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'The future behind us' - Tariana Turia Speech

Hon. Tariana Turia
24 August 2001 Speech Notes
Friday 24 August 2001

Speech to the Whanganui Christian Social Services, 'The future behind us - the effects today of past events', Whanganui

Tena tatou e hui nei i tenei po.

Thank you for the invitation to speak with you this evening.

I noted with interest when you sent me the invitation to speak that you believed your work to be based around a 'Christian response to the social needs of today'.

To believe is important as the Reverend Martin Luther King once said that:

"You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days."

To that end I want to introduce the korero by reading a passage from the publication "Training For Transformation"

All of us who are involved in community, are immediately confronted with the real life problems of people - people who are caught in a never ending struggle for survival;
- With unsafe water
- Too little food
- Little education
- And no voice or power in decision making

Development and education are first of all about liberating people from all that holds them back from a full human life. Ultimately development and education are about transforming society.

Development, liberation and transformation are all aspects of the same process. It is not a marginal activity. It is at the core of all creative human learning.

Because the bonds of poverty and oppression makes the lives of vast numbers of people increasingly inhuman, it is amongst the poor and oppressed that development programs and adult education must start.

I have chosen the theme of my korero this evening as "The future behind us - the effects today, of past events" as I believe that our future is our present and our past.

For me as a descendant of the river of Whanganui the concept of time like the river does not pass us by, we are the ones who pass by, and pass on.

Time and the river meanwhile, just are.

What then are those events which, have occurred, and how have they influenced the rights for Maori and the dispensing of justice.

What are the events which, have impacted on us here in Whanganui.

Those, which I want us to consider this evening, include:

- The Treaty of Waitangi.
- The Whanganui River Claim and
- Pakaitore

All are interlocked. In discussing them I will relate the historical context to the ongoing debate and controversy to issues being raised today.

I read on the front page of yesterday's Dominion the headline "Tutor's Style Risks Racial Split" a reference which focussed on the teaching method of a tutor on Gisborne's Tairawhiti Polytechnic social services programme.

The result of a panel of enquiry reported in the paper, is an overhauling of the Polytechnics social services programme - and not, it appears the teaching style.

In fact students will now be advised of the teaching methods at enrolment and tutors will be given guidelines on the appropriate use of language.

On page 10 of the paper under the headline "Learning to hate" we learn that the 'offender' which, has lead to the restructuring, is the Treaty of Waitangi component of the Course.

In particular, the paper written by Mitzi Nairn who works for the Conference of Churches in Aotearoa NZ, formerly the National Council of Churches.

Mitzi Nairn states that that there is a lot of denial about racial prejudice and from that denial comes hostility.

Nairn also says that:
"until Pakeha come to terms with some of our history, our historical attitudes and some of our current presuppositions, justice will not happen".

It is a sentiment also held by Robert Consedine and his daughter Joanna whose recently published book "Healing Our History - The Challenge Of The Treaty Of Waitangi" was launched by the Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Robert, has since the 1980's conducted workshops so that Pakeha are able to confront New Zealand's colonial history and to understand its implications in the present.

Sir Paul Reeves in an introduction to the book refers to Robert Consedine, as speaking

'of forgiveness, healing, acknowledging the pain of history, reparation and the restoration of right relationships, none is an easy option" says Sir Paul "but each is a necessary step for a better New Zealand for all of us' .

The situation which occurred, at the Tairawhiti Polytechnic social services course also occurred here in Whanganui and lead to the closing of the local social services Course.

What has occurred in Gisborne is clearly of concern and if there is to be reconciliation and truth between Maori and Pakeha in Aotearoa, it will not occur unless there is acknowledgment of the wrongs of the dispossession, oppression and degradation of Maori people. While government has done this, sadly, there are many people in our country who are in denial.

Governments can lead as indeed this Labour Alliance government has in addressing justice and rights.

When truth is revelled anger could follow. Does the expression of anger justify the denial of truth? There are too many examples in history, where conflict has occurred as a result of the denial of truth. I do not wish that for our country.

While there may be many who have benefited from the events of the past, particularly the land confiscations, individuals who had no part in, or benefit from, what was done historically, do not need to feel responsible or guilty.

Indeed as a nation shame can exist in relation to past deeds and acts of omission, when those deeds and acts were made in the name of the community and carried out and condoned, by the authority of government.

It seems to me that whenever Maori, in educational courses courageous enough to address the Treaty history, become aware of their oppression and express outrage as a result, Treaty Education and Maori then become the problem as has just occurred in Gisborne and as it did in Whanganui.

