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Turia: Turama Health and Disability Conference 2013

Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister for Health

Thursday 8 August 2013

Cook Islands Health Network Association
Turama Health and Disability Conference 2013
(check on delivery)

My first greeting is to our Minister who opened this hui today.

To Hon Nikki Rattle, Speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament;

Your President; Dr Joseph Williams; and vice-president; Metua Bates and Mr Tepoave Araitia who led the tuoro this morning.

I want to acknowledge the unique status of your organisation – the only Cook Islands Health Network – a vital network established from the foundation laid by the Cook Islands Nurses Association over two decades ago in 1991.

From that base your membership has grown to include a wide range of health professionals including doctors, administrators, physiotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists in fact any practitioners interested in health and disability services.

You have built the momentum of your network up through hard work and selfless dedication and you are to be commended for your passion on behalf of your people.
It is indeed a pleasure to be with you today. As Lisa and I travelled here today I told her there are three particular reasons why I was so keen to join with you at this forum.

The first is to acknowledge and celebrate with you this special week - Te Epetoma o te reo Maori Kuki Airani – Cook Islands Language Week.

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It is such an important statement of principle – that your annual conference recognises the vital association between the health and wellbeing of the people and a living, thriving language.

Passing on your language to future generations is fundamental to the health of the culture and the strength of the people. Across the waters of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, our whakatauaki are rich with the wisdom expressed in this way:

Ko te reo te tuakiri; ko te reo toku ahurei; ko te reo te ora
Language is my identity; my uniqueness; my life.

I congratulate the Cook Island Development Agency for your leadership in initiating this week, and for the impact being made in linking the language with a healthy, prosperous and vibrant people.

The second is a more personal reason – a moment of special timing – much more, surely than a co-incidence.

This week – out of the blue - we received an invitation to the Turia reunion in Rarotonga.

Turia is my husband’s name – and as far as we can trace the whakapapa it seems to be sourced in the soils of Aotearoa – but we have always wondered if there is a special connection to the Turia’s of the Cooks – and who knows, maybe there’s someone here today who has that gift of knowledge to share with us.

The third reason is motivated by your wonderful conference theme – Akatupu i te Akairo – Make Our Mark.

In the last few days I have learnt that I am going to be a great grandmother – again – and as with every single one of my children, my mokopuna and my mokopuna tuarua – it reminds me just how incredible the gift of new life is to us all.

Is there any more profound way to make your mark than to guide, to nurture, to protect and to care for the generations that will lead us into the future?

But there is another meaning to your theme which I want to raise, and that is in connection with the art form of tatatau. The ancient art of ta moko celebrates and consolidates through the patterns of the past, our modern day connections to those before us.

The stunning renaissance of tatatau within Cook Islands families provides us all with a visual benchmark of today’s generation taking pride in their culture, their identity, their history, their sense of self.

And so as we gather here in Manukau, it seems to me that we have plenty of room for optimism, to make our mark in health for the new generation, Akatupu i te akairoi i te ora’anga no te uki ou.

The stars are perfectly aligned for us to discuss solutions to feed into the national Cook Islands plan.

The three key questions you will be asked to consider are:

• What are the key issues?
• What has to change to achieve the success we’re striving for?
• What action will you take?
They are wonderful open questions – and I expect a multitude of answers. It might be as broad as the issue of Cook Islands citizenship – and where does that fit within the current process of constitutional review?

Or it might be more specific – what are your views around the portability of New Zealand superannuation?

One thing I would hope you start every question with is that question of legacy and leadership as it relates to our next generations. It is so exciting to see the very first workshop – the first word if you like – is dedicated to a Youth workshop.

If we are to build healthy families and healthy communities we need to practice inclusion; to actively nurture and involve all peoples in achieving their optimum levels of health.

Your vision – Turama 2020 – to shine - is one which must be uppermost in your minds not just in the workshops at this forum, but in daily practice.

And I’m not just talking about a health practice – I’m talking about practising what we preach – walking our talk – living the dream. If we truly want to see prosperous and healthy families we must live that vision from dawn to dusk, in our own homes, our own villages, our own worlds.
It is really wonderful that the Speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament is at this forum - and I am hoping we can each learn from our experiences and successes.

And I want to praise the Cook Islands Government for giving priority to health in the 2013/14 Budget with a massive seven percent increase. There were also a couple of specific highlights that I can’t resist talking about.

The first is your courageous stand on being smokefree. The Cook Islands government has imposed a 33% levy on all cigarette products; and have implemented a Blue Ribbon campaign to prevent exposure to second hand smoke.

The second bright light is the Government’s proposal to increase taxation on alcohol and fizzy sugary drinks which will have an immediate effect on risk factors for obesity; diabetes, and heart disease. The sustainable funding mechanism that is created by these levies is going to be targeted towards health promotion – the drive to support Cook Island families in making healthy lifestyle choices.

These are two very promising initiatives – and I will be keen to hear everyone’s views about how they could influence our own approach - Ala Mo’ui – Pathways to Pacific Health and Wellbeing.
Ala Mo’ui has six key priority areas, including – importantly – that systems and services meet the needs of Pacific People and that more services are delivered locally in the community and in primary care.

I hope through the momentum built in Whanau Ora – and indeed through the Pacific Conceptual framework to address family violence – that we in Government are doing much better about reorientating our approach to ensure it does meet your needs, and addresses your local challenges.

But if there are any two emphasis areas in Ala Mo’ui that I want to urge we talk about at this hui it would be that “Pacific people are better supported to be healthy” and that “Pacific people experience improved broader determinants of health.”

They speak to me of self-determination – people writing and shaping their own future.

And I want to finish by speaking – with great respect – about the family service I attended this time last week, at the passing of our much loved Teinakore Bates.

My husband and I felt we were truly privileged to be surrounded by people who lived and breathed Whanau Ora.

The stories we heard at the family service were about family members who truly looked out for each other; that reached out in a time of such sadness and pledged their commitment to one another.

As a collective they came together; to focus on a future in which the legacy of their father and grandfather, uncle and brother, would become the beacon of light to keep their spirits high and their faith strong.

I believe that what we were experiencing was what many of us aspire to achieve – to really focus on outcomes – what we want for our life - not just activities – what we are doing.

With that sort of aspiration I have every confidence that negative health indicators can be addressed because those families will demand accountability for results; they will demand better information; they will uphold the highest expectations of services to deliver to their needs.

In essence, the stories at the family service were about Teina making his mark – and those he leaves behind following that lesson with every heartbeat they share.

Finally, it is fitting that I leave you with the message of hope and of challenge, expressed in the words of Puati Mataiapo

Taka’i koe ki te papa enua
Akamoa i te pito enua
A’u i to’ou rangi

As you step onto the surface of the land
Fasten the umbilical chord
Carve out your world.

I am extremely proud to open the 2013 Cook Islands Health and Disability Conference : Make our Mark : Akatupu i te Akairo.


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