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Launch of Te Kaiga Maopoopo

Associate Minister of Social Development


Saturday 5 April 2014

SPEECH

Launch of Te Kaiga Maopoopo and Blessing Ceremony for the Tokelau Prevention and Intervention Programme for Practitioners, Providers and Community Leaders to address Family Violence, Pataka Art and Museum, Porirua


It is right and proper that our first acknowledgement is to Reverend Tui Sopoaga for the opening prayers for this very special day. I want to also mihi to Toeaina Mika Perez for laying the foundation for such an important event.

I want to thank Zechariah Reuelu, the facilitator of this project, the Tokelau Core Group, and families from the Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu communities for the great honour of being with you today.

The late, great Nelson Mandela once said, ‘if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

And so it is from my heart to yours, that I share with you some thoughts from Okesene Faraimo, “Ko kitatou ni toto, ma ni ivi, ma ni kakano halo.”

It is a statement I connect to on so many levels – we are blood, we are bones, and we are closely bonded to one another.
Our genealogy links us and provides the basis for our interactions with each other and our connection to the many ancestors from whom we descend. It shapes our character and informs the lives we live – it is the very essence of who we are.

Just over a week ago, our whanau celebrated the birth of a new mokopuna. I am an immensely proud grandmother of twenty-six grandchildren and our latest arrival brings to a grand total of twenty-six great grandchildren as well.

Our beautiful baby princess, Arahia Te Ahi Kaa Roa, reminded me again how precious our connections are, the life essence of our genealogy. Her name – a literal interpretation might be ‘to guide us home’ – will always centre our thoughts on the importance of our tribal home, and the wealth of opportunities that we have been gifted as the legacy of our ancestors.

This concept- the strength, the resilience and the power of family unity – is a key message running deep through Te Kaiga Maopoopo. What I love about your strategy is your determination – your vision – to achieve wellbeing through strong and unified families.

In the opening pages of your booklet it states “we believe that all Tokelau people are entitled to happiness, protection and the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations and potential in all aspects of their wellbeing.”


Isn’t that an amazing statement of faith in your families – investing in your own families as the basis of your success? Like our precious baby girl represents – this is the understanding that family unity, being guided to come home to one another, is the foundation of wellbeing for Faka-Tokelau.

Faka-Tokelau, if interpreted and practised the way in which your elders suggest, reflects that culture is the strength and compass of a people, a community, a nation.

There is no greater evidence of that truth than here at your Tokelau day.

The opportunity for the fakamanuia – the blessing ceremony of this programme – is also an opportunity to cherish the vision of peaceful, caring and loving relationships between Tokelau people.

Faka-Tokelau is built on the understanding of the value and strength of kaiga – the nuclear family; pui kaiga – the extended family – and kau kaiga – the wider extended family.

This is a shared heritage which keeps you strong - the challenge is to trace the lines and connect yourself to your mutual ancestors - and to do that in a practical sense, to keep the culture alive here in Aotearoa in 2014.

In the document there is a reference to Tamamanu – literally a young bird. It encourages us to dig deep, to find that spirit of compassion to take care of anyone who is in a vulnerable state. Just as the young bird needs support and assistance to fly, all of us must take up our responsibility and obligations to shield, protect and take care of all our family members, and particularly our vulnerable.

In the world of Tokelau of course there are some special dimensions to guide the way in which you enhance and protect family relationships. We might call these cultural values – or protective factors – the values that exist to protect the relationships within the kaiga.

I am thinking especially of the covenant between tuagane and tuafafine - the way in which the brother acts as a guardian and protector for his sister and in return she ensures sustenance and support.

In the Tokelau conceptual framework it tells us that the brother-sister relationship is the most significant and highly cherished relationship in Tokelau culture.

The strongest expression of this relationship is seen in the circles of support that emerge from this relationship between brother and sister – extending to influence the welfare of the kaiga and wider kin.

This is, I think, the most important feature of Nga Vaka o kaiga Tapu – the Pasefika Proud Family Violence research and conceptual frameworks from which the Tokelau framework was born.

It is that sense that each of the seven nations included in the waka, needed their own unique framework, to be both relevant and reflective of their own values and aspirations across their communities.

What is so profound about your framework is the way in which you’ve brought together some really huge issues about the connection between contemporary challenges and how that has increased pressure within the family which in some cases has led to violence within the home.

And I have to say I was blown away by the scope and breadth of thinking that has gone into looking at the pressures placed on kaiga.

Some of these issues are:
· Parents and children spending long hours separated from each other because of school and work obligations
· Financial pressures to meet day-to-day demands
· The ease of access to takeaway foods and inactivity has compromised the health and strength of the people
· The loss of language has led to a disconnection from kaiga
· There are risks that the ancient knowledge related to the traditions of Faka-Tokelau is being lost
· Colonisation and migration has highlighted the relationships of power and control
· And of course the significant influence of the church and religion; and the political arrangement between Tokelau and New Zealand are major impacts on the cultural landscape of the people.

I want to really commend Salapima Everdina Fuli and Carmel Peteru as writers and Serena Curtis-Lemuelu in managing this project, for their courage and determination to put into words some of the really hard issues that have come up during the development of the framework.

I know that they would say that it takes a village to create the change we need and I want to also acknowledge the supporting church minister, Reverend Tui and Ane Sopoaga, the Tokelau Working Group who initially developed the framework and then the core groups who have facilitated consultation, shared ideas, contributed knowledge and leadership and inspired conversations right across your communities.

Running throughout Te Kaiga Maopoopo is the understanding that respectful relationships are critical to the wellbeing and survival of Tokelau people.

This operates in so many ways. It is about protecting and promoting the wellbeing of women and children. It is about re-energising and restoring relationships based around worship and belief; around kinship about the value of the environment, through the means of the Tokelau language.

But ultimately, the key lies in Faka-Tokelau as the basis for uplifting the needs and aspirations of the people to guide future generations.

And that is such a wonderful idea – that the life essence that flows throughout you all provides a solid basis for your journey into the future.

I am so proud – and so humbled too – to be able to help support you in launching your waka as you journey forward into a brave new future - a future guided by your past; informed by your present; and inspired by the possibilities ahead of you for the ultimate wellbeing of all your kaiga.

Fakafetai lahi lele

Tēnā koutou katoa.


ENDS

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