Turia: Ngati Kapo o Aotearoa Biennial Conference 2013
Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues
Ngati Kapo o Aotearoa Biennial Conference 2013
Hotel Grand Chancellor, Auckland Airport
Ka rere atu nga mihi ki te hau kainga, te tangata whenua, tena koutou katoa.
Ki aku hoa, Te Kahui Tumuaki - ki a koe e Kimiora, tae noa ki a koutou katoa kua tae mai i nga kokona e wha o te motu, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
It is an honour to be asked to open this conference, and I want to acknowledge the privilege of recognising some of the keynote speakers that will be blessing this forum over the next few days – the Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem - Entertainer and Entrepreneur, Mike King - leading Maori legal activist, Moana Jackson - former President, Jim Morunga and founding member, Maaka Tibble.
I am of course proud to also acknowledge my colleague, Dr Pita Sharples - our Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson - your President Nigel Ngahiwi and all members of Ngati Kapo.
There must have been something in the breeze in 1983.
That was the year the New Zealand Maori league team toured the UK.
A man called Dalvanius Prime decided to form his own label, Maui Records, from which he would subsequently record an international best-seller, Poi E.
In Parliament the Maori Purposes Act was drafted to amend the law relating to Maori land.
And in that same year Te Kaunihera Neehi Maori o Aotearoa was formed to clear the way for total wellbeing for te iwi Maori.
But there was another significant marker in the history of tangata whenua that took shape that year – and that was the establishment of Ngati Kapo o Aotearoa to advocate and provide services for the blind, vision impaired, deaf-blind persons and their whanau.
Today we come to celebrate Ngati Kapo – to honour the pathway you have been on, over these last thirty years.
The theme of this hui is Te Kohatu Ki Te Ao Marama Te Kotahitanga – to make our way back to the light as one.
It is a very important reminder of the journey you have travelled and the opportunities you have to work together as one collective.
Let’s just reminisce a little more about what was happening in 1983.
The lyrics of the incredible Ngoi Pewhairangi remind us of our collective desire to thrive in Te Ao Marama.
In the words to that beautiful waiata, Ngoi likened the poi to the fantail that flies though the forest. She compared this to rangatahi Maori trying to find their way in the concrete jungle of te ao tauiwi. Just like the tiwaiwaka who flits between trees and leaves, our young have to dart between skyscrapers, both physical and cultural, and search for their identity.
It stands today, as an amazing anthem of pride – and I see that same pride reflected in the vision of Ngati Kapo – to be leading, innovating and in control of your destinies.
So where are we now – and have we lived up to the fine aspirations of 1983 - are we making our way back to the light as one?
How do you see your role in supporting Maori with disability to enjoy the opportunities of leadership; to exercise choice and control over their lives?
One of the most ground-breaking statements in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is that nation states must actively involve disabled people in decisions that affect them.
Disabled persons have told me that they have had enough of decisions being made by others about them, but without them.
Maori disabled have been even clearer – they want to be supported both as tangata whenua – and also as disabled whanau members – to thrive, flourish and live the life they want.
I can’t think of a clearer demonstration of this than in reflecting on a ceremony I had the privilege of attending in the last couple of days.
For as we gather here today, in her beloved Tuparoa, the late Taingunguru Walker is being laid to rest. At her service in Wellington, before the whanau headed home to the coast, there was an amazing rolling series of stories about how whanau and friends alike had experienced the larger-than-life personality that was Tai.
Tai, and her devoted guide-dog Tina, navigated the Victoria University campus with a determination to achieve all that she could by orchestrating a vast network of support around her. She was driven by what Ngati Kapo describe as the 3S approach to life; Self-confidence; Self-belief and Self-determination.
And so it is in honour of her life, that I want to share some writings from the very recently capped, Dr Tai Walker.
It is through whakapapa that interactions and relationships are established, developed and maintained within whanau, and with whanaunga (relatives), marae, sacred mountains, rivers and ultimately the universe.
