The nature of service - Speech to Graduation of Ngati Awa Service Academy students, Puawairua marae, WhakataneSocial Development and Employment
Members and staff of the Ngati Awa Social and Health Services Trust,
and especially to graduands of the Service Academy and their whanau,
tena koutou, a tena hoki tatou e whakarauika nei i tenei ra.
Huri noa tena tatou katoa.
It is a pleasure to be welcomed back to this year’s graduation ceremony.
When I see young women and men, filled with pride and discipline, keen to serve their people, I, too, feel proud. I feel proud of your efforts, and proud that your people, our people, have been able to support you through this academy.
Whenever I think of service, I think of those who have served others.
I think of those who have made sacrifices in order to make the lives of others a little easier.
I think of those who sacrificed their lives so that we, their mokopuna, could at least have the chance to enjoy ours.
Ngati Awa, you have a proud history of sacrifice.
Your tupuna fought the early Colonial forces to retain your land.
You have willingly encouraged your sons and nephews to take part in many theatres of war. The 28 Maori Battalion during the Second World War followed in the footsteps of the Maori Pioneer Battalion, who served at Gallipoli and northern Europe in World War One. Our people served in the Boer War.
I note of course that our daughters and nieces are now doing likewise.
Is it not an irony that you, like many of us Ngai Maori, have joined to fight for the Crown, for King or Queen and Country, when so many of our ancestors fought against the Crown, the forces of the Queen, so that we would continue to exercise our right over that same Country?
Amazing, is it not, that we can fight for different sides to protect the same thing, which on the one hand we call our country and on the other we call our land?
Our service to others is an indicator of our own identity. It’s not that we are one thing or the other – we are both at once.
Our war veterans are a source of pride for tangata whenua. They paid what Sir Apirana Ngata called ‘the price of citizenship’.
Our old people fought for King and Country to ensure that national interests should not conflict with our interests as tangata whenua. They proved that, as tangata whenua, we are good citizens. Our interests, therefore, are an important part of the national interest.
Ngati Awa, a number of you I know continued to make sacrifices as you negotiated the terms of settlement with the Crown, and as you discussed with each other whether you had finally achieved the best you could get for your people.
Like your tupuna, in pursuing Ngati Awa’s claims, you were mindful of this nation’s interests. No settlement is durable if it leaves a lingering grievance. The whole nation seeks an honourable outcome. Na reira kei te mihi enei awa o Whanganui me Whangaehu hoki ki a koutou.
I want to acknowledge the presence and support here today of members of the New Zealand Defence Forces.
Defence Force personnel have supported UN peacekeeping operations all over the world. Tangata whenua have played a key role – not just carrying weapons, but using our special skills to build relationships with local people, to defuse tension and promote reconciliation.
Who could not be proud of the work of our people in East Timor? Soldiers from this land died, and our police, diplomats and other officers faced danger, to support East Timor’s heroic struggle for independence and national reconstruction. They served on behalf of all citizens of the United Nations.
Just as our people are active in the Defence Forces, it is right that the Defence Forces should support Ngati Awa’s Service Academy.
The Academy has given today’s graduates the skills they need to serve others. But they must still decide how to use those skills, and whose interests they will serve.
Ngati Awa’s history shows how difficult those choices can be. Is this a decision that should be left to each one of our young people?
Who will protect them from situations where their loyalties are divided, and back them up when they are torn by criticism from others for ‘just doing their job’?
Our young people need a strong sense of whanau, as a foundation and a springboard for their service to others. They need their whanau to discuss these options with them, and advise them.
The cultural renaissance among our people, the resurgence of pride in whanau, hapu and iwi identity, the thirst for history and tradition, participation in tribal affairs – all these things empower our youth.
But along with collective strength, our rangatahi need to understand collective responsibility. We must help them to recognise their duties and obligations to their whanau.
My whanau has a big influence on the choices I make, and the things I do. I consult my whanau on major decisions. They give me advice – whether I like it or not, sometimes!
My primary loyalty is to my whanau. That’s not to say, however, that I cannot serve others.
Support from my whanau gives me protection. If my whanau withdraws their support, that’s time for me to leave Parliament.
I believe that is how our old people made the complex decisions they faced in their times.
And so to you graduands I offer not just to you, but to your whanau and to your people, my heartiest congratulations and best wishes for your future.
Na reira koutou, huri noa, tena tatou katoa.