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Katene: Iwi Maori Kaumatua Service Provider Hui

National Iwi Maori Kaumatua Service Provider Hui
Trafalgar Pavilion, Nelson
Friday 20 November 2009; 10.30am
National Iwi Maori Kaumatua Service Provider Hui

Rahui Katene; MP for Te Tai Tonga

It was interesting to relive the experience of the hikoi for Te Takutaimoana; the opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill; and to consider all of that context.

I had the honour of being the Maori Party representative on the working team that was responsible for the ministerial review of the 2004 Act, and so I have been fairly heavily involved in the steps leading to what we all know must be the inevitable repeal.

I fully intended to be at Waikawa Marae today for the foreshore and seabed hui that is being held by the iwi leadership group.

In fact, such is the priority that I consider repealing the Act to be that one would think absolutely nothing would stop me from getting to that hui today.

Nothing that is – except my aunties.

And that’s exactly how it should be. I am who I am because of them.

The influence of my aunts and uncles; our poua and taua is phenomenal.

It is this group that has carried the culture, that has retained the special protocols and traditions of the hapu and iwi, that provides the leadership and the guidance for all generations to follow.

They are the ones I turn to with questions; the ones I think of when I am struggling to find a solution.

When we have conflicts and disputes within the whanau – very rare of course – it is the gentle advice of our elders which nudge us softly into a better way.

Our children and mokopuna run to them for cuddles; our rangatahi seek out their stories; our cousins go to them for help with a karanga; a waiata; a problem; a situation which just seems beyond us all.

And miraculously, whether it be spiritual leadership or traditional knowledge; our kaumatua always exceed our expectations.

So when aunty says, Rahui, we’ll see you at the hui, there was no way I was going to say, well actually I had something else on.

Because whakawhanautanga; manaakitanga; wairuatanga – are all concepts that remind me of my collective responsibilities to my whanau.

The privilege of being around our kaumatua should never be taken for granted. We must make the most of every opportunity to fulfil our obligations to respect, value, and support our elders.

There are many ways in which we can deliver upon this expectation.

We can assist our elders in their financial transactions; helping them to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket and hopefully avoiding the crisis situations such as have happened with the recent failure of finance companies.

We know that we face increasing disability as we age – limitations in our eyesight, our hearing and our vision are all factors which place us at risk on the road, whether as a pedestrian or a driver.

And yet, being able to drive is a vital factor in providing a sense of ongoing self-sufficiency and independence. So it’s not about hiding the keys or locking the garage doors – it’s about helping our elders to assess their confidence and capability to enjoy safe driving.

Or it might be about ensuring the homes our aunties and uncles live in are warm, safe and appropriate particularly if and when they face issues with mobility.

These are just three examples of things we might do, as matua, for our poua and taua.

I am acutely aware of some of the more shocking studies undertaken on the living standards of New Zealanders, which reveal that there is a relatively high rate of disadvantage, poverty and material hardship levels for older Maori – around three or four times those of non-Maori.

And I wonder how often we call on our kuia to maintain the tikanga of the marae; we expect our elders to take care of the paepae; we assume that they will be there to keep us all culturally safe at hui; at tangihanga; at our important ceremonies and protocols.

We might pick them up to help us sort out a situation for one of our rangatahi in a family group conference or a youth justice hearing – but are we just as willing to help them sort out a problem with their guttering; or an issue with their Superannuation.

Do we ever ask if they need a new black coat, or whether they’ve had the time and the opportunity to seek our the specialist referral they might need to invest in their health?

The key thing for me is to remember it’s not about ‘what you can do for me’ – it’s about what we can do for each other.

A study from John Waldon, of Te Pumanawa Hauora, came up with some statistically significant differences in terms of access to active marae participation. Older Maori with the worst health were less likely to have any current involvement of a marae when compared with older Maori showing high health status.

The study confirmed the importance of the marae and the whanau as areas where older Maori can undertake many positive roles.

If we truly believe our elders are our taonga, the treasured foundation of our whanau, we must take a proactive and constructive initiative in addressing the health and wellbeing of whanau members, particularly our older citizens.

We do not want to experience the premature loss of our kaumatua and we must do everything in our power to keep them well.

Finally I want to mihi to all our kaumatua for the incredible model you provide for a life driven by our kaupapa and tikanga.

We are so proud that the Maori Party is driven by kaupapa tuku iho which encapsulate the very essence of Maori worldviews.

These kaupapa and the tikanga which spring from them, reflect the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua mai ra ano.

They remind us of the drive to achieve self-determination for whänau, hapü and iwi within our own land.

And most of all, they are the framework by which we live according to the values handed down by our ancestors.

Our elders, as the storehouse of our tribal treasures; the archive of the whakapapa that gives us meaning, cannot be discarded simply because our young people are impatient to move on.

Ultimately the kaupapa that are the touchstone of the behaviours and attitudes expressed by so many kaumatua, are the very biggest source of hope we can hold on to.

There is just such a strong base of support for the Maori Party which is predicated on the inspiration and the motivation provided by our kaupapa – and we are always conscious of the legacy our olds have left for to, to make a life worth living.

I am genuinely thrilled to be here, and even without my aunty saying so, I want to express our appreciation and our gratitude to all of you, for helping inspire us that a kaupapa basis is essential to any political strategy or policy gain advanced by the Maori Party.


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