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Tariana Turia: 'The Power to Define'

Hon Tariana Turia

Minister Responsible for Whanau Ora

Associate Minister of Social Development and Employment

Wednesday 1 December 2010; 9.30am

Maori Association of Social Sciences Conference - Ma tau rourou, ma taku rourou

School of Languages and Social Sciences AUT University Speech

'The Power to Define'

Thank you to Derek McCormack, AUT Vice-chancellor; and Sir Paul Reeves, Chancellor, for your invitation to be here today. It seems a lifetime ago that I had the privilege of speaking at the inaugural conference of the Māori Association of Social Sciences in June 2008 at Te Herenga Waka Marae in Wellington. As I launched the waka that you called the MASS machine, I made a statement, and I quote:

The development of a national network of Māori social scientists must learn from these customary practices, the rituals and institutions of indigenous discovery; and bring this knowledge to bear in the journey that you will all now embark upon.

Two years on, I have to admit to being most impressed with the diverse range of indigenous discovery expressed throughout your programme.

There is a case study of hapu association within 19th century Ngai Tahu; there is the relationship made with the environment as traditional knowledge holders; there is the coloniality of New Zealand sport or even a glimpse into our recent history reflecting back on Donna Awatere’s classic, Maori Sovereignity.

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And while the knowledge of customary practices permeate throughout the sessions there is also the influence of contemporary whakaaro – in sessions such as indigenising the screen; rethinking marginalisation or navigating intertribal research in cross-country skiing.

It is indeed, a fascinating glimpse into the matters that occupy the hearts and minds our Maori social science community.
I want to focus on this concept of community.

One of the workshops that really made me look again, was the session led by Dr Denise Wilson, ‘Engaging with communities by listening to what they are saying’.

Now isn’t that a radical concept!

And I’ll let you into a secret.

When I was looking at some of the papers promoting this conference I did a double-take – and it was over one word. In my papers the conference title was listed as ‘Working FOR Maori Communities’.

That word, For, speaks to me of the Other, stepping in and rescuing us from the fate that awaits us. It is about someone else knowing what is right for us; determining our answers; solving our problems

The late Merata Mita expressed this aptly when she said,

“We have a history of people putting Maori under a microscope in the same way as a scientist looks at an insect. The ones doing the looking are giving themselves the power to define” .

Fortunately I now realise that the word FOR was actually a typo – and this hui is instead entitled Working WITH Maori communities – a concept which I find considerably more favour with!

In essence, this is all about our whanau, hapu and iwi, putting themselves under the microscope, the magnifying glass, or indeed the video camera – looking critically at what their needs are; understanding their priorities, and reflecting on issues they seek to address.

And so I ask myself, where is the research that demonstrates to me that our Maori social scientists are working WITH our communities; working in ways which confront and challenge the key concerns in their world.

When you engage with Maori communities, how do they know that you are really listening to not only what they say, but also what they are unable to say?

In my mind this is the obvious juxtaposition of your two conference themes: “Working with Māori communities” and “Māori social science practice”.

We might call it responsive Maori research; or knowledge exchange; or inspiring dialogue within our whanau, hapu and iwi.

How can we judge – and who will judge –that research about Maori communities will be defined as high quality when the “researched” define it as such?

I know that a key factor in your establishment has been the desire to generate research clusters and express a collective voice on issues of importance to Māori and social science.

And so I come then, thinking of the power to define, and seeking to place Whanau Ora upon your agenda.

For those who may not have yet come across the Whānau Ora Approach, essentially it is about whānau taking responsibility for whānau. It places whānau at the centre and empowers them to lead the development of solutions for their own transformation.

Of course as you will all know, the majority of whānau are already doing this and Whānau Ora will provide opportunities for sharing and learning from our rich and diverse whānau stories.

At the heart of Whānau Ora is the concept of building on whānau strengths and capability, growing whānau connections, supporting the development of whānau leadership and enhancing best outcomes for whānau.

The recent announcement of the selected 25 Whānau Ora providers/collectives signalled our move to the next phase of the implementation of Whānau Ora, and that is the shift to truly whanau-centred practice.

We are drawing on the concept of Whānau Ora practitioners who will act as navigators or champions for whānau, helping them to develop a whānau plan and to access seamless health and social services.

Every whānau that accesses health and social services does so because they have taken the huge step of acknowledging they want and need help.

It is, an incredible moment in our collective journey and I want to place on record the amazing excitement and momentum that I have seen as I have travelled around the motu, listening to the ideas our people have on charting their own direction forward.

In the same week that we announced the 25 providers/collectives we also invited expressions of interest for the Whānau Ora Action Research.

A key element to the approach is to allow those participating in the research to self-initiate actions for change and development. The use of action research for Whānau Ora is a deliberate strategy to bring together government, providers and whānau, as the model provides for:

- whānau having the opportunity to participate and ‘voice’ their expectations from service delivery; and

- providers supported to design and deliver quality holistic services to whānau.

The purpose of action research is to work with Whānau Ora providers and whānau on services that place whānau at the centre. The intention is that whanau will be able to gather evidence about the experiences they have in accessing whānau-centred service delivery; reflect on the action taken to implement change; and work with whānau to understand their needs and aspirations of whānau development.

In this sense, researchers are required to act as ‘facilitators’ assisting providers and whānau with defining issues and ways of addressing them – the power to define rests with whanau. A key part of this process is to provide time for ‘critical reflection’ to look back over actions and assumptions for examination and analysis.

We envisage some of the key research questions being :

- How do whānau succeed through participating in whānau development and engaging in whānau-centred service delivery?

- what do whānau need to develop so that they can take control of their own lives?

- what do providers need to put in place to ensure whānau-centred delivery and for whānau to engage in whānau-centred service delivery?; and critically….

- How can researchers, practitioners, providers form relationships of genuine trust with whanau?

This last one – the significance of whakawhirinakitanga – meaningful and enduring trust – is absolutely fundamental to Whanau Ora.

Ultimately whatever processes and systems are designed; whatever service delivery is accessed; will only meet the needs and aspirations of whānau if there is a solid foundation of trust in the first place.

And this is trust at all levels – trust between and within whanau; trust from social science researchers that whanau can actually determine their own research agenda; trust from Government that whanau are the best ones to create their own solutions.

All of us have a role to play in restoring that sense of trust that grows within. We must trust ourselves to change the nature of the engagement so that the primary and principal benefit of any research story is whanau empowerment.

Finally, I want to acknowledge and celebrate the wonderful collaboration of Māori social scientists at Universities, Wānanga and community sites throughout Aotearoa,

We are seeing some remarkable results emerging out of entities such as Nga Pae o te Maramatanga; Whariki, AUT; Aotahi; Te Kuwaha; Whakauae Research and the other indigenous institutes that are shaping our social science horizons.

And so I end by placing my trust in your hands – inviting you to become engaged with Whanau Ora, and to work with the transformation that we all want to believe will create a secure foundation for our upcoming generations.


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