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Te Ururoa Flavell: People Our Greatest Wealth

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‘Our People are our Greatest Wealth’

Policy Launch: Te Aranga Marae, Flaxmere, Hastings

Te Ururoa Flavell,

Education Spokesperson for the Maori Party

Tuesday 14 October 2008

The Maori Party is not going to be announcing any policies to get tough on teenagers; to send youth to boot camps; to focus on youth crime.

We choose to focus instead on youth potential.

We have a very important reason to do so.

46% of the Maori population are 19 years and under.

This is a massive contrast to the total New Zealand population – where only 29% are 19 years and under.

We know too, that we are a growing population.  One in four NZ in 0-4 age group are Maori.

We have to get it right for them, for us – for it is the children of today who inherit the earth – who will care for us in our old age.

We want to ensure all children get a great start in life; a kick-start to success.

we support a shift in the emphasis of education investment towards children and early childhood education, including lower adult: child ratios.

We will increase the supply of quality early childhood care and education services in low-income areas.

We also believe that the exclusion of play centres and kohanga reo is a travesty; it is unfair and improper, and should be removed so that 20 hours free childcare be extended to children in these centres also.

We absolutely believe the whanau are the first educators – we want whanau to be able to take control.  We will support the delivery of literacy and numeracy services to parents trying to teach children to read, write and count.

At primary and compulsory levels, we have had too many stories of system failure.  We have a vested interest in getting it right, in ensuring the educational journey of our rangatahi is one that paves the way for a life of prosperity.

You may be aware of the work that Professor Russell Bishop has undertaken in the context of the Te Kotahitanga Project. 

Although the findings of that project were harsh, thatmany teachers believe that Maori learners are simply less capable of educational achievement, it was a wake-up call to New Zealand to the type of deficit thinking that our kids were suffering from in school.  It wasn’t news to any of us – but it was important that it was written down, reported on, available to the public.

It put it out there – that the cultural competency of our teachers was an issue.

And so, the Maori Party is introducing measures which emphasize cultural competency as a professional responsibility.

We will establish incentives that reward school success and innovation in reducing under-achievement and disengagement.

We will reduce teacher-student ratios.

We will support professional development for teachers, particularly in cultural competency.
We believe that the school is an important part of every community.

The public needs to be provided with better information on school performance, including Maori and Pacific achievement.   ERO reports must be made readily available  to whānau, hapū and iwi; and schools must disclose achievement statistics.

 ‘enrolment schemes’ need to be reviewed to ensure children from low-income whanau and families are not disadvantaged.
We see tertiary education as a front-end investment into the nation’s future – it should be freely available to all. 

If it is true that education is the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next, then who are we to charge our children for something that we got for free?

We welcomed Labour’s move to reintroduce a universal student allowance – and we want to go one step further - we will also increase the level of student allowances, to be set at the level of the unemployment benefit.  We believe this should enable students to enjoy a basic living income.

To ensure that all people have the chance to pursue tertiary education, we will introduce a fee reduction policy to reduce fees to a nominal level over time; a gradual process.

We will invest in trade training and apprenticeships, developed and delivered in conjunction with key industry sectors, to upskill workers and address skill shortages, and to better enable industries to take advantage of skills training. 

We support a retraining allowance to enable people to be adaptable, to take up new opportunities.
The Maori Party has been extremely troubled by the challenge of our capacity to address Article Three rights of citizenship, such as:

how to address the drastic situations for Maori or joblessness and intergenerational unemployment; - particularly the youth unemployment: rate of 15-19 years old is22.6 % [national average is 14%]; and

the significant disparity between Maori and non-Maori in weekly income.
In New Zealand, if you have no school qualification the median income is $16,900.

In New Zealand 36% of Maori have no qualifications.

This compares with 22% for the whole population.

In New Zealand if you have a post-school qualification (Bachelors or higher degree) the median income is $35,600

In New Zealand just 6% of Maori have post-school qualifications.

This compares with 14 percent for the whole population.  

Treasury predicts that by the middle of next year, unemployment will have risen to 5.1 percent.  Historically this translates to around 10% of Maori being jobless.

We all remember that in the tough economic environment following the market crash of 1987, Maori unemployment rocketed from 11.3 percent, to 25.4 percent – more than 1 in every four – in 1992.

But education is not just about readiness for the workforce.  Education enables young people to make good choices about their future; but it is also vital to equip students for life.

We also ascribe to the view, that the people are best able to determine their own solutions.  And so we want to encourage greater freedom to supplement Maori educational outcomes with whanau, hapu and iwi models of education.

And I think of the amazing things achieved at Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau, Murupara where Ngati Manawatanga rules; or the great work happening in Tu Toa in the Manawatu.

A long held aspiration of Maori has been the establishment of aMaori Education Authority.

The Matawaia Declaration of January 1988 called for the establishment of an independent Maori education authority - a fully autonomous statutory body to achieve Maori control over Maori philosophies and practices in education.  

We had the PPTA hui at Ngaruawahia and Huntly. We had Hui Rangatiratanga at Rotorua and the establishment of the Tino Rangatiratanga Education Authority.

The call continued over the next decade, culminating in the Hui Taumata Matauranga, called by Tuwharetoa paramount chief, Tumu te Heuheu in 2001. 

Our colleague, Dr Pita Sharples, was instrumental in bringing together proposals for a separate tino rangatiratanga Maori education authority including a new Maori Education Act and a Minister of Maori Education.

Language, Culture and Broadcasting

Finally, I want to refer you to our initiatives in te reo rangatira.

In our opening address, Pita made a comment,

Ko te kupu te mauri o te reo, ko te reo te mauri o te tangata.

The operative word is mauri – the life force.

Language is the key to Maori identity and culture.   Te reo rangatira is the most precious gift our tupuna bequeathed to us to protect, maintain and share with the world.

To this end, because excellence in te reo Maori is something we are proud of,

we support the establishment and full-funding of a Centre for Maori Language Excellence;

The Party also supports tangata whenua having a more direct stake in the resources provided for the promotion of Maori language, culture and economic development through broadcasting.

We want to see continued investment in developing and supporting MTS and iwi radio.

Ends

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