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‘The future is behind us’

2017 Waitangi Rua Rautau
Te Herenga Waka Marae, Wellington
29 January 2017; 2pm
Hon Dame Tariana Turia

‘The future is behind us’

(unless it is unreasonable or impracticable in the circumstances)

In 23 years time this nation, our home, celebrates two hundred years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

I will be 96 years of age. I hope I am here to observe it, but if not in physical form, I know that I will have left behind many mokopuna who will carry our voice into the next centennial and beyond.

And so as we look towards 2040, my thoughts are particularly centred on all our mokopuna, and our hopes and dreams for their future.

As I prepared for today, I thought particularly of one of my over fifty mokopuna tuarua. A little breeze of sunshine called Te Waikura. A blonde bombshell with attitude; a feisty, lovable little girl who is so proud to carry the legacy of her tupuna in her every move. At the time of the bicentennial she will be 25 years of age. It is for her – and all of her cousins – that my life has the greatest meaning.


In 1995, the late Irihapeti Ramsden, in a paper called ‘Own the Past and create the future’, challenged us to think carefully about who will inhabit the future of our making. She told us:

“We must move beyond rhetoric and cosmetic institutional change. We must expand our view of what being Māori is to include those whom history has deprived of language and ritual, and many of whom are now fair to look at. If the common denominator of being Māori is whakapapa, we must all think beyond the elitist cultural games which exclude so many of our own and help make them ill and unsafe.

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If we enable ourselves to analyse what is happening and what has happened we can help to close our own gaps. We can retain our unique iwi identities as well as construct urban identities which give us confidence and power. The tupuna models are long established; they need to be retrieved, redefined and recirculated. Nobody will do that for us”.

I always loved the way Irihapeti challenged us to think more broadly, ponder deeply the mysteries of our way of being.

But what stood out for me particularly in her paper was this notion of the common denominator of being Māori to be found in our whakapapa, our genealogical blueprint.

No matter where we reside, who we reside with, the colour of our skin, the fluency of our reo, or the tupuna knowledge we have access to, the one common unifier will be found in our lines of descent – that which makes us Māori. Whether we are a natural blonde, or with jet-black curls, our heart is Māori; our heritage; our rights, responsibilities, obligations descend from those birth rights.

This is the worldview which has influenced the Children, Young Persons and their families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill which is currently out in the public realm for submissions.

In that bill we are told in an amended Section 5 that when making a decision about a child or a young person who is Māori,

• The mana and wellbeing of the child or young person are protected by recognizing the whakapapa and whanaungatanga responsibilities of their whānau, hapū and iwi;

• The importance of whakapapa and whanaungatanga is recognized by ensuring that wherever possible, their whānau, hapū and iwi can participate in those decisions.

A little later on in the Principles section, section 13, we are told that where a child is at risk of being removed from their whānau, that the whānau, hapū, iwi and family group should, unless it is unreasonable or impracticable in the circumstances, be assisted to enable them to provide a safe, stable and loving home in accordance with whakapapa and whanaungatanga.

I want today, then, to think about the foundation pathway we are creating for all our mokopuna as we walk carefully towards 2040.

I think back to the promise of the Treaty.

Me hoki whakamuri, kia ahu whakamua, ka neke.

We often say that in order to have foresight you need hindsight.

The wisdom of our tupuna, our whakapapa design, is what makes us unique; the essence of who we are.

When our tupuna signed up to Article Two – which confirmed and guaranteed ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ – the exercise of chieftainship – over our lands, villages and ‘taonga katoa’ they did not think to add the cautionary approach, unless it is unreasonable or impracticable in the circumstances.

And similarly, when in Article three The Crown gave an assurance that Māori would have the Queen’s protection and all rights – ‘tikanga’ – accorded British subjects, there was no rider, “wherever possible”.

So what has happened to us as a nation, where is our voice as a people, that we would expect less than what our ancestors fought for us? When did we decide that our future should be determined with a half-hearted expression of all we hold dear?

The qualifiers matter.

The moment that hesitancy creeps into legislation, is the moment that we move towards a future where anything goes, where the state is defining the “common denominator” as perhaps not so important to matters of identity, connection and belonging as tangata whenua believe.

In 2002, the late Sir Graham Latimer proposed that this lecture series, Waitangi Rua Rautau, be initiated to help us prepare for the 200th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

I follow in a long line of leadership who have spoken before me – some of my personal heroes – those who have created the distinguished thought leadership that has contributed so powerfully to the architecture of our modern nation.

I pay tribute to those champions – people such as Professor Whatarangi Winiata, Dame Anne Salmond, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi– and many others; those who have truly grappled with the nation-building project and of course my companion on the stage today, Gareth Morgan. Each of the lectures in this series has taken us a little further in contemplating Aotearoa in our bicentennial state.

