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Turia: National Council of Women Executive Meeting

National Council of Women Executive Meeting

Te Kaunihera Wahine o Aotearoa

Manukau City; Saturday 29 September 2007; 1.30pm

Inspiring Influential Leadership

Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Over fifty years ago, Jean Parker, an employee of the Inland Revenue Department appealed a decision to promote a young male cadet ahead of her. Although the appeal was successful, the Public Service Commission instructed the IRD to reduce her salary and responsibilities – and universal outrage erupted from women workers all over New Zealand.

Into the fracas came the National Council of Women. All 42 branches and national affiliates deluged Parliament with telegrams condemning the Commission's actions. Parliament held an urgent debate and the Government moved to reinstate Jean to her previous work and pay conditions.

Dame Hilda Ross, a National Government Minister famously declared, “when such a large and united body of women keeps hammering hard enough and long enough, no government can afford not to listen”.

That is inspiring and influential leadership at its very best.

The next year, 1957, the National Council of Women joined with the Maori Women’s Welfare League and other organisations, to form the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity. And in that same year, both the National Party and the Labour Party made equal pay one of their platform issues in the upcoming General Election.

No Government can afford not to listen to an organisation who since 1896 has been advocating on behalf of women, women at home and in the workplace, vulnerable women, imprisoned women, young women, Maori women.

No Parliament can afford not to listen to an organisation that over a century later continues to alert us to the emerging political tensions confronting the nation.

Before I came today, I looked over just a selection of the areas in which the Maori Party has looked to the advice from the National Council of Women in. These have included:

- entitlements for grandparents raising grandchildren;

- concerns about Kiwisaver;

- support for families with children in tertiary education;

- removing GST from rates;

- amending the Human Rights Act to allow New Zealand to be a signatory to CEDAW without reservation;

- peaceful mediation and resolution of conflict.

And of course, the remit of all remits that was passed at last year’s conference, which is so good it bears reading again:

“That NCWNZ urges the Government to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act and to instead develop a way forward that meets New Zealand’s domestic and international human rights obligations”.

I wanted to place on the record, the appreciation of the Maori Party, and the strength that we gained, from a remit such as this. And it seemed entirely appropriate today, when asked to talk to the topic of inspiring and influential leadership, to acknowledge your organisation for the crucial role you play through the impact of your Parliamentary Watch Committee.

The topic of Maori leadership is so frequently contested and debated in the public arena, that I wondered what else I could say. However, what I have noticed is that the focus seems more often to be on a ‘lack of Maori leadership’ rather than my perception, which is that actually te Ao Maori is overflowing with examples of incredible and exuberant leadership at all levels.

And so, when I think about how the Maori Party inspires influential leadership in terms of women’s issues I would have to say that our greatest leadership comes from within. From within whanau, from within hapu, from within iwi, from within marae, and from within the wider Maori community.

Leadership within whanau is a key focus for the Maori Party in restoring wellbeing and resilience for and by our whanau. And of course leadership is particularly sought at this time as we consider, as a nation, how we can all work to achieve freedom from violence.

I applaud the National Council of Women’s commitment to freedom from violence, and I am interested to learn of any response you may have received to your suggestion to Government that a United Nations Special Rapporteur could be dispatched to this nation to specifically report on our record of domestic violence.

Our focus as a party has been to ‘encourage courage’ in:

- taking practical steps to dispel the illusion that violence is acceptable;

- removing opportunities for violence to occur;

- planning for transformation and liberation of whanau.

De-normalising violence was the driving force in our support of the move to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act - the section allowing parents to justify violence as 'reasonable'. Our stand was that all violence against children was actually unreasonable; an unfathomable crime against humanity.

Removing opportunities for violence to occur has motivated us to advocate for addressing the institutional racism which leads to ongoing health disparities.

It has prompted us to speak out for the 230,000 children of beneficiaries who are discriminated against through the fact that their parents are not entitled to the in-work payments under the Working for Families package.

It has also seen us vote against a Bill which entrenched a view that young people are not entitled to receive equal pay for equal work. We voted against the Minimum Wage (New Entrant) Bill when it became apparent that in changing its name at the select committee stage, it effectively meant that young people could still be discriminated against on the basis of age and were still being forced to accept only 80% of a minimum wage.

