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Sharples: Te Takawaenga Maori

Te Takawaenga Maori (Tertiary Institutions)

Dr Pita R Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

and Member of Parliament for Tamaki Makaurau

Wednesday 16 April 2008

I was excited about the invitation to join a hui entitled, strategising for success.

Of course my initial thought must be that the intention of the hui was to ensure that the Maori Party take the seven seats in 2008.

Strategising for success must be about having a strong and independent Maori voice with influence in the House.

But of course, a strong and independent Maori voice is just as vital for takawaenga Maori, as this hui today demonstrates.

This national hui is a wonderful opportunity for fine-tuning the Maori voice across all areas of tertiary education.

An opportunity to ensure you are all singing from the same song-sheet, in terms of a focussed strategy around the recruitment, retention and support of Maori in tertiary institutions.

Some of the songs you may be singing include:

* Quality kaupapa Maori programmes;

* Professional development to ensure effective cultural interaction;

* Improved career guidance advice for Maori students;

* Better focused financial support for Maori students;

* Provision of effective bridging programmes to bring Maori students into these arenas;

* A strong research focus on research by and for Maori.

Of course the songs that we sing, are all the more compelling, if we have the full range of harmonies available to us. We want to have the full strength of all parts together in accord, not one solo line wavering on its own.

And so I think, perhaps what may yet be the greatest challenge to you as takawaenga Maori, the limited entry policy.

It is just less than a month ago, at this very institution, that the Auckland University Students Association opposed the elimination of open entry; and in doing so, condemned the University for

“its complete failure to adequately consult and discuss the issues of admissions and limited entry with its most important stakeholders, students”.

This was a very strong act of resistance which is itself a statement of pride about the importance of listening to the student voice.

As I understand, Professor Margaret Mutu of the Maori Studies Department also spoke regarding the motions, saying that the power is in students’ hands.

It would appear also that Maori staff and students from this university have met with the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Jim Peters, and senate committee on limited entry and appear to be having an effect.

These types of actions are extremely important in strategising for success – in responding to a very significant challenge to Maori education by what our friend, Paulo Freire would describe as the conscientization process.

You would no doubt all be familiar with this concept through the Pedagogy of the Oppressed – and how education takes on new meaning as an instrument of liberation rather than a tool of oppression.

Knowing your entitlements as staff and appreciating the importance of your roles in the face of the tertiary education reforms, is an immensely important process for reinforcing the value of education both in itself, and for the transformation of society.

Less than twenty four hours ago the Government released their strategy, Ka Hikitia, boldly committing to a goal that Maori will enjoy education success as Maori.

Miraculously, the Associate Education Minister, Parekura Horomia, stated that Government is looking for ownership, leadership and accountability – recognising it is the system that needs changing and not the individuals who struggle to succeed within it.

And so I wonder what pressure will be brought to bear on both the University of Auckland to abandon their open entry policy, and likewise with Victoria University who have also revealed their interest in capping entry to some courses.

What ownership, leadership and accountability will the Universities take towards removing this threat to Maori tertiary education?

As a nation, we must all commit to the need to increase the number of Maori entering into and completing degree level qualifications, both as school leavers and adult learners.

And yet what all the statistics tell us is that degree level participation by Maori is low and has even decreased recently. Cutting off access to under-graduate courses flies in the face of both community demand and the plethora of Government driven pledges such as in Ka Hikitia.

The Maori Party has consistently promoted the need to increase system performance for Maori in order to ensure equitable outcomes.

We have to be concerned as to why there are low completion rates for Maori undertaking their degrees in university settings.

The current data tells us that most Maori enrol in the field of ‘society and culture’ for their tertiary study (40%).

Closing the door shut with restricted entry for degrees in arts, education, theology and law therefore all impact negatively on the participation patterns and experience of Maori in tertiary education.

Closing the door shut on those who want to study society and culture is in effect closing the door shut on diversity. It is as much as saying a certain type of person should benefit from the entitlement of tertiary education.

We are already struggling to even knock at the door as the rate of transition demonstrates. Of the 2004 school leavers, 71% of Europeans transitioned into tertiary education, compared with 68% of Asians, 52% of Pasifika and 51% of Maori.

These differences – so sharply differentiated as they are on ethnic grounds – are sufficient cause for concern on their own merit.

But – as section 181b of the Education Act 1989 reminds us – there is the matter of the Treaty of Waitangi – and specifically that a Council of a Tertiary Education institution must acknowledge the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in the performance of its function and the exercise of its powers.

Acknowledging the principles of the Treaty means we need to provide opportunities for educational success which will enable Maori to live as Maori; for Maori to have authority over Maori knowledge; to validate Maori ways of being and seeing the world.

Quite simply education must be able to enhance what it means to be Maori - as well as present opportunities for Maori to achieve every vision they want.

And increasingly that education must respond to many different demands, many different priorities.

For if Dancing with the Stars tells us anything, it is that the girl they call Pocket Rocket - or just plain Bubby; Ngapuhi legend Temepara George can be a Silver Fern; and a Dancing Legend; and a Code TV star and be proud of her Samoan and European heritage as well.

As kaitakawaenga Maori your greatest responsibility is to ensure the aspirations of Maori are delivered on in the broadest possible way.

It is about supporting Maori aspirations including the revitalisation of te reo Maori, nga tikanga, nga Matauranga.

It is about supporting Maori aspirations to take on the world.

We are a people with a proud history of navigational courage – who have displayed in contemporary times that same flair for innovation and enterprise through our reputation as entrepreneurs.

Tangata whenua will be able to chart a way forward in reaching Destination Aotearoa – a distinctive nation, rich in our cultural assets, strong in our identity as peoples.

We must embrace this diversity as peoples of the Pacific, as citizens of the world, and plait together a strong design which will take us into the future.

These are just some of the challenges that no doubt you will discuss and debate over the course of this hui.

And in the spirit of diversity, and in acknowledging the courage and strength that so many of our people give in their lives, I want to close with a final tribute to a wonderful woman, who truly represents the strength of a diverse Maori experience.

A singer/songwriter of Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Maniapoto, Jewish and Celtic ancestry.

A woman who stood up to fight discrimination on grounds of mental health and wellbeing while also embracing ‘the Mongrel in me’.

A woman brought up on Glenn Miller and Ella Fitzgerald.

Her waiata, Forever, represents the legacy that Mahinaarangi Tocker has shared with the world.

Time will endeavour to count me in life

Life will continue to circle and survive

We sing of our past and we dance to the next

Change of history will beat on our doorstep.

If your role as kaitakawaenga Maori is to be truly successful, you might see that success in the way in which Maori are counted in life; the changes of history that flow; and the way that Maori survive and thrive, forever.


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