There are of course others who have made a distinguished and exceptional contribution to our current nation state. Two in particular I recognize are the late Rob Cooper and the Tā Mason Durie. Both of these men were instrumental in the foundation governance group that comprised the Whānau Ora Taskforce in 2009. They came to that role with extensive experience of creating Treaty driven practice, particularly in the health arena.

And they were both absolutely committed to the value of that common denominator – whakapapa. Whenever Rob spoke, he always referred to the kuia and kaumātua of Ngāti Hine, the likes of Sir James Henare, who helped to shape his thinking and form his values. He was driven both by the whakapapa of his own tribal footprint but also the unique genealogical framework our nation gave birth to, when Māori and the Crown signed the Treaty.

And of course one of the many revolutionary impacts of Tā Mason’s leadership was through his Whare Tapa Whā model; a philosophical framework for wellbeing that has influenced our social sector for the last 35 years since its introduction in 1982.

The model has four dimensions:

• taha wairua (spiritual health),

• taha hinengaro (mental health),

• taha tinana (physical health) and

• taha whānau (family health). .

The model places the individual within the context of whānau and recognizes the individual as part of a connected kinship system. Feeling part of, or disconnected from this whānau system critically impacts on our sense of belonging.

In many ways what would happen later – Puao-te-ata-tū in 1986; the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act in 1989; He Korowai Oranga in 2002; Whānau Ora in 2010 – owe their origins to the early thinking of leaders such as these.

But I want for a moment to think about the person behind the concept of Waitangi Rua Rautau.

Thirty years ago, Sir Graham was a humble Māori farmer from Taipuha in the Kaipara Harbour, when he and his lovely Lady Emily took on the dramatic step of mortgaging their farm to take on the Crown.

The Labour government of the day was embarking into the empire of asset sales. A State Owned Enterprises Act was to be introduced to remove the protection of Māori Assets; to sell over thousands of hectares of Crown lands and forests, and to privatise fisheries.

Along with iwi from around Aotearoa, the New Zealand Māori Council challenged these plans with the now legendary 1987 Court of Appeal case.

As a result of this decision, underwritten by Sir Graham, it gave new life to the leadership so vigorously represented by another Northern leader, the late Matiu Rata, who ten years earlier had steered through some significant measures, including the creation of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975.

In 1986, the State-Owned Enterprises Act was introduced; allowing the sale of Crown land. If land, under Treaty claim was transferred to these enterprises, and then onsold to private owners, the Waitangi Tribunal would have no authority to recommend its return to tangata whenua.

Enter Sir Graham, and the case of Clause nine. That clause had been intended to protect Māori interests. It laid down the law: nothing in the Act could permit the Crown to act in a manner inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

If that were the case, Sir Graham reasoned, there had to be a way to protect the land under claim. Flogging it off before the Tribunal could inquire into how the Crown got hold of it in the first place, was in his view absolutely inconsistent with the Treaty.

And there it was.

The full bench of five judges agreed, unanimously, that the principles of the Treaty over-rode everything else in the Act. What’s more, those principles required the Treaty partners, Crown and Māori, to act toward each other reasonably, and in the utmost good faith.

As a result of Sir Graham’s sacrifice; his vision and his proactive stance the asset sales stopped.

But there was much more: funding for research for Tribunal claimants; support for te reo; investment in iwi radio and television; the creation of the Crown Forestry Rental Trust; Māori rights affirmed in fishing and forestry; the Treaty stood for something.

So I want to come back to my mokopuna – and the issue that I believe to be of the single-most important urgency facing our country.

And that is this notion of oranga tamariki.

In te Ao Māori we might characterise the notion of oranga tamariki as being the expression of te ihi, te wehi, te mana, te tapu.

That is – the wonder, the awe-inspiring power, the charisma, the sacred seed that is captured in every new born baby.

Rev Māori Marsden refers to the notion of mauri – the force or energy given life by hauora: literally the breath of the spirit of life. When we exclaim Mauri-ora; we are cherishing the very essence of life; similarly our focus on Whānau Ora represents the very fullness of life we seek for all our whānau.

Rose Pere, in her celebration of infinite wisdom, explains further the concept of tamariki

Tama is derived from Tama-te-rā: the central sun, the divine spark.

Ariki refers to the senior most status. Our children, our tamariki, are the greatest legacy our world has.

Rose takes us further into the gifts that children bring into our lives: creativity, imagination, innocence, affection, laughter, tears, healing, honesty, intuition, energy, perfection.

And so, in this passage of legislation being sped through our debating chamber, what are we to make of the special gifts of all our children?