From a political point of view it also meant that by removing the words "Abolition of Age Discrimination" from the title of the Bill, the Labour Government and those who supported them could salve their consciences by not voting contrary to their own constitutions which state opposition to discrimination. We voted for the Bill at the First reading but were not prepared to vote for discrimination thereafter, leading us to be accused of being "principled".

We were interested to find that Maori members of the CTU also opposed the renamed Bill – presumably as aware as we are, that we are a very young population – the median age of both Maori and Pasifika populations is 21 years, compared to the total population of 36 years – so as such, the discrimination against young people has a particularly dire effect.

Encouraging courage – upholding principles - is in our view, a mark of leadership and the National Council of Women have, since its inception always inspired others to be courageous.

The key to hope, we believe, lies in asking and considering the question, what are the optimum conditions for healthy whanau?

The Maori Party has been asking this question in our policy consultation hui around the motu – what will make the difference? What can we do to prevent an escalation of stress from exploding into violence?

It greatly worries me to hear Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft’s announcement that violence was “showing itself quite significantly” in offending rates amongst girls; or to learn that young women’s binge drinking is now matching that of young men, leaving them vulnerable to sexual assault, robbery and violence.

How is it, as a society, that private households spent almost $1.6 billion on liquor in 2004; compared to $622m on fresh vegetables?

Again – it’s about the education and the inspiration that will lead to making the difference.

In the Maori Party we are absolutely convinced that our aspirations to achieve self-determination for whänau, hapü and iwi within our own land will come about from our own locally determined solutions; our own time-treasured values, our püräkau, karakia, möteatea, whakataukï, whakapapa and many other puna korero - ethical ideals and wisdoms - which establish the foundation of Maori culture and Maori world-views.

And we are equally convinced that our transformation as a nation must come from the basis in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Our transformation rests on honouring and living by the promise of our ancestors to respect the principles of rangatiratanga, of co-operation, the duty to act reasonably, honourably and in good faith.

We stand by the centrality of the Treaty as requiring both parties to the Treaty to acknowledge each other’s respective interests, authority and kaupapa. We see in the Treaty the framework for the survival, development and flourishing of Maori people and the nation of Aotearoa.

And so earlier this week, when it was made public that the Select Committee would recommend that NZ First’s Bill to delete Treaty principles from legislation should not pass – we were delighted.

We take seriously the words of the late Sir Robin Cooke, President of the Court of Appeal, who described Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as “simply the most important document in New Zealand’s history….a nation cannot cast adrift from its own foundations”.

We can not comprehend how it is that when the Deletion Bill first came to the House last July, Labour supported its passage - along with National, NZ First, United Future, ACT and Progressives.

We can not comprehend how it is that the Government asked the Ministry of Education to take the Treaty out of the School Curriculum; to remove the Maori Strategy from the Tertiary Education Strategy.

And we were appalled on Dominion Day, just three days ago, that the Prime Minister chose not to make any reference to the Treaty from her speech on nationhood.

A speech which gave emphasis to fighting wars on other people’s lands – referring in one ten minute address to Britain, Pusan, Korea, Canberra, Belgium, Passchendaele, Flanders, Gallipoli, Crete, El Alamein, Casino, and Normandy – and yet failed to refer to the document which gives shape to this nation – or indeed to even mention the nation's birthplace of Waitangi.

Finally, I will answer the question ‘what can the Maori Party do for women’ with the same answer I give to the question, ‘what can the Maori Party do for Maori’?

Our belief is that every issue is our issue; that we must do everything we can to restore and revive the sense of pride and strength that our whanau can have in each other.

We will leave no stone unturned, no Bill ignored, no issue untended, until we can all rest assured, that the health and wellbeing of all people of this land, is benefiting from sound investment. Investment in identity, in nationhood, in courage.

The critical meaning of identity, of knowing the very essence of who we are, is as important to the nation as it is to individuals, to whanau, to hapu, to iwi.

In the Maori Party, our biggest contribution is to focus on te käkano i ruia mai i Rangiätea - the survival of tangata whenua and the protection of our rights and interests, in the understanding and commitment that this pursuit of justice occurs for the good of the nation.

We believe that a commitment to nationhood means that as well as understanding and knowing our heritage, the aspirations of our people, our culture – that we must also openly and actively encourage dialogue and relationships with all people who lay claim to this country as their home.

We need inspiring and influential leadership to do so – from across cultures, genders and ages; from us all.


ENDS

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