I am intrigued that Maori dissatisfaction of educational course delivery and content does not always seem to get the same profile as Pakeha protest.

There are no media headlines. No front-page stories.

Educational courses do not get restructured.

In Gisborne, the presentation appeared the issue, so why not change the presentation?

Instead we have a restructured course, so the pain of history is denied those, both Maori and Pakeha, who need to experience it.

My question is, if we continue to deny the events of the past, if we are offended by the angry voices of the present, will there be harmony between the races in the future. What happens when we suppress human feelings, what are the long-term effects of that?

While we are living in the year 2001, for many Maori the year 1840, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi is very important as it signalled hope.

The Treaty of Waitangi signalled hope and the Waitangi Tribunal is seen as a vehicle, which would make recommendations, to redress the injustices to which iwi were historically subjected.

Indeed the process for Treaty of Waitangi settlements includes the recognition by the Crown of the wrongs against claimants and the issuing of an apology, cultural redress and commercial and financial redress.

While, some people continue to say iwi should move in to the year 2001 and not stay in 1840. These same people believe in the Westminster system of parliament and that occurred well before 1840.

Quite frankly I am weary of people who continue to state that we are locked into 1840. We are not, just look at us. What really, is meant by that statement?

It is very difficult for us, in Whanganui, to ignore the river. It has been there for a long long time, long before the Westminster parliamentary system. How does one pretend that it is not there and that its history should be forgotten?

How does one pretend the river is not being polluted every day? Honestly confronting our history certainly is difficult for some. The occupation of Pakaitore demonstrated the difficulty in confronting history. But confront it we did, painful though it was for many.

How do we in Whanganui have justice fairly administered to redress the "misery and anguish, as well as spiritual and economic loss at the hands of past governments"

Land was so necessary for our spiritual growth and economic survival. Land contributed to our sustenance, wealth, resource development, and traditions. Land added value to personal and tribal identity and land was required for the wellbeing for future generations.

The erosion of our land and other resources has impacted on the welfare, economy, and development of our people. Social cohesion, within whanau and between iwi, has been undermined, by individualisation of land title and it has forced abandonment of collective ownership.

What might a Christian response be, to redressing the social and economic wrongs from the past, which continue to exist in the present amongst the iwi of Whanganui?

That, is the challenge.

I continue to be amazed at the dignity of our people who over generations have continued to use peaceful means to seek justice given that the changes to which our ancestors were subjected came through the barrel of a colonial gun.

I have always admired their restraint. They did not hate, in fact the old people were very forgiving, and their forgiving spanned generations.

The Reverend Martin Luther King said

"He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love."
"Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude."

I believe that tangata whenua in Aotearoa have demonstrated over a very long period of time, the ability to forgive. I can say, however, that it has not been an easy journey.

I can also say, that given some of the mail I receive in my office and the reports in the media, there is a belief that Maori are privileged.

While there is never any factual evidence, the myth of privilege continues to be perpetuated.

There is a belief that this privilege exists despite the acknowledged injustices perpetrated in the past, despite the massive loss of land where today a mere fraction of Aotearoa which was once Maori, remains in Maori control.

Truth always suffers with myths and never gets in the way of a good story and the expression of prejudice.

The Treaty of Waitangi acknowledged and welcomed the presence of the Crown.

It recognised the existence of two social structures, one indigenous, and the other with a whakapapa the origins of which came from another land.

It was never ever intended to be, in the Maori mind at least, a vehicle for alienation and assimilation.

There was a hope that both Maori and Pakeha would develop together, not necessarily the same, but together.

In ending therefore on the theme of development I would like to quote a passage from the late Julius K Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, who in discussing development said:

Development brings freedom, provided it is development of people. But people cannot be developed; they can only develop themselves. For while it is possible for an outsider to build a person's house, an outsider cannot give the person pride and self-confidence in themselves as human beings. Those things people have to create in themselves by their own actions. They develop themselves by what they do; they develop themselves by making their own decisions, by increasing their own knowledge and ability and by their own full participation as equals in the life of the community they live in. People develop themselves by joining in free discussion of a new venture and participating in the subsequent decision; they are not being developed if they are herded like animals into the new ventures. Development of people can, in fact, only be effected by the people.

I believe that we need to listen to all the voices, even those raised in anger.

I believe we need to accept the challenge by the Reverend Martin Luther King who I quoted at the beginning of this korero that we ought to believe something in life, and believe that thing so fervently that we will stand up with it till the end of our days.

Believing in the relevance of the Treaty of Waitangi and the need to courageously confront our history would be a good place to start.

Na reira, huri noa i to tatou hui, tena tatou katoa.


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