I have no appetite for regurgitation of the negative statistics associated with the ill-treatment or neglect of a child or young person. Every time we list the disproportionately high levels of disadvantage that defines the life of a child in care, our vision is reduced to the language of vulnerability, or complex need, of trauma – and we lose sight of the power of hope.

Over the last week, as various politicians launched into the practise of prophecy and proselytizing, I was yearning to hear that the representatives of the people would declare their commitment to fight for our children.

We heard about Uncle Tom and toothless sheep; new roads and an IRD computer; poverty, te reo Māori, housing and immigration; and whether or not any one political party had taken the interests of Morehu to heart.

But what was so devastating for me, was that less than three weeks out from when submissions close, the aspirations and ambitions that we have for all of our tamariki mokopuna barely raised a mention.

And this is where I end at the beginning. I called my address, ‘The future is behind us’ (unless it is unreasonable or impracticable in the circumstances).

Thirty years ago at the same time that Sir Graham was mortgaging his house to restore the Treaty to its rightful place at the centre of our statute; Puao-te-ata-tū emerged out of a similar act of courage from the late John Rangihau and his ministerial advisory group – including I am pleased to acknowledge – the unique contribution of Donna Hall.

The committee travelled all around Aotearoa, participating in 65 meetings on marae, in institutions and Department offices. They spoke to staff, to community workers, to rangatahi and to judges who sit in the Children’s and Young Persons Court. They studied the statute; policies and practice; and they found at the heart of the issue was a profound misunderstanding or ignorance of the place of the child in Maori society and its relationship with whanau, hapu, iwi structures.

They stated, unequivocally,

• that the whanau/hapu/iwi must be consulted and may be heard in Court of appropriate jurisdiction on the placement of a Maori child;

• that the process of law must enable the kinds of skills and experience required for dealing with Maori children and young persons hapu members to be demonstrated, understood and constantly applied.

• That this will require appropriate training mechanisms for all people involved with regard to customary cultural preferences and current Māori circumstances and aspirations;

There was no place for uncertainty or doubt: the language was bold and proud: must; will; should.

They concluded that the physical, social and spiritual wellbeing of a Maori child is inextricably related to the sense of belonging to a wider whanau group.

This year we mark 150 years since the Māori Representation Act came into being in 1867. It is absolutely the right time to reflect on the ability and the ambition of those who want to earn the right for our vote.

How will they care for the future little Te Waikura will step into?

As we prepare for Waitangi Day, what emphasis will the paepae give to affirming mana tamariki, whakapapa and whanaungatanga?

Or are these values only referred to where practicable or where reasonable?

The broad vision of John Rangihau and his committee; the courage of Sir Graham and the Māori Council; the absolute belief

of Rose Pere and Māori Marsden; the insights and intellects of Rob Cooper, Tā Mason, Matua Whatarangi, Dame Iritana; the profound challenges of Dr Irihapeti Ramsden – the kaupapa and tikanga our tupuna left us to uphold – they all stood for something.

The previous speakers who used the opportunity of Waitangi Rua Rautau as a platform of hope, have all asked us to think more deeply, to work more collaboratively in building a nationhood we can all sign up to.

The question remains for me – what do we stand for? What will stir the heart and move the passions of our current generations – as it did for our whānau before us?

What will it take to replicate the belief that motivated us to join the Māori Land March; to hīkoi against the Foreshore and Seabed Bill; to go to the highest courts for fisheries, for forestry, for settlements?

Perhaps it’s timely for us to go home and ask our mokopuna? Why is it that the statement, I am Moana from Motunui, inspires them so much?

Indeed, it is in the lyrics from the movie that’s grabbed the attention of all our tamariki this summer, that I want to end today:

Nothing on earth can silence The quiet voice still inside you Moana listen Do you know who you are?

Our children are telling us – the universally indigenous themes of identity, connection and belonging are the story that shapes their lives. Knowing who we are; who we connect to; our special

songs, our places, our ancestors, is all about whakapapa; whānau, whenua, whare.

It matters. It is about faith; about belief; about love. A faith in our whānau; a belief in principles that help us to be better people; a love for the generations that will create and shape the world as we want to be in 2040.

That is the manifesto I want to see shared amongst our marae.

It is the message I want to see in submissions to the social services committee; the kōrero I want to hear around our homes, our halls, our meeting places.

We do not need any more half-hearted promises, that change will happen where practicable, or if reasonable.

The reform in Oranga Tamariki is of fundamental importance in the opportunity it could create to improve the quality of life for all of our tamariki and mokopuna.

It is not time to be timid. We must defend the whakapapa rights and responsibilities of whānau, hapū and iwi to care for their own mokopuna.

We must learn well the lessons left for us – to protect and respect the divine spark of life that will be the message we gift to future generations.

We are required to act.

Who of us here, are prepared to do what it takes, to stand up for the greatest legacy we can leave our world?

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