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Speech: Hon Tariana Turia – Positive Living Iwi Maori

Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Health

Hui Up – Positive Living Iwi Maori,
Kia Piki te Ora, Hastings
Te Aranga Marae, Flaxmere
22 March 2012 Speech

In the lead up to this hui, there was a flurry of emails preparing me for this day.

Within them, there was one simple question which I think all of us here can share: What can we do to stop suicide from happening?

The loss of far too many loved ones through the tragedy of whakamomori has given that question a sense of fresh urgency that has led to this hui today.

And as I speak to you today, I think of our beautiful mokopuna from Mihiroa; our mokopuna from Ohakune; our niece from Putiki; young talented leaders; members of whānau, hapū , iwi –their presence will be with us as we kōrero today . Let us remember them with love and find the courage and the optimism to find our own answers to that question

In many ways, the theme of this hui is that answer – positive, living iwi Māori.

I want to share with you some kōrero from my beloved cousin, the late Rangitihi Tahuparae – who had an impeccable grasp of both te reo rangatira and te reo tauiwi – that comes through in these words:

Me hoki ki nga paiaka.

Mai i te urunga o Ngai Tāua te iwi Māori ki roto i ngā kāwai mātauranga ō Tauiwi, ina, honotia te peka Māori ki te rākau rāwaho, he rerekē tōna hua me te rongo ō tōna kiko, he kawa.

Kāti, tēnei te whakahoki ki ngā paiaka ā kui mā, ā koro mā.

Let us return to our origins.

Since the time we as Maori were immersed in the knowledge streams of tauiwi, we have become like a branch, grafted to a foreign tree, producing fruit of a different quality and somewhat unpalatable. It is time that we returned to the rootstock of our ancestors.

I love the vision that Tahu left, of returning to our own rootstock; the fertile soils of Papatuanuku from which the seeds from Rangiatea can flourish.

And so today, we can celebrate the inspiration of Kia Piki te Ora, Ahuriri, for your decision to till the soil, to dig further and enable us to grow.

In doing so, you have resolved to work together, to maintain the survival of Maori and protect our whakapapa to ensure that whakamomori does not impact so greatly on our whanau, hapu and iwi.

I want to congratulate you for your determination to share the stories, and to learn from each other. That is positive living iwi Māori in action.

There are some wonderful examples here at Te Aranga of how to be the best we can possibly be.

Our beautiful kui Paki, her amazing son Henare and Pam; Wi Rangi and Mei Whaitiri; Audrey Robin, Marjorie Joe; our kaumātua Tommy Curtis; the various representatives of Te Kupenga Hauora-Ahuriri; Māori komiti members from the Council; board of trustees representatives – you are truly spoilt for choice.

And as I look at you all, and think about our kaupapa today, I think about those words of my cousin – what are our origins; what can we draw on to help us walk through the complex pathway that whakamomori leaves in its wake.

Almost 25 years ago, John Rangihau led a national consultation process which I believe had answers that are still applicable to our question today. In their committee’s report, Puao-te-ata-tū, they have a clear message about the source of the new dawn.

That report told us “The Māori child is not to be viewed in isolation or even as part of nuclear family, but as a member of a wider kin group or hapū community that has traditionally exercised responsibility…..the physical, social and spiritual wellbeing of a Māori child is inextricably related to the sense of belonging to a wider whānau group”.

And they went further, guiding us with this message, “the technique must be to reaffirm the hapū bonds and capitalise on the traditional strengths of the wider group”.

I wanted to remind us of the wisdom of Puao-te-ata-tū because in many ways it has been a profound influence on the momentum we have been building on with Whānau Ora – and it provides us with a vision for the future to help us live as positive, living iwi Māori.

That is the beauty of whānau – the power of belonging to a legacy that stretches back beyond me and you here today, connecting us to our tupuna and beyond to our mokopuna and future generations.

We have, if you like, a highly sophisticated root system which is as vital to our life on earth, as nutrients and water up to the humble plant.

Our whakapapa keeps each seed anchored in the ground; it is the source of our spiritual sustenance; the food for our soul. Our family tree extends far and wide, demonstrating the flexibility, the resilience and the life-giving properties we will need for today and tomorrow.

I am really pleased that later in this hui, Zac Makoare from Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga is going to share with us his passion in working with rangatahi.

Because it is vital that we keep feeding the tree; that we keep fertilising the soil with new ideas and different visions, to ensure our roots are strong and our branches grow.

To be positive living iwi Māori reminds us that the rootstock of our ancestors is a source of strength and healing.

Returning to our origins is about discovering again the joy in our connections to each other. It is that special spark you feel when you meet a younger descendant and yu can instantly see the likeness to their elders. It is about recreating a sense of belonging as a resource for our survival.

It is reigniting our tribal fires; returning to the ahi kaa. One of the more fascinating phenomenon that I know has happened for many of our rangatakapu is that they are turning to facebook and youtube as a source of healing at times of grief.

They share their stories; they mark some kōrero as “like”; they link to other pages; they upload waiata; photographs; poetry; video links; in their moments of agony and despair.

My greatest hope would be that we could learn from their calling to Facebook, to reconnect one another, face to face, kanohi ki te kanohi. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we created wananga within our whānau, for our whānau to cry, laugh, tell stories, and to learn.

We have so many resources that the Kia Piki te Ora suicide prevention network has been developing – right across social and health interventions.

Te Whakauruora is one such resource – it helps us to expand our knowledge about safe, effective and evidence based suicide prevention activities – and we have recently piloted the Whakauruora training programme to help us whānau, hapū and iwi build capacity in responding to mental illness.

Alongside this, there is some great work going on with postvention – helping to work with whānau pani; to stimulate ongoing community discussions; to provide practical, tangible support.

So there is much work being done at a national level – and Ana, who has come with me today, will be only too happy to put you in touch with those resources.

But I want to end where I began – and that is in taking pride and ownership in our own solutions.

The focus of this wananga on positive living is exactly the approach we should be focused on within our homes, and within our wider whanau.
You have some great role models here within your own community like Henare and others, who in my view, live and breathe the kaupapa that we have all come to talk about today.

Investing into whanau and drawing them together to take control of their future is a key part in our peoples healing.

I just want to say that the work that you do, or will be doing, is both valuable, and valued. What you are doing in your day to day work is focusing whanau on the positive, and really moving us towards the goal of Maori wellbeing and development. You deserve recognition for this, and you also deserve to be supported on your journey.

Finally, I return again to another favourite saying of my cousin, Rangitihi Tahuparae

Ko te tai runga te awa, ko te awa te tai raro, e kukume nei taku ate.

The river plays at my emotions like the ebb and flow of the tide.

It is utterly and completely natural to have days of sunshine and days of rain; to be swept by the breeze and to sit quietly in the calm.

Our challenge lies in how we navigate the passage through, to grow with the flow, and to reach the rapids, proud and strong, as positive, living iwi Māori.


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