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Turia: Pacific Perspectives on Volunteering

A Qualitative Study into Pacific Perspectives on Cultural Obligations and Volunteering

Hon Tariana Turia

Minister of the Community and Voluntary Sector

Ministry of Social Development, Wellington

Wednesday 14 April 2010; 2pm

Taloha ni – Bula Vinaka – Fakaalofa lahi atu – Malo e lelei – kia orana – talofa lava – halo; tena tatou katoa

My thanks to Right Reverend Dr Winston Halapua for our blessing today. I want to thank you, Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese, for providing the overview of the research – a snapshot of this report.

I am honoured to stand alongside the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Hon Georgina te Heuheu; and I am also so pleased to see Luamanuvao Winnie Laban here who has made a significant investment in supporting this research.

As I came to this event today, I was inspired by the words of the Head of State of the independent state of Samoa, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi, in a recent fono, where he challenged the notions around individuality:

“I am not an individual; I am an integral part of the cosmos. I share divinity with my ancestors, the land, the seas and the skies. I belong to my family and my family belongs to me.

I belong to my village and my village belongs to me. I belong to my nation and my nation belongs to me. This is the essence of my belonging”.

I could relate to that completely as a person of the Pacific.

The essence of our belonging is what unites us as peoples of the Pacific. It brings us here today, in the spirit of celebration, as we launch this report into Pacific perspectives on cultural obligations and volunteering.

When I first took up the Ministerial role, back in 2003, I recall the sector – not so much Maori or Pasifika peoples but the general sector - calling on Government to support research into generating a wider understanding of what volunteering means for Maori and Pasifika peoples.

In fact in 2001, the International Year of Volunteers, a report was published by the Department of Internal Affairs which actually described volunteering as a predominantly European concept. It stated upfront in that report that

“Maori and Pacific peoples participate in unpaid activities to a disproportionately high degree, yet do not tend to identify with the term volunteer’.

When I think of the numbers of Maori and Pasifika peoples who carry out these roles in the whanau, I know there’s a huge amount of volunteering done at no cost to the state – with no compensation – and very little support – and that worries me.

The report describes this work in a way which is in itself a Project of Pride.

Today’s report – as we have heard described by Minister te Heuheu –resolves that longstanding issue about how to describe those unique social obligations, the dynamics of reciprocity, which connect us as peoples of the Pacific.

The stories and case studies demonstrate the obligations and expectations of the village, to work together for the good of the whole, to be generous in time and care of that community.

We read of the impact of enduring relationships to past and future generations; between peoples, between villages.

We are reminded of the legacy of those who have passed on, and we think particularly of the loss that has been sustained by the Tokelauan people in the passing of Tioni Vulu; and the Niuean community, with the passing of Reverend Sipeli and Wally Ranfurly.

The report tells the stories in a uniquely Pacific way, guided by the notions of respect and va fealoaloai – what we in Maoridom might refer to as kahohi ki te kanohi – face to face communication.

Essentially, the key lies in the quality of the relationships.

It is expressed in the relationships formed with the elders and the Cook Island community in supporting the Atiu Island Trust.

It was revealed in the conversations that occurred in the Faafaletui focus groups, or the liaison that took place between the Wellington Tongan community and the National Library in creating the exhibition : Siu ki Moana – Reaching across the Pacific.

The good heart evident in the relationships between tangata whenua and tangata Pasifika is also shown in the So’o that took place at Hoani Waititi marae; or in the affection recalled for Sir Maui Pomare in his visit to Niue to acknowledge their contribution to the war effort through the Niuean regiment.

We learn through stories, about the activities that Pacific people engage in which are conceptually similar to volunteering.

These are requirements that sustain the heart of the community, which fulfill the strong sense of cultural and of collective responsibility, caring for each other, reciprocity. They build on our sense of belonging.

In essence, the ways of being and the cultural obligations described in this report are exactly what I think about when we describe whanau ora. Whanau ora is all about the rights and responsibilities we maintain towards one another – the support we offer to strengthen our capacity to respond.

I belong to my family – my aiga – my village – my people.

Dr Jean Mitaera told us today that it is all to do with the practice of our responsibilities – and I totally agree with her in this thesis.

We are privileged to receive this report and I will actively refer to it in my ongoing work with the sector.

I have asked the Department of Internal Affairs to redirect the Pacific component of their Support for Volunteering Fund in order to better support the activities of Pacific peoples.

I am also keen to ensure that the Pacific voice is actively heard in the development of a relationship agreement.

The Government is committed to strengthening its community relationships and is seeking to have a Relationship Agreement in place with the Community and Voluntary Sector by November 2010.

Inkeeping with this commitment I have established a Steering Group to see through the drafting of the content for a Relationship Agreement, to consult with the sector on that content and produce a final Relationship Agreement.

I am really pleased that on the Steering Group includes the amazing Fa’amatuainu Wayne Poutoa, the manager of Streets Ahead 237 in Porirua; as well as Dean Westerlund from the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.

And I don’t expect these two to be the sole source of expertise for us, in ensuring that Pacific voices will help to shape this vital interface between communities and government.

In fact I expect all of you who have come here today – and all of the people represented in the report – to be part of building our pathway forward.

Thank you for sharing your stories, for helping us to hear your voices.

We must do a much better job as Government in working with your communities, in building better relationships. We must be very careful not to put our families into the silos that the Government system tends to operate by.

We must always ensure that in all the work we do we acknowledge the role of the village; to keep the village strong.

That then, will demonstrate that we all know the essence of belonging.

Finally, I can’t wait to hear the stunning sounds of Benjamin Makisi – I have to admit it was another reason that I was really excited about coming today.

Tena tatou katoa.


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