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Tariana Turia: ‘Sharpening of the Pencil’

Whaitiaki Hui-a-Iwi

10th September 2008; Edmund Hillary School; Hunua Rd, Papakura

‘Sharpening of the Pencil’

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

I was humbled to be invited here today, to share in part of your journey, to provide guardianship, leadership and care for tangata whenua in Papakura.

It was always so special to be part of any movement which seeks to advocate and support the aspirations of tangata whenua – and to think that this group, Whaitiaki, is completely and totally voluntary is even more mind-blowing.

This week is of course, a week in which we remember the legacy of all of those who have contributed to the most remarkable revitalisation and renaissance of tangata whenua – through te reo Maori.

This Sunday, 14 September, marks the day 36 years ago, in 1972, when a Māori language petition (containing 30,000 signatures) was presented to Parliament for Māori language to be taught in schools.

Fourteen years after that historic day, the Waitangi Tribunal reported on the Te Reo Maori Claim. Within the submissions received was one from a Mrs June Te Rina Mead, a teacher of Maori in the Correspondence School.

She gave evidence to the Tribunal that many children who wanted to study te reo Maori at that time, were forced to do it by correspondence course, such was the level of disinterest from schools in supporting the language.

She talked about how difficult it was for a pupil to learn Maori trying to do pencil and paper exercises at the back of a classroom while some other subject was being taught in the same room at the same time.

Such a task was even more arduous when we remember that Maori is traditionally a spoken language best learned in the context of the culture and history of which it is an integral part, rather than as a "pencil-and-paper" test.

This little story is a reminder to us all, that great things can happen, that our outcomes and our aspirations can be met, despite what may seem endless challenges within our sight.

In that same Waitangi claim for te reo Maori, Maori Battalion veteran and Nga Puhi leader Sir James Henare shared his vision for the future.

'The language is the core of our Maori culture and mana. Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Maori. (The language is the life force of the mana Maori.) If the language dies, as some predict, what do we have left to us? Then, I ask our own people who are we?'

Today in 2008, te reo Maori is an official language of Aotearoa, and at the last evaluation, there has been a five percent increase in the numbers of Maori now speaking our own language – some 16.8% are proficient in writing te reo; and 14% proficient in speaking – it’s still not as large as we’d like, but it’s all progress.

I wanted to start with a tangible example of how we, as tangata whenua, identified an issue, mobilised the numbers, took action, and the results have been far reaching.

Change is all about sharpening the pencil, applying ourselves, and getting ready to act.

Tangata whenua had a vision in mind – that te reo Maori was a taonga that needed to be nurtured – we literally sharpened the pencils, wrote our submissions, walked the talk and the outcomes have been legislative and policy changes that have led to the resurgence of te reo.

We in the Maori Party, know that same action, through the path we have travelled in rising up, to defend the rights of Maori, to protect our aspirations for the benefit of all who call this land home.

You will know, if you look at our logo, that we give emphasis to the concept of te ‘ao’.

“Ao”, the world, highlights the importance of firstly, te Ao Maori, the philosophies, practices and world views encompassed within the tangata whenua reality.

It is also in understanding the distinctive nature of our world, Aotearoa, and knowing how to share our world with the rest of the world.

It means, in effect, that we value the maori – the natural world view; we celebrate the maori – the natural world view; while also respecting other world views.

It is, I believe, in many ways alike your vision asWhaitiaki – the emphasis you have developed through hui a iwi, to celebrate and shape Maori outcomes within the broader context of Papakura.

In our logo, we link the ‘a’ and the ‘o’ with a koru, to emphasize the importance of us working together and our shared heritage, our home. The koru, of course, is also symbolic of the unfolding of new life. It represents for us all, a time of renewal and hope for the future.

The statement from Willie Brown – a lifetime resident of Papakura – sums this up,“It is for our children’s children that we plan”.

Our children’s children will benefit from the planning and actions we take today, to preserve the tikanga, mana, and wairua of our whanau, hapu and iwi.

Our children’s children will benefit from the sense of meaning, the sense of place, that they can be nurtured in.

I see in your plan you call this a sense of ‘Papakuratanga’. Papakura marae is obviously central in your orbit – and we know how important it is or Papakura District Council, and all of the key stakeholders in your community to engage and work honourably with mana whenua for your outcomes to be achieved.

The koru in our logo aligns well with your commitment to our continual growth as a country is in celebrating and actively participating in our culturally diverse home.

But just as June Mead put pencil to paper, and told of the barriers and frustrations of her pupils in learning te reo Maori; we too must sharpen the pencil, and identify the barriers that are threatening your capacity to thrive and survive.

In the Maori Party we have campaigned long and hard against the injustice of poverty.

We have put pencil to paper, to tell it how it is :

• Around half of Pacifica children and over a quarter of Maori children live in over-crowded housing.

• Maori, across all income groups, have poorer health status than non-Maori

• The poorer performance and disengagement of Maori and Pacifica students is correlated with their socio-economic status.

That means poorer educational outcomes, greater risks of physical abuse and neglect, social marginalisation, and living in houses which place them at risk of ill health.

And we ask the questions, that curiously no-one wants to answer.

• How is it that not all people who work long hours, who work hard, aren’t wealthy?

• Who benefits from child poverty?

• Who is responsible for creating poverty?

• What analysis do we have of our shared history as a nation, which has led to the cumulative inter-generational political, social and cultural poverty among tangata whenua that continues today?

We believe, that there is, however, a wealth in a society that cares

We want to recreate a community of hands, reaching out and around each other. We want to put the heart back into hope.

I see in your plan that you are committed to social and community wellbeing, to establishing a Maori resource kete of information.

We want to ensure your kete is full with all the right ingredients. Some of the ways we are seeking to make a difference include,

• extending the formula applied in thein-work tax credit to ensure all families with children can benefit from support;

• providing a universal child benefit which experience shows is more likely to be taken up by the poorest families in the greatest need;

• set adeadline to eliminate child poverty by 2020 so that progress can be achieved;

• exempt those who earn $25,000 or less from income tax;

• raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour; and

• remove GST from food.

We know that Maori and Pacific people are over-represented in low-paid occupations, and are more likely to have fewer financial resources than the general population. And so our policy targets focus on whanau ora, on the economy, on the Treaty.

Ultimately it’s all about our future – our aspirations to whakamana te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We believe that Maori offer overwhelming potential for a positive and prosperous Aotearoa.

You must believe that too – why else would you invest all of your time and energy in coming together to create Whaitiaki.

The fundamental premise in your project is that the preservation of Maori values and concepts promote the cultural wellbeing of whanau, hapu and iwi.

In this way, you are as revolutionary and as visionary as those Maori language petitioners who took to Parliament some 36 years ago.

Your strategy – to encourage Maori entrepreneurship, to ensure there are protocols in place to invest in Maori participation, the emphasis you have put on creating proactive relationships – is all about putting a stake in the future.

I truly believe in the vision that together we can make a difference.

Together – may mean the discussions between Whaitiaki and the Papakura District Council.

Together – may mean with Counties Manukau District Health Boards, or with the Maori health providers, kura and Papakura schools, Naera Mortgages, and other services who are dedicated towards uplifting the situation for Maori.

Together – may mean relationships with marae, Ngati Tamaoho, Hui a iwi; Papakura Maori.

Together – may mean, of course, ensuring our whanau, hapu and iwi are dedicated towards truly making a difference for our children’s children.

I wish you a wonderful day, to recharge your batteries, to sharpen the pencil and then to go out and take on the world, reinspired, revitalised and ready to make it happen.


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