Ha! - Inspiration!

  • Tariana Turia
Community and Voluntary Sector

Speech to open National Maori Asthma hui, Wainuiomata marae

E nga mana o tenei rohe, e te iwi kainga, tena koutou katoa.

E nga iwi e huihui nei, te Taumata Mate Ha, nga kaimahi hauora hoki, tena koutou.
Thank you to the Tu Kotahi Maori Asthma Trust [Teresea Olsen - Chairperson] for inviting me here today to open the National Mäori Asthma Hui 2004.

You have lined up a very interesting programme, and I do not want to take up too much of your time.

I know your other guest speakers have very valuable contributions. I was absolutely inspired by Waka Cookson's story of survival against the odds, and the transformation of her life, when she spoke at the Auahi Kore hui in Gisborne recently. Tena koe e Waka.

Did you know that 'inspire' comes from the Latin words meaning 'to breathe into'?

I guess that means our people's creation was inspired by Tane - and the Tihe Mauriora, the sneeze of life, is proof of our divine inspiration.

Of course, for most of us here, simply breathing can be a struggle at times. What has happened to that inspiration of long ago?

Your hui is addressing many of the triggers and contributing factors to the prevalence of asthma. At one level, the medical condition is quite complex, and treatment requires ongoing effort.

But I believe that if we look at a higher level, at what inspires our people, and what boosts our mauri ora, then some other contributing factors become more obvious.

What I am really pleased to see, is that you are taking a broad overview of health.

The next speaker is going to talk about foreshore and seabed issues.

Some people might ask, what has that got to do with asthma?

Well I can tell you, that what we have seen over the past nine months in relation to seabed and foreshore has certainly taken my breath away! At times I have gasped and spluttered!

I checked in the dictionary to see if the Latin words for that feeling are 'de-speration'. They are not. Desperation is a loss of hope.

I may get short of breath, but I have not given up hope!

What I have, and I know our people have, is aspiration! Aspiration is such a strong desire for something, that your heart races and your breathing speeds up.

That makes me think of the days when George and I were courting. My Auntie Wai knew I had those feelings, but she didn't call them 'aspiration'!

Anyway, now that I am older, one of the things I aspire to is whanau ora - that is, whanau having a sense of well-being, security and control over their destiny. Whanau ora will have the knowledge and skills to look after each other and ensure all members of the whanau reach their full potential. We are talking about our mauri ora, in very broad terms.

He Korowai Oranga, the Government's Mäori Health Strategy emphasises whanau ora: Maori families supported to achieve their maximum health and well-being.

He Korowai Oranga, together with the government's Primary Health Care Strategy and the creation of Primary Health Organisations, aims to encourage pro-active support across the sector for whanau to be able to take the lead in addressing their own health priorities.

One of the keys to achieving whanau ora is co-operation - as the ancient Romans would put it, con-spiring, or breathing together.

Conspiracy has negative connotations in English - of people going into a tight huddle and whispering secrets under their breath.

Our tradition of conspiracy is seen in the hongi - a recognition of each other's whakapapa to Tane, and an act of whakawhanaungatanga.

It is pleasing to see you are conspiring with your whanaunga to manage their asthma with local support, and emphasising prevention and management rather than waiting until secondary care is needed.

For example, continued promotion and success of Auahi Kore programmes in 'clearing the air' is essential for our future - children.

Organisations such as Tu Kotahi can also work with, and as part of, Primary Health Organisations. This should help whanau to get access to GP services, and hopefully lead to integrated services within the community to assist our people to manage their asthma and respiratory conditions.

Putting resources into primary care is an investment in good health that repays itself for a lifetime. It is not easy to demonstrate the direct connection, because the benefits lie in the future.

Nevertheless, we got some very good news the other day from the Department of Statistics. Over the past five years, the average lifespan for tangata whenua increased by around two years.

Significantly, the increase was greater for tangata whenua than for the general population. The most logical explanation is that the increase in life expectancy comes from the changes we have made to health policy and delivery to our people.

Experts had not expected to see such major improvements in so short a time. I have no doubt the changes are a result of personal commitment and the contribution of you all - not from any race-based privilege.

Of course, whanau ora are not just groups of healthy individuals - they also have healthy attitudes and healthy relationships. They look after each other, take responsibility for each other, and consider the interests of the whole whanau, not just their own. They also take responsibility for their future.

That small increase in our people's average lifespan indicates that our whanau and communities are functioning better.

I want to conclude by congratulating you again on your dedication and commitment to the issues specific to asthma, and also to support your broad approach to addressing asthma as a matter of whanau development and liberation.

Tihe mauriora!