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Speech: 2013 Prize Giving - Turakina Maori Girls College

Saturday 7 December 2013

2013 Prize Giving - Turakina Maori Girls College, Marton

It is such a pleasure to be with you today, to celebrate your successes, to bask in our collective pride at the talents of these incredible young women. It does the heart good.

I was remembering as I drove out here today, about my daughter Lisa and the experience she had here at Turakina. What was it that prompted us to enrol her at this kura? How did the history and the legacy of this school influence us in making our decision?

I found the answers to my questions in your school mission:

To support, to uplift, to strengthen our learners in order that their quest for knowledge becomes paramount.

To do this we must build a firm foundation and belief in Mana Wairua, Mana Maori, Mana Wahine, Mana Matauranga.

Hence the aspirations and dreams of our ancestors will be fulfilled and the wellness of our young Maori women will be forever in place.

That is such a stunning prescription for a well-balanced holistic education – education to equip you for life.

At Turakina there is a focus on academic excellence and achievement – as this prize-giving amply demonstrates. You can be well proud that NCEA results here remain consistently higher than the national average.

But it is also a kura that cares – cares for your cultural growth, your spiritual depth, your physical development.

And I want to really commend both your Board of Proprietors and your Board of Trustees for the efforts and enthusiasm that are invested in making school not only a site of success but also a place of safety.

This is a college which takes seriously the role of virtues and values within our lifetime journey. A college which builds on the strengths, skills, knowledge and expertise of dedicated staff, both school and hostel, to nurture every girl who comes through your doors into a young woman of substance, a leader of tomorrow.

And if you need any proof of that you don’t need to go far. A quick glance over your yearbooks, your school archives and records would give you plenty of reason to believe in the distinguished impact of Turakina amongst generations of Maori girls.

One little girl, for instance, came from a family of eight, growing up at Taurewa, a tiny village on the main road just north of Chateau Tongariro. Her parents wanted her to have a good start in life and made Turakina their school of choice.

That little girl became Hon Georgina Te Heuheu. The first Maori woman to gain a law degree and be admitted to the High Court as barrister and solicitor, the first Maori woman to gain election as an MP for the National Party, the first Maori woman to chair the Maori Affairs Select Committee and only the second Maori woman to be appointed to Cabinet.

Then there’s Millie Te Kaawa, the former Moderator of Te Aka Puaho, the Maori Synod of the Presbyterian Church.

Millie has been strongly involved with her iwi, Ngati Tuwharetoa and has been secretary of Hahuru Marae in Kawerau. She worked hard to foster links between iwi and the Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill in the 1980s. In her term as Moderator she represented the church in Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Indonesia and Europe – and was held in the utmost respect. In short she’s been everywhere – and everywhere she’s been she’s made a great impression.

In our more recent history you might be aware that award-winning journalist Tina Wickliffe and her entrepreneurial sister, Mere Takoko, have also graduated from this kura.

Mere is the founder of an organization called Chump Change –which is all about transforming indigenous communities through promoting healthy lifestyles. We experienced her magic firsthand in the Beehive this year, when she took on a 12 week challenge to encourage fitness, to promote healthy eating and to raise money for child cancer along the way.

These four women are just a few of the amazing wahine Maori whose experience at Turakina has enhanced their life journey in innumerable ways. In many ways they provide us with a beacon of hope – spreading light in front of us to help show the way ahead.

As you travel on your own pathway, you will be faced with opportunities at every turn to be the ‘candle’ or the ‘mirror that reflects it.’

At times you will be a candle burning strong and bright, helping others to see a way ahead, providing leadership and learning from which others may find their own way more clearly.

At other times, you might be the mirror, reflecting back the lessons that your mentors have shown you; providing the support and encouragement to help to build faith and confidence in knowing the essence of who we are.

Whether we are a champion out in front, or whether we are helping the world to be the change we want to see, the values and the virtues that you have developed over your time at Turakina will help you find the right pathway for you.

In the spirit of Christmas, and in recognition of this important moment in each of your life journeys, I want to share with you a story that a very special woman in my life shared with me.

I had been contemplating some of the challenges that come with the complexity of a political life, when Naida Glavish sent me this story to encourage me to focus on what is right. It is called the Four Candles.

The first candle said to the others - "I am the candle of Peace, but these days, it seems nobody wants to keep me lit. There are countries at war with each other, the devastating impact of violence is felt in our homes, there are too many instances of bullying and harm.

And slowly Peace’s flame diminished – and bling – out went the light of Peace.

Then the second candle chipped up, "I am Faith, but these days, I shine the light of faith to the world but because there is no faith, there can be no peace – and bling – out went the light of faith.

The third candle turned to the one candle remaining and said, “Well I am the candle of Love and I simply haven't the strength to stay lit any more. People put me aside, they even forget to love those who are nearest to them. And waiting no longer, bling, out went the light of love.

This left just one lone candle glowing when a child walked into the room and asked the remaining candle, "Hey what's the matter with your mates, how come they've gone out?"

The Fourth Candle spoke gently to the small child.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am Hope and while I still burn, we can together, relight the other candles.

Never let the candle of hope be extinguished. With hope in your life, no matter how hard the adversity, Peace, Faith and Love will shine brightly once again.

I love the message in that story. It helps me to keep my own candle of hope glowing, and all of you today, have helped that flame burn all the more brightly.

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal – we must live every moment of it with purpose with enthusiasm and with confidence.

As you leave here today, to be reunited with your whanau, hapu and iwi, I want you to take one last message with you, about the importance of being fully involved in the life you live.

Yesterday the world lost a great leader, in Madiba Nelson Mandela. If ever there was a man driven by hope, by faith, by peace and by love it would be him.

And so I leave us all with his words:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.

It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

I wish you all a wonderful future ahead, a very happy Christmas with your loved ones, and a summer holiday which revitalises you to prepare for your own pathway forward.


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