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Puti Murray’s death adds a sad stress to challenge

For immediate release November 9

Puti Murray’s death adds a sad stress to a serious challenge

The death of Rev Puti Murray at the runanganui of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa on Saturday was, in a way, a poignant underlining of one of the key themes to emerge at the hui: that Maori must put an end to violence in their families.

Puti, who was involved in a gritty urban ministry in Otara for 10 years, and who then founded a South Auckland sanctuary for abused women and their children, had for years worked to bandage up the victims of violence – and to challenge the causes and the perpetrators of that violence.

She died little more than 24 hours after Tariana Turia, the co-leader of the Maori Party, had thrown down the gauntlet to the 200 or so who had gathered at Te Wananga o Raukawa in Otaki for the runanganui.

“We cannot tolerate family violence,” Mrs Turia told the assembled bishops, clergy and lay people.

“We can talk economic development until the cows come home – but if our whanau are not intact, there is nothing that can happen. We cannot educate with that background.

“If we are going to talk about whanau development, we have got to deal with this.”

She called on the delegates at the hui to challenge those in their whanau who are acting “unacceptably” – and to challenge men on the paepae who are suspect on this score.

She asked what message young men would take in if they saw elders, who are guilty of violence, occupying unchallenged the places of privilege on the marae.

She also pointed to a cycle of despair, when young Maori boys and girls “continue to read how mad, bad and sad we are.”

“You and I must be accountable,” she told the delegates. “It is our responsibility to protect them.”

Mrs Turia’s challenge clearly had an impact on the hui. The following afternoon, Dr Jenny Te Paa, Te Ahorangi o Te Rau Kahikatea (Dean of the Maori Theological College at St John’s College in Auckland) brought a motion on the subject of violence.

This asked the runanganui to resolve “to commit itself to eliminate family violence and all forms of violence between God’s people.”

Before the motion was put, Dr Te Paa asked all those present who had either been the subject of violence, or had known violence in their whanau, to raise their hands.

At least two-thirds of the gathering did so.

But none raised their hands when she asked who of those present knew how to eliminate this violence.

The motion, which was passed unanimously, also requires Te Pihopatanga to “give priority to understanding the causes of family violence” through study and reflection in all its training programmes.

The runanganui also committed itself “to affirm and increase support” for the work of social service agencies that Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa operates.

That motion was seconded by Hera Clarke, the Director of Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri - the South Auckland social work agency and sanctuary that Puti Murray set up in the early 1990s.

And as if to stress the importance of the message, within an hour of it being passed, Rev Puti Murray had died.


PS: Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa is the Tikanga Maori section of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Te Runanganui is the national hui that Maori Anglicans hold once every two years to review the life and mission of their church.

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