Launch of Te Pou Matakana – Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency

  • Tariana Turia
Whānau Ora

Tēnā tātou katoa.

Tēnā koutou Te Akitai, te mana whenua o tēnei rohe, ka nui te mihi ki a koutou.

Tainui waka, Waikato iwi ki te whare o Te Kāhui Ariki, ngā tāngata o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa.

Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou.

I was a little bit thrown by the kōrero this morning.  

Actually I have to admit Willie I was one of the ones in Parliament who also spoke against an organisation being redefined as an iwi.   In fact I remember one day saying to JT, well where’s your maunga, where’s your awa, where’s your hapū?   Anyway, we’ve all got over ourselves!

It is a real privilege to be here with people that I have such respect for - those of you who have been there all the way through our lives.

And I want to say to you that I was listening to the kōrero this morning about Pūao-te-ata-tū from Bill and Kingi and Matua Whangai – programmes the Government commandeered and never saw through in a real sense.  

It was a framework for whānau, hapū and iwi to restore their rights to determine their future. I suppose in a way I am sad that it took 26 years to be able to move forward.

Whānau Ora in essence, is about taking back control and responsibility

It is wonderful to be with the distinguished leaders amongst us today – Professor Sir Mason Durie and Lady Arihia, tēnā korua.  Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, the Chair and Board members of Te Pou Matakana, Representatives from an incredible 26 North Island Whānau Ora collectives and other collectives here today, representatives from Pasifika Futures and Te Pūtahitanga o Te Wai Pounamu – our brand new commissioning agencies for Pasifika families and for the South Island - and best of all over 300 whānau leaders who are here for this wonderful opportunity to focus on whānau.

You know when I left Whanganui this morning, one of my 52 mokopuna, my precious mokopuna Piata who lives with me, had one message for me as I walked out the door, ‘Nan, did you remember that today is the first day of the school holidays?’

You can’t imagine my joy when I was able to reply, ‘yes my darling, and do you know when the time comes for your next holiday, I will be there every moment of every day.’

For when the Term 3 holidays come around on the 26 September, I will be finding a whole new sense of freedom as I return home after 18 years in Parliament, leaving the business of national politics for the business of whānau, hapū and iwi and I am really looking forward to that.

It was, then, somewhat of an irony, that this two day hui is being held at the Holiday Inn, and that my focus for talking to you this morning was to describe the Whānau Ora journey.

So my first message today, is with all sincerity, to thank all of you here who have compromised in the most important arena of all – our homes and families – in order to be here today.

The mahi of Whānau Ora, is of course, synonymous with sacrifice, with commitment, with loyalty.  

Nobody enters this work thinking of status or salary. The challenges are immense, the road of life twists and turns with very little warning.

Nowhere is that felt more clearly than in the last 24 hours as whānau and friends from across the world return to Whangarei to farewell a young seventeen year old boy who lost his life playing the game he loved.   The whānau of Jordan Kemp are in our thoughts today, I mihi to Russell and all of their family, as we grieve with them, the tragedy they are now enduring.

For everyone here today, there is a purpose to the journey that you are travelling.   That journey will inevitably traverse through difficult times, and yet always there is hope, always there must be learning along the way that helps us to stay strong, to stay connected, to stay together.

There is a well known Chinese saying ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’  Sometimes that first step is the most difficult one of all for so many of our families– and we must never underestimate the courage and the strength that first foot forward can take.

So today, as much as anything, my purpose in being here is really to simply say thank you to you all. 

Thank you for believing in the vision of our whānau. Thank you for knowing that whānau matter,  that the institution of whānau is the building block of our nation.

What we know across the motu, is that over 8200 whānau are currently involved in the reach of Whānau Ora – encompassing some 42,000 whānau members.   That is a mammoth roll call by any one’s standards after just three years.

Forty-two thousand people who are taking steps towards a better future for their whānau – a future where they have the map, they are the ultimate drivers of their own success.

The road-signs that each whānau sees along the way will be different – some are keen to focus on health and wellbeing, for others it’s about financial security.  Some want to place priority on housing, on education, on employment, on relationships, on all of the above.

While Governments of the day will always want results yesterday, I think it is important to remember that Whānau Ora is not a race - it is just as important to find joy in the journey.

I heard a story the other day about whānau in the Bay of Plenty who have had the fire of learning ignited by being able to access their records through the Māori Land Court, and to start exploring together the common connections of whakapapa and of whenua.  

Whānau Ora had provided them with the means to approach the Māori Land Court, to order maps and data and to start a major whānau project to help rediscover their histories, their roots and consolidate their relationships.

In another area, Whānau Ora assisted over five generations of whānau, comprising more than a hundred members, to be identified by a DHB as the genetic carriers of Familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy.   The whānau felt supported to be able to bring their whole whānau together, to learn about the disease and more importantly how to address it at a whānau level.

