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Speech opening Regional Whanau Development hui

Hon Tariana Turia
29 September 2003 Speech Notes

Te whakapumau whanau i nga taone

Speech opening Regional Whanau Development hui, Auckland, 9.00am

E nga mana whenua, Ngati Whatua, tena koutou.

E nga iwi e huihui nei, tena hoki koutou.

Tena koutou kua tae mai nei ki manaaki i te karanga o te ra, ki te whakapumau whanau.

Our kaupapa today is whanau development.

We address this issue as a group from diverse backgrounds, from diverse iwi, with diverse experiences in te ao Maori.

Yet we all recognise that whanau development is an important issue – otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

There is no doubt that whanau development is a major challenge. The issues we confront are gnawing at the very heart of our culture and identity as tangata whenua, and our future as tribal peoples.

We have to counteract some mighty powerful influences, that have radically transformed not only our daily lives, but our history, landscapes, society and culture.

Do we have a clear understanding of how this came about, and an analysis that empowers us to stop it happening again, and start turning our lives round?

The growth of the Auckland urban area has been a major challenge for our people. The city has had major impacts on the lives of tangata whenua everywhere.

Most of all on Ngati Whatua, for obvious reasons. Their continuing presence as tangata whenua in their ancestral landscape is clear evidence of the power of the iwi to survive and adapt.

But the influence of Auckland City has extended to virtually every kainga in the land. People from all over the country left behind their whanau, their marae, their traditional lands and customary fisheries, to seek work in the big smoke.

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The so-called urban migration has stretched our traditional social structures to their limit – in some cases, to breaking point.

Whanau members have lost touch with each other, and many no longer have regular contact with those parts of our cultural heritage that are rooted on our traditional landscapes.

Our maunga, awa, moana and wahi tapu links us to specific places. Many of us have moved away from the places where we can call ourselves mana whenua. We have taken on different roles, and our identity and culture has begun a process of subtle change.

In the urban environment, our people have regrouped and adapted to the situation they live in.

We need to understand this process of change. If we don’t know where we’ve come from, or how we got here, then it’s hard to plan a way ahead.

It’s like getting lost in thick gorse. Once it closes in behind you, and the prickles are scratching your face, you get disoriented. Simply pressing on regardless might make matters worse. You might be going round in circles.

I’m told there is a word for that – pokaikaha – when your strength is surrounded, and your power is trapped.

One pathway forward is to focus on the needs of whanau. Our children need a safe and secure environment, contact with relations and friends, clear values and loving discipline. We all need to feel a sense of worth, that we can get from looking after others.

This is a starting point. From there, whanau can extend their networks, to reach out to more distant relations, as well as friends and neighbours.

How do we do all this, when so many of our people have adapted to living without support networks, without a sense of history and destiny, and who have adopted different attitudes and behaviours?

How can we intervene in the lives of those whanau who need support, but who are in the grip of alcohol, drugs, or family violence?

Many whanau need to confront serious issues within the whanau, and heal and restore themselves, before they can fully take control of decisions affecting them. Rangatiratanga begins at home.

We must not be judgemental of whanau who are not achieving their potential; instead we should focus on their strengths and look for ways that we can support and assist.

If your whanau is not working the way you’d like, you can’t simply walk away from it. The challenge is to find ways for the whanau to strengthen itself and empower all its members.

I liken our situation to being trapped in a big, dark hole. We are unable to get out, unable to see where we are going.

We can either stay trapped, or we can develop a strategy to find a way out of the hole.

Even after that, the hard work still has to be done. But at least we will have confidence that we are heading in the right direction.

Ideas on whanau development must grow from our own experience, practices and viewpoints, even if they are different from others.

Whanau development is something that only whanau can do themselves.

The government can’t do it for you.

One of the best things about other whanau development hui I have been to, is that the government hardly rates a mention.

The government does have big issues to sort out, in relating to our people. But those are for the government itself to sort out. Tangata whenua cannot afford to wait for the government to get its act together. We might be waiting for some time.

Your people must take the initiative. It’s up to you to identify your priorities and work out plans for achieving your goals – and then stick to them.

Whanau need to be strong so we can achieve our full potential, and the potential of our tamariki and rangatahi.

We need to restore collective responsibilities and obligations. Too many whanau are being isolated, and left to sink or swim on their own.

Identifying problems is easy – finding solutions is necessary.

At the other hui I have been to, our people have challenged each other. They have questioned the meaning of aspects of our own tikanga.

They have asked: ‘What does manaakitanga mean – is it dropping the kids off at Aunty’s for a feed, because our own cupboards are empty?’

‘What is Aroha?’ they ask. ‘Does that mean never saying ‘no’, as your love is taken for granted by others and all the strength is sucked out of you?’

I have heard young mothers who are desperate to pass on knowledge of whakapapa to their children – but no-one has passed it on to them.

This hui can perhaps be seen as a safe environment for us to talk about the issues we can address for ourselves, in a positive way, looking at how we can uplift and strengthen each other, looking for ways we can help each other.

We must have attitude, the ‘can do attitude’ that will not accept negative behaviours and negative attitudes towards our people.

I have tremendous confidence that our whanau will overcome all obstacles, and I really look forward to hearing your korero today on what you think you can do.


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