Speech to Turama Health and Disability Conference
The Dream Centre, 3 Lakewood Court, Manukau City, 9.30am
It is a pleasure to be here and to be a part of your conference today.
Ko wai ahau? Ko au ko te awa, ko te awa ko au – I am the river and the river is me.
Ko wai ahau? He uri o Ngati Apa, Nga Wairiki, Nga Rauru, no Whanganui, no Tuwharetoa
Ko wai ahau? Ko Tariana Turia ahau, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother.
And I thank you for inviting me to this conference, and to be amongst you as you look towards the future, and start to shape a vision for your whanau
I would like to acknowledge the Cook Islands Health Network Association for hosting this visionary hui; and our former Cook Islands Prime Ministers who are amongst us here today, Dr. Joseph Williams, and Dr. Robert Woonton.
I would also like to acknowledge the late Sir Terepai Maoate who I understand will be awarded the Cook Islands Excellence Award posthumous tonight. He made a huge contribution to healthcare, and was a staunch advocate of economic development and education as means of addressing the health status of Cook Island and Pasifika people.
It is an approach that I and many others believe in, and is the basis for Whanau Ora, the policy for which I am now Minister.
You have asked me to talk a bit about my role as a Minister, and while I wear many hats, the primary role I have as Minister for Whanau Ora is about wellbeing, and specifically whanau wellbeing.
Long before Whanau Ora was a policy, or a Ministerial portfolio – it was a philosophy that was born in our communities. The philosophy is based on the understanding that in order to create sustainable wellbeing, we must look not at individuals, but strengthening whole families. It recognises the basic principle that as collectives, whanau have strength – and we must work in a way which reminds people of that, and further empowers our families to do what they are there to do – and that is take care of each other.
What does whanau wellbeing look like? To be honest with you I think that is for each whanau to define for themselves. It is for each whanau to define their own aspirations, to chart their own pathways, and to determine their own future.
I see my role, and our role as a wider community to support whanau to dream, and to empower them to be able to achieve those dreams.
I love the title of your conference “Turama” – to shine. And I think that is a worthy aspiration for us, as champions for whanau wellbeing.
I am sure you know that our reo is very similar to yours, our word for shine is “Tirama” and today my mind turns back to an old Maori song, and its lyrics:
Tiramarama mai ra e, te whetu Tawera
Te karere o te ao, haehae mai ra i te po
Ka marama ko te ao
Tawera (or Venus), the morning star shines brightly,
The messenger of light, carving through the night
Bringing light to the world
My vision for our whanau is that they do take their place as the guiding light for the development of our nation. Like the star Tawera, our whanau should be strong, vibrant, with hopes and aspirations so bright that they transform the future of our tamariki.
That is my vision for our families, and that to me is what Whanau Ora is about. Of course each ‘star’ will chart its own path – and that is exactly how it should be. They should be the shining light on their own future, taking control of their own path, rather than allowing others to determine that for them.
There are a number of organisations who support this vision, in fact many our Maori and Pacific providers agree with this approach, and do work with our whanau in an empowering way. The difficulty however, is that we have never seen appropriate investment in these groups to support the wonderful work that they do.
Of course, we could spend our time focusing on the failures of the past, but we are here today to look towards the hope that lies in our future. The turning of the tide is an apt theme for this year, and I think that the only people that can truly turn the tide for you, is your own. Our whanau and our communities must be leading the change we seek to see in ourselves, and in this country.
My husband and I have had a love affair with the people of the Cook Islands for many years. We all know that there is a link between the Maori from here, and the Cook Island Maori – so perhaps that is why we forge such close ties between our peoples.
When we were young, growing up in Whanganui, we were very close to the Cook Island community who would often remark that ‘Turia’ is a Cook Island Maori name. And so they claimed us and would look after us, even though we found out that our Turia comes from here, and our tupuna in Aotearoa.
Around that time, we also had two young boys from the Cooks who lived with us for a while, their names were Tereki Cowan and Teupoo Bates. They become a part of our whanau, and we just adored them. And the rest as they say, is history.
So when Teupoo moved back to the Cook Islands, my husband would go over there every three or four years or when we had saved up enough money to go across.
Having visited your kainga over many years, which is a beautiful and peaceful place, one of the saddest things I noticed were the changes over time.
In the 60s and 70s everything looked to me to be intact, you could see the way of life was heavily influenced by your Maori culture, and the feel and flow of the islands reflected that.
These days the place has totally transformed.
It really made me think that nothing ever prepares us for the invasion of another culture.
We, your whanaunga here in Aotearoa have experienced the same thing with the colonisation of Aotearoa.
It is a huge change that has swept over our lands – and we share that story with our other whanaunga across the Pacific.
Progress creates such a big change for us that we have to be careful how we navigate through it. Our history has been fraught with loss and struggle, but we are survivors. And as we look into the future, we are in a place where we can have more control over how change happens, how it affects us as communities and whanau to ensure that we remain healthy, strong, and culturally intact.
That is the challenge that I think we are looking at now. When we talk about ‘turning the tide’ we are not only engaging in health, we are looking deeply into the root causes of the issues that face our whanau, and we are engaging in change across a range of fronts. That means looking at social change, it means addressing economic development, and education, and it means promoting our unique cultural views and finding a place for them in a society which is largely mono-cultural.
That is the challenge before us all. And I hope that during this conference you will come up with some ways that we can work together to address these issues, and to empower our whanau – so that the vision of ‘Turama 2020’ can come to fruition.
Tena koutou katoa