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Turia: Pacifica Women’s National Conference

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister for Social Development

Friday 21 February 2014

Pacifica Women’s National Conference

Kauri Conference Room, Brentwood Hotel, Wellington

E nga mana, e nga reo, tena koutou. Ngati Toa Rangatira, Ngati Raukawa, Te Atiawa, tena koutou katoa.

Tena hoki koutou nga whanaunga aku tuakana o te puku o te wheke ara o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa.

E nga kaiwhakahaere o tenei hui, tena hoki koutou.

I want to acknowledge the nations that you call home and the birth waters of the Pacific Ocean that is the umbilical cord that connects us and creates our whakapapa ties.

It is a particular honour for us all to have the Niue High Commissioner her Excellency, Mrs O’Love Jacobson with us tonight.

I pay tribute to your National President, Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn Dunlop and to other members of the national executive.

I want to mihi to all branches and members of Pacifica, from Whangarei to Invercargill and everywhere inbetween. Your role in feeding the spirit of your families, in nourishing and nurturing their ability to thrive is so important in keeping our communities strong - and I want to thank you for that devoted commitment you show.

I am especially pleased to acknowledge Kataraina O’Brien and Awhimai Reynolds from the Maori Women’s Welfare League and Barbara Arnold from the National Council of Women.

I am convinced that with these three organisations together in one room, we can mobilise, galvanise and energise a mighty mass of women to set our country alight.

Your conference theme showed me that PACIFICA is aware that for the revolution to take place, it must start in every home.

I love the concept “make yours a happy home” and I am really looking forward to hearing the young women from each region compete tonight for the Via Pokia shield.

So how do we replicate that vision in every home?

Sometimes I think we place so much energy on what we don’t want in our world – “stamp out” this and “anti” that – that we forget to focus on what we want to see.

Anna Fruean Bailey from Healthstar Pacific gave a twist to this message when she talked about her work in nursing:

“Nurse training has tended to focus on diseases with limited attention to learning about what health and wellbeing really means. Now, practising in the field, I’m dancing with the community.”

I loved that – the idea that we scope out what health and wellbeing means in our own sense, rather than defining it by what it isn’t.

And I want to bring us back to the vision of the founder of Pacifica, Eletino Paddy Walker, to generate new ideas about peace so that people can become peace builders of a "world fit for children."

Isn’t that a great challenge – that we could come together to build a world fit for children?

Some of you in this room will have been part of building the Pacific conceptual framework to address family violence – Nga vaka o kaiga tapu.

That framework demonstrated that the sacred knowledge, the traditional values and the strength of whakapapa and our connections to one another are the greatest source of our solutions.

During the process of development, there was one concept that permeated all the discussions: fakalilifu; fa’aaloalo; faka’apa’apa; vakarokoroko; vaerua ‘akangateitei; and fakaaloalo. It was one of those words where the meaning was shared across the seven nations of Fiji; Niue; Samoa; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu and the Cook Islands.

As tangata whenua we refer to it as tapu – a concept of spiritual belief and practices expressed in the relationships of respect. We think about the tapu of people – the presence and protection of our atua, the relationships of appropriate behaviour within the family.

Happiness therefore should not be defined as the absence of evil – I prefer to think of it as the presence of good.

When we think about making a happy home, a home fit for children, we expect safety, protection, love and hope to be fundamental to that home.

We want every mokopuna to know they are descendants of Atua, that their tupuna walk alongside of them.

We want our children to be confident in the waiata and moteatea, the songs, the dance, the art forms of those who have gone before them.

We want them to flourish in their mother tongue, to be proud of knowing their history, to appreciate the vital landmarks and special sites of the place they know of as home.

We want them to value their genealogy, their connections to their wider family, their relationships across the waters, here in Aotearoa and on their island in the sun.

And most of all we want them to know what keeps them well – physically, socially, mentally, spiritually.

In the dragon’s den you held today, Murray Edridge or Rawiri Brell might have referred to “cultural competency” as a key value in our schools or social settings.

In Nga Vaka o Kaiga Tapu – they described this in other ways – through the words and concepts unique to each nation.

The seven vaka in the framework can be seen as “ethical compassess” - in the way in which we help to orientate our families and communities towards honouring relationships in families; in valuing identity and belonging.

I know that many of you in this room are already champions of change.

You are at the helm of many vaka – whether it be in keeping our communities free from the exposure of alcohol - designing and developing employment and training opportunities or holding our local councils to account.

As an aside - I do want to note the generosity of Hutt City Council who have been supporting Pacifica scholarships for the last thirteen years – wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that expression of generosity spread out across New Zealand!

And so when I see Pacifica women – I see women from all dimensions dancing with your communities - doing what needs to be done in lifting the wellbeing of your people.

In the latest New Year’s Honours – two of your Life members were recognised for outstanding service to the community –Marjorie Joe from your Hastings branch and Laurel Taufauata from Auckland Central. While we congratulate Marj and Laurel for their amazing efforts, it also reminds us just how important it is to have mentors who guide and inspire us.

That is what I have seen through the difference being made by the Pacific collectives of Whanau Ora.

These collectives are driven by people who know what happiness is – they want to do everything they can to support their families to realise their full potential.

They want the whole picture – full employment for their families, success at school, smokefree homes – in fact let’s make that alcohol-free, sugar-free, violence free, gambling free as well. Let’s just make our homes place where we can be free to be - to cherish the essence of who we are.

Shortly I will be announcing the commissioning agency for Pacific families that will be leading the next phase of Whanau Ora.

The new agency will provide direct investment in supporting Pasifika families to achieve their aspirations – whether that be income generation, technological literacy, effective parenting, healthy lifestyle or employability.

The key in all of these areas is, of course, in supporting Pasifika families to take active decisions about their lives – doing whatever it takes to make the difference. It’s so exciting to see the momentum that has been building as all of our families across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa build a world fit for purpose, a world fit for their families, aiga, whanau.

Finally, I read in your newsletter about the achievements of Anne, Pania, Repeka and Lusi – Pacifica Health Heroes who recently competed in the 2013 New York marathon.

It was a fabulous story of these four women running to the cheers of two million people, holding proudly to the Samoan flag, while being serenaded by an African American gospel choir. Now if that doesn’t define happiness I don’t know what would!

Finally, I want to end with the wisdom of Tonga ‘Fofola e fala kae talanoa e kainga’ literally roll out the mats so that the family can dialogue.

If we are to truly make all of our homes happy places to grow and learn, to live and lead positive change, then our basis must begin in talk.

We can inspire better, we can imagine greater, we can achieve so much more when we are together in korero - united in our values - unified in our vision.

I want to thank you again for the honour of spending this time with you. As women of the Pacific, let us work together with every breath that we take, to make our world the best it can be.

ENDS

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