed when passed on to the next generation.

It is our responsibility to protect the natural environment and the well-being and future health of ecosystems - which is intrinsically linked to the wellbeing of people.

As uri of the Whanganui River, te awa tupua has been described as the aortic artery, the central bloodline of our heart.

The Waitangi Tribunal describe the Whanganui river as a taonga, an ancestral treasure and a living entity whose relationship with the people had been sanctioned by antiquity and ancestral beings.

These rights were guaranteed by the Treaty.

Yet the authority, possession and title of Whanganui iwi to our awa, continues to be eroded or displaced by Crown laws, policies and practices.

The discharge of untreated residential and industrial waste into the river, for instance, has had huge impacts not just in threatening our swimming holes or places for harvesting kaimoana, but also in despoiling the sacred places we go to for cleansing and healing.

This is absolutely about wellness, about wairua, about wellbeing.

There are other less visible ways in which the precious life force of tangata whenua has been treated with disdain.

Alongside the loss of land, the potential demise of our language was an oppressive practice which served to marginalise and silence our voice.

The incessant bustle of bureaucracy has left us scrambling for minimal funding contracts which deal to one aspect of ill-health whilst leaving the other broader determinants untouched.

Which leads me back to Te Tiriti, Te Ara, Te Hikoi, a mua: The Treaty and Social Transformation.

It is about starting from a basis of decolonisation, understanding the need for healing, and gathering the momentum of mobilisation.

And this is where I give my heart to you all here at Healthcare Aotearoa.

You have truly stirred a movement. You have motivated us all to be enthusiasts for change.

You have encouraged us to be the most powerful advocates for our people, to fight for the right treatments, while also demanding the removal of disparities in health care.

I want to pay a particular tribute to Pat Sneddon for your exceptional leadership and your dedicated passion for HCA.

I remember in the early days of establishing Te Oranganui, that you were utterly stunned when in the midst of contractual obligations to provide GP services along the river, we had the cheek to turn the contract down.

It was our staunch belief that the meagre amounts of funding the funder was proposing wouldn’t enable us to be sustainable and so – even if we ended up cutting off our noses to spite our faces – we pulled the plug. We were always a bit stroppy like that!

Pat, along with Peter Glensor, Don Matheson, Julia Carr, Petra van den Munckhof and others, were instrumental in helping us learn the ropes, and get going, and I thank you for your lifelong dedication to increasing health services for the communities that are hardest to reach.

I have to admit I was very disappointed when Te Oranganui eventually withdrew from HCA, because my own view has been that just as HCA invested so much in our evolution as a movement of change, we too, should be giving back to other new fledging organisations setting themselves up under this umbrella.

To me, giving to the greater cause, is the ultimate reflection of kotahitanga, that search for unity of purpose and direction.

There is so much to say about the pathway forward in giving life to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in everything we say and do.

I congratulate Healthcare Aotearoa for your commitment towards community driven change, using Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the basis of social transformation.

The diverse worldviews you live by as Maori health services, community based health services, union health services, Pacific health services and youth health services, will make the debate and dialogue over this hui stimulating, and full of promise.

I understand that the hui is also going to encourage you all to examine your organisation’s values, their importance, and how you can truly be of and for your community.

For me – and for the Maori Party – and for tangata whenua katoa – it’s all about whanau.

It’s about that connection to our collective being. It’s about that desire to restore our connections as whanau, hapu and iwi. It’s about feeling united as people, but also feeling the strength of support that comes with the love of those around us.

As agents of social change, our commitment to transformation must see health in its widest sense and invest in the widest application of wellbeing across the peoples.

We must leave no one out in the cold, we have the right and the responsibility to ensure that all who call Aotearoa home, can benefit from the broadest possible meaning of good health care.

We must believe in survival, in healing and restoration, in development and in self-determination.

As one of our whakatauki tells us,

He manga wai koia kia kore e whitikia

It is a big river indeed that cannot be crossed.

We have the will and the way to make change happen. The Maori Party commends you all – Healthcare Aotearoa – as the collective voice for good health across our land.

Tena tatou katoa.


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