Some research undertaken with Te Tai Tokerau and Te Ope Koiora collectives gave some really important feedback about whānau perspectives of Whānau Ora.  

Whānau identified the significance of a broad and holistic approach, the value of being in close proximity to whānau who they could  support and their pride in being able to adjust to the requirements of a changing world while still retaining traditional values.  The opportunity to learn from other whānau about activities such as growing and harvesting kai and the importance of healthy, nutritious kai is one such example.

But there was one finding that stood out over and above the rest - and that was that despite hardship, whānau were clear that long-term change could only happen if it was led by themselves.  The research included a comment from one of the whānau.

“It’s bringing the family back together….it lifts us up to look after our own family….we’re the leaders of our whānau.”

I think those are critical and really important things for all of us to understand because for too long our families have been done to and done for.  And those days have to be over.

We have to look at the potential, find the leadership within our families.

And I want to mihi to Dame Iritana because I remember when the kōhanga reo movement started,  and everybody was going on about who was going to what.  And I think back to that time – they were only getting about $5000 each to run the kōhanga – and she said, the whānau will do it.

Different people would say oh yes and how are they going to do it, how will they run it?  They don’t know how to. And yet when we look at how committed whānau were to making kōhanga reo work and how those kōhanga flourished, and how today we can be proud of our kōhanga reo as probably one of the original examples of Whānau Ora in action.  I mihi to you Whaea.

So when we think about our belief in Whānau Ora we know that it can empower and enable our people to take control and ownership of their lives.

We will have done well when we know we are restoring pride in the essence of who we are – picking up our obligations and responsibilities to each other – that’s Whānau Ora. 

Early on its evolution – and indeed right from the very first report of the Taskforce which was led by Professor Sir Mason Durie – the ambition was to bring Whānau Ora out from the bureaucracy while still influencing Government’s direction and thinking about whānau engagement.

I’d have to say I felt a certain amount of pride when the Minister of Finance travelled around the country following the Budget Round this year and admitted the National Government was not the same one that began its term of Government.  

His simple statement to the iwi was that whereas previously their sole focus was education, health, employment, and the economy – and individuals – nowadays their focus is on whānau, whānau, whānau.

He attributed that change, very generously, to our role in the Māori Party – but I know too, that the inspiration and the motivation to change has come about from seeing at first hand the impact of whānau empowerment.

Because at the end of the day, Governments good, bad or otherwise, whether they be National or Labour – they want to see a difference in the lives of our people.  I think that one of the great things is that National is beginning to see that when you focus on whānau then you get the outcomes that you want for the dollars you spend.

Today’s launch of Te Pou Matakana is a very important step in our Whānau Ora Journey – as we build the next phase of self-management and autonomy.

The concept of the pou matakana, I thought is very clever – literally the sentinel tower of our traditional pā.   Te pou matakana ensured the safety, the oranga of the whānau within the pā.  All information would pass through it, both from the outside world and within the pā – the pou was embedded and connected within the fullness of its community.

Te Pou Matakana is therefore the vigilant face of our whānau – placing value on the protection, the promotion and the preservation of all that whānau hold dear.

All three Commissioning Agencies have taken on board the sacred responsibility of knowing that the wellbeing of whānau is their key focus.   We know that the decisions around investment, the priorities around delivery, will be determined by how they build whānau capacity and capability.   That’s the important road to build on.  It’s not about continuing to provide services to and for families. It is about building up our whānau capacity and capability to do for themselves.  Not easy – that’s our biggest job.

I am so excited about the future destination for whānau as they travel their multiple journeys with the support of the three commissioning agencies, whānau navigators, and the collectives, those of you who are here today.

The skills and expertise present within Te Pou Matakana, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Wai Pounamu and Pasifika Futures, their considerable networks and the passion of their people puts them in a really strong position to deliver meaningful outcomes for our whānau.  And for that, I am just so so happy as I think about the futures for all our whānau, aiga and families across the land.

As we sit here today, there are probably many whānau throughout our country, travelling the highways and the byways, on their journey to somewhere. 

And no doubt that journey is being embellished with backseat passengers asking the inevitable, when will we get there?  Are we there yet?

In those various vehicles, they have no need of a government department, a prescribed programme of action, a helpful provider to show them the way.  They have all the skills they need to undertake the journey, to arrive, to rest a while before they set out on the pathway home.

That really, is my greatest hope for Whānau Ora.   It is not about money; it is not about the destination – the success of reaching the place marked out on the map.   It is, instead, about the spirit in which our whānau are travelling – the attitudes they have to undertake the journey, the new eyes which they embark upon the challenge of life.

It has given me the utmost joy to be here today I have to say, to feel a small part of the most amazing transformation in my lifetime, to cherish this moment as one in which we truly, fully, reclaim all that is ours and celebrate that which we will value for ever – and that is the essence of who we are  - Whānau Ora for us all.