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Sharples: Annual Whanau Violence Conference

Te Hauora o Ngati Haua Annual Whanau Violence Conference
 He tapu te tangata (nga ahuatanga o te ao hurihuri)

Tauwhare Marae, Hamilton

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 15 July 2008

Te Ika-nui-o-te-moana, or more commonly known as Te Hapuku, was a great Ngati Te Whatuiapiti leader of the late eighteenth century.

It was Te Hapuku who signed the 1835 Declaration of Independence and on 24 June 1840, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  His dignity and deep knowledge of tribal tradition was legendary.

As Te Hapuku lay dying, he asked to be placed, so that when his eyes would finally close, their last gaze would be on the sacred Kahuranaki Hill.

It was an image that I thought of as I came to this hui today.

What is the horizon of hope we look to?

What do we fix our gaze on as we truly, deeply reflect on ‘he tapu, te tangata’? 

What are the sacred maunga that inspire us to lift our sights, to uplift our souls, to strengthen our whanau?

I am afraid to say, that over these last ten days I have found little of substance to sustain my hope in this complex arena of violence. 

And so I too, have come to this hui, knowing that the knowledge, the wisdom and the skills you all hold within the area of family violence, are a vital part of the pathway forward.

It is good to be here, to acknowledge the incredible efforts of Maori practitioners and whanau alike, in helping us understand the very nature of the journey we are on.

Before we can ever hope to see change in our life-time, we must know the scope of what we are dealing with.

I have found great comfort in the steps towards solutions that Project Mauriora has offered in addressing violence within the whanau.

Just a note  - I deliberately won’t couple “whanau” and “violence” together as a natural partnership.  The concepts of ‘whanau’ and ‘violence’ are in my mind absolute opposites, and I do not want to ever naturalise or normalise the problem by joining the two words together.

The first step in the Mauriora framework is to dispel the notion that violence is normal and acceptable.

It is about standing up and being counted.

It is about speaking out.

It is about naming the violence, recognising “I did wrong and I take responsibility for my actions”.

It is about understanding the complex web of violence that spins across the continuum of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic violence.

One of the truly heartening features of the last ten days has been the realisation that violence shocks and horrifies New Zealanders. 

Heartening in that it demonstrates that our society does not see violence as normal and acceptable – but disheartening, of course, that even one incident of violence is one incident too many.

I can’t ignore the fact that the police tell us that less than eighteen percent of domestic violence is ever reported.

We know also that one in three New Zealand women will suffer abuse at the hands of a partner during their lives.

These statistics are truly disheartening, utterly unacceptable.

I repeat, violence is not normal, it is not acceptable.

But I have to ask – if we focus all our efforts on the perpetrators as subjects worthy of our most bitter condemnation – what are the messages we send to those who are still embroiled in the web of violence?

I’m talking about the great majority – the 82 percent of violence not reported.

I believe we need to recognise the significance of owning up to one’s actions, admitting the seriousness of the situations we face, but also encouraging a climate in which perpetrators and whanau alike will take the steps to identify the violence, and face the consequences.

It is about striking the balance between recognising the violence is unacceptable; but also acknowledging the humanity of all involved.

He Tapu te Tangata.

The second step in working to prevent violence, is to teach practices of transformation that provide alternatives to violence.

Ultimately the strength of transformation is seen in the courage and leadership of the collective.  The power is truly in the people –knowing we are ultimately accountable to each other.

Some of you may have seen an interview last week with Ngati Porou kuia, Vapi Kupenga, in which she challenged the persistent pursuit of one man by politicians and media alike.

Her korero was not to defend, to explain, to justify the violence.  Far from it.  She was intolerant of the violence, angry at the abuse.

But her korero raised the fact that violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

As the reports flooded the airwaves last week, attacking various individuals with great exuberance, who was thinking about the traumatic impact such a relentless hunt would have on the whanau, the partners, the wives, the children, the others who inhabit the world of the individuals involved?

Vapi Kupenga was thinking of whanau.  Her challenge was to raise a question of the media scrum – what makes you responsible?  Who gave you the mandate to hold an inquisition into our whanau?

Her analysis was based around the notion of collective care and responsibility.   It was based on kaupapa Maori – that an individual is ultimately accountable for their actions to their whanau, hapu and iwi.

Transformation comes from us all stepping up to the mark, naming the violence, and working together as whanau to insist that the strategies and safety mechanisms are in place to restore whanau ora.

Finally, the third step in the journey to Mauriora, is in removing opportunities for violence to be practised.

A key resource in addressing violence has to be in education for the empowerment and liberation of whanau, hapu and iwi.

It is about all of us, looking at our actions, listening to our language, being accountable for the models we promote.

It’s thinking again, before we harangue the All blacks, asking them to beat them, to slaughter, to destroy the team on the other side.

It’s thinking again, at a wider range of words.  Policy hits could be policy ideas.  Instead of wanting to ‘throttle’ our kids, we might want to remove ourselves from the situation, create our own time out. 

Removing opportunities for violence to occur, may mean we need to retrain, to look again at our own traditions, our moteatea, our karakia, and try to understand how they guide us in coping with challenge.

Within our whakapapa as Kahungunu, we look back to the wisdom of Tuteremoana, the most famous descendant of Tara, the eponymous ancestor of the Ngai Tara tribe.

Tuteremoana lived some nineteen or twenty generations ago.  When his birth was imminent, his grandfather, Tuhotoariki composed what we know now as ‘He oriori mo Tuteremoana’.

As anyone of you who has studied this oriori will know, there is more material to guide us forward than I could even hope to emulate in my lifetime.

And so, I return full circle, from the dying gaze of Te Hapuku, to the breath of life of Tuteremoana, to ask ourselves again, what is the glimmer of light that we can commit to, in strengthening the safety, the protection and the wellbeing of our whanau?

How can we create and recreate effective ways of changing our behaviour?

What outcomes do we expect to flow from a focus on distrust, disbelief, public shame and humiliation, condemnation and hate?

In every area of the policy spectrum, we in the Maori Party have sought solutions; solutions which are owned by the people, which are determined by the people, which will be accountable to the people.

We do believe that every individual must have the opportunity for rehabilitation and redemption.

We believe passionately in restorative justice, in holding hard to the lines of accountability and transparency while also never being afraid to seek help.

All of us have special places in our lives, where we seek refuge, to restore our essence, in times when strength is required.

I always return to Horehore, the old pa site on the range just to the east of Takapau called Ngahinaki-a-Tarawhata.

My hope for us all, as we move forward in this hui, is that we find our special spaces where we have opportunity to nurture our spirits, to build our sustenance, and to lift our gaze onwards to rise above the desperation and the ugliness of violence, to seek solutions that will achieve whanau ora.

The message of hope must be the beacon that we never extinguish.  Our whanau, hapu and iwi are indeed sacred, he tapu, te tangata, and they deserve nothing less.


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