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Presentation of Tu Rangatira Mo Te Ora Award

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister of Health

7pm, Tuesday 4 September 2012 SPEECH

Presentation of Tu Rangatira Mo Te Ora Award

Public Health Association New Zealand Conference

Te Wharewaka o Poneke, Waterfront, Wellington

Tena koutou katoa

Superman has a lot to answer for.

That comic-book superhero, with his colourful red, blue and yellow costume, complete with a flowing cape and a stylised S Shield on his chest, has captivated our imaginations for decades about what a real hero looks like.

Tonight, we cast that image aside, and are here to present a hero, New Zealand Style – with our very own home-grown award, Tū Rangatira mo te Ora.

But first – perhaps I’ve been a little unfair on Superman.

I want to share the story of the man who played Superman – Christopher Reeves.

It is said that it is during hard times when the 'hero' within us is revealed.

While Christopher Reeves captured the motion picture world with Superman 1, 2, 3, and 4 – it was in his real life experience that his particular courage was revealed. In 1995 Reeve fell off a horse and sustained a cervical spinal injury that paralysed him from the neck down, in that instance providing him with a new persona – that of a quadriplegic.

For the rest of his life he required a wheelchair and breathing apparatus but he never faltered from his mission to do what he could to make the world a better place. To his dying day he campaigned on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries, particularly focusing on stem cell research. He summed up his experience in one phrase:

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“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”.

This then, is what I consider to be the character of people who are the real heroes of our time and place.

They are the people who even though none of us can see the light at the end of the tunnel, they keep on digging.

They are those amazing souls, who even when it feels like all hope is gone they encourage us to be strong, to look inside ourselves, and to reach that little bit further.

Tonight then, is our opportunity to reflect and cherish all those champions in our lives, who do amazing things every day, who often go without recognition, often without people knowing what they have done.

If there is one, unmistakable truth that I have come to know through Whānau Ora it is that there are many such champions within our communities who every single day, make a significant contribution to the wellbeing of our whanau.

In fact, as I look around the room tonight, I know that many of them are present here tonight, and not one of you have a cape or a Super S Shield to show for it.

One person in particular will tonight be honoured with the Tu Rangatira Mo Te Ora Award in recognition of the wonderful work that they do in our communities.

I can think of no better prestigious accolade than one in recognition of the work that you do in transforming the health and wellbeing of our whanau.

The theme of your conference this year is “Equity from the start – valuing our children”.

As a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother I can tell you that nothing prompts you to action like the thought of a child. Children are the beating heart of any whanau, and we must protect them and invest in their future.

The recipient of the award tonight has in no small way contributed to this aspiration by her work in championing the health and wellbeing of our tamariki.

Earlier today, I understand Dr Cindy Kiro told your conference about the need for neighbourhood specific strategies to address child poverty occurring within Māori and Pasifika communities.

I want to build on that kōrero by focusing on the incidence of rheumatic fever.

We know that this is a serious illness. Rheumatic fever is a third world disease that has no place in New Zealand. This illness takes hold of our tamariki, and has serious consequences on their health and wellbeing, their whanau, and their communities.

The lifetime impacts of rheumatic fever should be at the top of all our agendas. Children with a recurrence are at a very high risk of heart damage, and ten to twenty per cent of children with rheumatic fever suffer permanent heart damage.

The damage can be profound –but even more distressing is the intensity of impact on children aged 5-14 years; and in particular Māori and Pasifika children.

If ever there was a time for a super-heroic response, it is now.

The reality is that Rheumatic Fever is preventable, and these figures are utterly unacceptable.

But we must not persist with an approach which treats each individual in isolation – we need to have a broader vision, a strategy which embraces our whānau, our communities as providing the context for change.

We need to focus on families – look wide and help ourselves to make the connections.

I talked before about those champions of the human spirit who persevere through the darkness with only light flickering in.

It has been a long, hard decade of slog for those Māori health workers who saw the impact that this illness has had on our whānau and waited in vain for Governments to listen.

And I am proud of the work going on across the sector with the rheumatic fever strategy as it rolls out.

But tonight I want to recognise and pay my tributes to those who advocated on behalf of our whānau, long before this funding came through.

And this brings me to the Tu Rangatira mo te Ora Award for 2012.

The award reminds us all about the enormous health issues challenging Māori, the ongoing inequalities we need to continue to address, and the courage and bold resolve we need to confront those issues that threaten to hold back progress.

The tohu was established to acknowledge success and achievement in Māori public health by recognising people who have shown leadership in hauora development.

I am delighted to announce that Helen Herbert of Kaeo in Northland is the winner of the Tu Rangatira Mo te Ora award for 2012.

Helen was nominated by Maxine Shortland, General Manager, Matauranga Whanui, Ngati Hine Health Trust. It is great to see members of the Trust here at tonight’s presentation.

Helen’s nomination is also supported by

• Dr Jonathon Jarman, Medical Officer of Health, Northland DHB;

• Professor Diana Lennon, Professor of Community Paediatrics, University of Auckland School of Medicine;

• Professor Norman Sharpe, Medical Director of the Heart Foundation;

• Dr Lance O’Sullivan GP, Te Whare Hauora Clinic, Kaitaia; and

• Michelle Hooker RN, Coordinator, Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme, Waikato DHB.

And I’d have to say, that each of these people themselves, should also be commended for the incredible difference they are making to the health and future of our whānau, through their commitment, their passion and their dedicated efforts on behalf of others.

Helen has worked tirelessly for the last ten years on the prevention and eradication of rheumatic fever.

A driving force in her journey has been her own personal experience of the devastating effects of rheumatic fever – on her own son, on other tamariki in her local community, and on Maori and Pasifika families and communities.

As I said earlier:

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”.

A decade ago 2002 Helen was appointed Project Lead for the Rheumatic Fever Programme in Whangaroa.

For five long years she worked on the innovative Whangaroa Throat Swabbing Programme that resulted in the eradication of rheumatic fever from Whangaroa/Kaeo area.

In 2007 she then moved to the Ngati Hine Health Trust as Northland Regional Rheumatic Fever Coordinator, running train the trainer workshops for Te Tai Tokerau health providers, helping to develop throat swabbing programmes and raising community awareness.

In this role she also worked with other regions, helping them to set up programmes to combat high rheumatic fever rates in their areas.

Helen has more recently been appointed as the National Coordinator - Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme.

In this role she will use her considerable knowledge and experience to assist health providers in at-risk regions throughout the North Island and to link them with each other, the Heart Foundation, Ministry of Health and other stakeholders in the fight to combat this disease.

Helen’s passion to see rheumatic fever reduced is fuelled by her uncompromising belief in equity for Maori and Pacific whanau and their right to services that will optimize their health and wellbeing.

She stands for us all, a living legend – someone who inspires us all to know we can make a difference – day by day, community by community, we will know that Sore Throats Matters, that our babies deserve the best.

In the criteria for selection of this award it notes that the recipient will have taken a leadership role at flaxroots, local or national level.

Helen has excelled in all three.

Helen; we honour you; we thank you; and we are so pleased to present you with the Tu Rangatira Mo te Ora Award for 2012.


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