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Speech: Turia - White Ribbon Day

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri: White Ribbon Day
Wednesday 25 November 2009
Hon Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Social Development

(delivered by Malo Ah-You on her behalf)

I am greatly disappointed not to be with you today to join with you in the celebration of successful outcomes for whanau.

This is a programme which takes its very reason for being as whanau; a programme which operates on the basis that for healing to occur, it must be within the context of whanau.

That is indeed something to celebrate.

I want to congratulate you for placing your confidence in whanau.

You have understood that focusing solely on an individual offender will never achieve the transformation that we need.

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri takes a long term view, knowing that for change to be enduring, violence must be eradicated from the whanau; and that the whole whanau must develop strategies which can achieve that change.

It is a great thing that you are doing - setting yourself outcomes to focus on; identifying specific aspirations to aim high.

One of the features of current social service programmes that has concerned me is the way that funders measure the number of activities carried out - visits to the home; phone-calls made; brochures delivered - without having any means of working whether or not a difference has been made.

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri is all about making the difference.

You have put the effort into understanding how to support whanau in setting outcomes for their situation.

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That support comes from a solid basis of kaupapa tuku iho; the inherited values, that have been passed down from our ancestors.

A consistent thread throughout your programme is the emphasis on whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, tikanga and aroha as a basis for the approach.
This is an approach that I have every confidence in as I know it produces the connections that will create the strongest foundation for change.

It is an approach which connects and reconnects participants to things Maori including the use of Te Kawa o Marae.

It is also about strengthening connections across people; encouraging participants to learn pro-social ways of communicating- the communication becoming as much an outcome as the absence of violence.

Participants discover a whole new menu of strategies other than yelling and lashing out. Tangible outcomes can be identified such as holding a whanau meeting; choosing not to behave in a violent way; feeling more confident in taking the time to talk.

One of the most powerful associations I have with Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri is the late Reverend Puti Murray. We all have many wonderful memories of the woman who established her leadership as the first Maori woman priest of Aotearoa.

The memory I hold particularly dear is the last time I was with her, at the runanganui of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa in Otaki. In her mid eighties, Reverend Puti had an incredible spirit which could bring a hui to silence.

Her final day on earth saw Rev Puti rise to her feet, to share her sorrow about the traumatic impact of the Foreshore and Seabed Act. And then she tabled a resolution on the floor to encourage the Runanganui to “commit itself to eliminate family violence and all forms of violence between God’s people”

I remember that message so vividly, because less than an hour later, the hui was shattered when Reverend Puti passed away.

Five years later and that last call from Reverend Puti remains a distinctive memory – a memory that I believe Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri honours with the success of your stopping violence wananga and noho marae.

It is a tribute to her memory, that the wananga have had such dramatic results. I am really thrilled by the clear outcomes of success – including that after 12 months on, only four men of the 23 participants have reoffended.

What this tells me is that Te Whare Ruruhau has clearly cracked the code which means offenders want to attend the programme; they have been actively engaged; and they have made the changes necessary to create an improved quality of life.

What Rev Puti showed us all is that transformation is not a part-time hobby; walking the talk is a lifelong commitment.

The transformation initiated by Te Whare Ruruhau inspires us to know that if we really want to eliminate violence from our lives, we must eliminate it from right throughout our whanau, and from every aspect of our world.

I was interested in the recent Good Sports campaign which is trying to encourage New Zealanders not to boo when an opposing team is playing. That to me is part of an attitudinal shift – to promote mana enhancing behaviours rather than mana diminishing.

There are so many aspects of our lives in which we can all make the transformation; to take responsibility and to act now.

In our own homes we might tolerate violence – gory movies; or abusive language; putdowns and criticisms. We might dismiss our children’s games of cops and robbers as harmless; or ignore the ugly violence we know is occurring just two doors down.

We might be oblivious to the text bullying that is tormenting our teenagers. We might think nothing of the times we contribute to road rage; or the emails we send in bold, capital letters, breaking every rule in the email etiquette code of conduct.

There are many different ways in which we can address issues of violence, putting our energy into a more positive focus in which we seek to foster pride and affirm identity.

This is what we celebrate with Te Whare Ruruhau o Mere. We celebrate an approach which is based in a kaupapa Maori framework; and is dedicated to a supportive environment for change. We celebrate whanau who are taking responsibility for their actions as a collective – practicing the skills they learn through the programme in their own home environment.

We celebrate whanau who know they can determine their own solutions; solutions which are achieved through an investment in positive relationships and effective communication.

And we celebrate the courage and the commitment of people who were once known as offenders - who are now known as whanau champions. People who no longer want to offend; people who are reempowered to contribute to their whanau, and to pursue their aspirations.

I wish you all a very successful White Ribbon Day and congratulate everyone involved in the transformation we recognize as Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri.


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