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50th Mäori Women’s Welfare League Conference

Speech Notes: Parekura Horomia - Opening of the 50th Mäori Women’s Welfare League Conference


I have now been attending this conference for 22 years. Over that time I have only missed one. I have seen amazing growth in many areas and understandable and significant loss in others.

There has been growth through the Maori Women’s Welfare League maintaining sustainable pressure and demands on successive governments, the private sector and most of all, our own organisations.

The purpose of that pressure was and is, to help create an environment where our whanau whanui can enjoy a better quality of life.

The added strength of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, is its perseverance, to make sure the needs of whanau whanui can be much more widely understood so they can be better addressed.

It was the commitment of those who came before us. It was the vision of the original founders of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and their undying commitment.

Today, that responsibility rests with you. It survives and achieves because of you. It is through your commitment to your whanau whanui, that the Maori Women’s Welfare League continues to achieve. With limited resources, your innovative ways achieve results and are a tribute to your ongoing dedication.

The loss however, has been quite simple and enormous. Great kuia morehu have passed on.

This organisation spans the generations. It is an organisation that is proud and forthright. It is an organisation that has continued to operate and manage its activities, focused on the goal of improving the well being of our people.

Irrespective of the politics of the day, be those politics within Maori, or government the work has continued.

People have said to me, that the Maori Women’s Welfare League is not hapu and iwi. In my experience, the Maori women involved are very strong, clear about their whakapapa, supportive of, and involved in their hapu and iwi business.

The fact remains that this organisation is an overarching organisation from Te Reinga to Rakiura.

The role of the Mäori Women’s Welfare League in the future, is a matter I am sure you are all engaged in discussing. The importance of succession planning for this organisation is as important as planning for the transfer of the asset base to the emerging generation of kaitiaki.

What will the focus be? How the League will operate in the future? How will the branches operate to expand the opportunities for advancing the goals?

Quite simply, succession planning is about ensuring the future Maori women leaders and rangatahi, are equipped with the tools to continue the work of the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

With such a young population, the transfer of knowledge and lessons of experience has even great significance.

How will the government relate to and work with the League is another important question.

This government has been very clear, it wants to work closely to support whanau, hapu, iwi and our communities to achieve their aspirations and succeed.

Last term we completed unfinished business, that had been time consuming, stifled development and did not allow us to focus on development and advancement.

We have: Passed Te Ture Whenua Maori legislation - to increase the ability and opportunity for Maori land owners to develop and better utilise their land, Completed and signed off on the resolution of Maori reserved lands, Settled with wananga, Worked to reduce the Maori unemployment rate which currently at 11 per cent is significantly lower but is still unacceptably high, We have focused on improving educational achievement, through increasing the number and skill of Maori teachers and principals, The ongoing Hui Taumata Matauranga process, Developed He Korowai Oranga, the Maori Health Strategy (and I acknowledge the work of my colleague Tariana Turia in that work) Introduced income related rents, as well as housing development in areas of high need and partnerships with hapu, iwi and communities, By working with communities improved Mäori employment significantly over the last three years.

Government is serious about working to progress sustainable Maori development.

We have been involved in a Maori development programme that includes Capacity Building, local level solutions and the successful Maori Business Facilitation Service.

We must continue to increase the number of Maori and of Maori women in business and management.

As a government, we must be clear on how our participation will work towards the aspirations of, and be relevant to, whanau whanui.

Whanau whanui is a living entity it is not merely a theory. It is alive. It is with whanau whanui that, we as a government, must move forward towards our development goals not only around education, health, housing and employment. It must be a whole of government exercise.

One example is the agenda for the Hui Taumata Matauranga. It is not about education in isolation it is about education for Maori advancement.

Mason Durie states in his paper ‘The Hui Taumata Matauranga: progress and platforms for Maori Educational Advancement’ to the Hui in November last year:

“This analysis has demonstrated a need for government policies to be matched more explicitly to Maori aspirations so that full advantage can be taken of whatever resources are already available. While in the end, the aims may be similar, and the policies already available to deal with them, the perspective on the issues at a community level do not always accord with the way in which government policies are rationalised and presented.

Development is a positive, forward-looking process through which whanau, hapu, iwi and Maori can drive towards their own social well being, cultural confidence and pride, and economic advancement.

Within that, whanau development focuses on improving our ability to grasp the opportunities that exist today, at the same time, as making our way through the myriad of issues we face at present.

Maori women are and always have been, at the cutting edge of Maori development. The origins of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, Te Kohanga Reo movement, Kura Kaupapa Maori and the development of Maori health service provision are all examples of strong leadership of Maori women.

But to cement our place among the secure peoples of the world, we must focus immediately on building our strengths.

I would like to touch on the Treaty commitment of the government, as expressed by the Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright in the Speech from the Throne.

I believe this statement to be holistic, in the directness with which it sets out the fundamental obligation of the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright said:

“The basis of constitutional government in this country is to be found in its founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi. My government values and remains committed to strengthening its relationship with tangata whenua. That means fulfilling its obligations as a Treaty partner to support self-determination for whanau, hapu and iwi.”

One aspect of self-determination is to be able to organise our communities and affairs, in our own way and control our own resources, to achieve self-identified goals. To make choices about how we will live and express what is most important in our lives ourselves.

We must learn to see the opportunity for engagement, for dialogue and working together in partnership to help overcome the problems. This does not mean we will always agree, but it is important not to walk away from the relationship, or indulge in one-sided decision-making. We must be solution-driven.

We are working over the next term to achieve results, by working together. It is about a whole of government approach. Improving Mäori educational achievement, supporting language revitalisation, getting Mäori television on air, improving Mäori health through the Mäori health strategy and working to unlock assets, to name but a few.

Being solution-driven takes strong leadership, by all those involved, to be willing to continue the momentum and ensure that progress will be made, despite the difficult decisions that must at times be made. Being solution-driven will maintain the focus on advancement.

My Maori colleagues in Parliament and I share a common goal, to work in the best interests of the whanau, hapu, iwi and Maori communities we represent to accelerate Maori development.

We are, as I am sure you are aware, a diverse bunch and we offer a diverse range of perspectives. This contributes to an increased understanding, of the range of views that exist within our society today. It is a positive dynamic.

Just as the Maori Women’s Welfare League has many views and many ideas and I look forward to hearing of those ideas over the next four days at this the 50th National Conference of the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

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