Whakapapa is an organising principle. It is through whakapapa that individuals often get their names, their identities, their sense of belonging, turangawaewae (place to stand – their ancestral land), and access to knowledge, rights and responsibilities
That piece was published in Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand – just last year, and came out of her PhD thesis, ‘An exploration of the evolution and application of the notion of whanau.
In her death, as in her life, Tai Walker was continuing to be instructive - to reinforce the roles and responsibilities of whanau - to demonstrate the importance of kaupapa Maori - leaving guidance about all the key decisions she felt needed to be made.
It was the ultimate expression of disabled persons setting the benchmark for the right support, how best to improve outcomes and achieve responsive disability services for Maori.
It was also an example of Whanau Ora – encouraging our whanau to be truly self-determining - to set their own goals and plans for the future.
I think her writing provides some interesting challenges to reflect on.
The evolution of Ngati Kapo has been, if you like, a microcosm of so many Maori providers. Over the years, you have been a peer support group - an advocacy arm - a business entity - a national health and disability service provider - a research body.
But what has been central to your service is the calling to provide a constructive place by which to support members to determine their own solutions.
Tai reminds us that what is central to her wellbeing is not provider ora – but Whanau Ora. She cites whakapapa as the central organising principle – not services, activities or programmes – as good as they may be.
As a collective, Ngati Kapo has invested in that same philosophy. Your priority has been about enabling disabled Maori to participate in the Maori world - to be connected to their own natural support networks particularly their whanau - and to value the impact of Maori worldviews on your spiritual, mental, physical, emotional and whanau wellbeing.
This, indeed, is the foundation for ‘Whaia Te Ao Marama’ which was developed by the Maori Disability Leadership Group. You will no doubt be aware that your Vice President, Maaka Tibble, has been a key advocate for this approach.
Over the last year it has been great to see some of the initiatives that have grown out of Whaia Te Ao Marama including:
• Your work with the Ministry of the Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind to improve Maori access to specialist services
• Funding through Te Pou to support Maori to access training grants – I understand some 46 tangata whenua accessed leadership grants in 2012 and that another 867 Maori disability workers have accessed training grants
• Maori representation on the national Enabling Good Lives Leadership Group.
I am also really pleased that your pathway forward has prioritised working together – engaging with one another – to strengthen your connections.
It is good to know that your President Nigel and your Executive Officer, Chrissie Cowan have been leading the way in working with other Disabled Persons Organisations.
And I was also pleased to learn that Lorraine Bailey and Dempsey Puru are here, representing Te Piringa as an indication of their support for Ngati Kapo.
There will be other alliances you are making – whether with the NZ Foundation for the Blind, with St Johns, or with BLENNZ – the provider for blind, low vision and deaf blind children – that represent your willingness to work together for mutual benefit.
Ultimately your future success lies in the strength of the support you can wrap around yourselves – both as whanau and as an organisation.
The Enabling Good Lives approach is all about disabled persons determining the right mix of support and services that they believe will enable them to live a great life. In many ways it resonates strongly with Whanau Ora – in which whanau have taken up the challenge to bring their families together and to build their own capacity.
So, as we think about 2013 – three decades on – how do you think you should be assessed on your founding statement ‘Ahakoa kahore matou i te kite kei te kite - We may be blind but we have vision.’
Has your vision been delivered upon?
Have your whanau experienced the transformation you first envisaged – to bring Maori kapo and your whanau together to rejoice in your cultural identity as Maori?
Or have you been so focused on services that the aspirations of families have been secondary to the goal of business as usual.
A hui like this is a really good place to think seriously about the nature of your work – and whether it is truly making your way back to the light as one.
When I looked through your biennial report – I was drawn to the words of your waiata, Ko te ropu tenei o Ngati Kapo e.
Like the victorious anthem of the Patea Maori Club – this waiata epitomises your vision to stand with pride - to remain true to the kaupapa of your founders - and to move forward as one.
I offer you my utmost congratulations for your tenacity - your determination and your leadership in setting the bar really high for a future that all of your members can be proud of.
I wish you all a wonderful conference in helping to achieve the vision you set for yourselves so long ago.
Tena tatou katoa.