Opening Remarks To Pacifica 1999 National Conference

  • Georgina te Heuheu
Associate Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiation

Ko Tongariro te maunga
Ko Taupo te moana
Ko Tuwharetoa te iwi
Ko te Heuheu te tangata

Tongariro is the mountain
Taupo is the lake
Tuwharetoa are the people
Te Heuheu is the man

This tribal saying confirms my membership of the iwi (tribe) Ngati Tuwharetoa led by the rangatira (chief) te Heuheu whose ancestor in 1887 gifted the central North Island mountains to the nation, thus creating our first National Park.

There is another saying however which links me directly to all of you:

Whakarongo ki te hau raki e pupuhi nei, i takea mai i Hawaiki nui....

Listen to the north wind blowing from the great Hawaiki This saying reminds the Maori people that we descend from the ancient voyagers who sailed the Pacific Ocean. We recall to mind the winds which bought us to Aotearoa New Zealand and which are the same winds which make us part of the Polynesian homeland.

It is such a pleasure then for me to be here tonight to honour you and the women of the Pacific.

Talofa lava
Kia orana
Malo e lelei
Ni sa bula
Fakaalofa atu
Malo ni
Halo olaketa
Kia ora

Pacific women are the weavers holding the strands of Pacific society together.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the many special and honoured guests here tonight. PACIFICA's national president and executive members, branch presidents and members, representatives of national women's organisations, the chief executives of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and Ministry of Women's Affairs, and international guests.

I offer a special greeting to PACIFICA's "Living Treasure" Jeannie Pittman from Tahiti. Jeannie paid a visit to me earlier this week and I know she will add a valuable international perspective to this conference.

As women we have many roles - we are the wives, mothers, breadwinners, leaders, business owners, volunteers and caregivers in our families and communities. Our contribution is vital and significant.

We need the support of our families and communities to successfully fulfill all the expectations there are of us. PACIFICA was formed twenty-three years ago to provide Pacific women with the support, networks, information, and assistance they need.

I offer my congratulations to PACIFICA for your consistent and successful work with and for Pacific women and their families.

When Pacific families began arriving in New Zealand in greater numbers in the 1950s and 1960s, Pacific women were cold, lonely and isolated from their traditional support networks and their extended families. They were coping with adjusting to a new homeland with its cultural and language differences.

Pacific women faced the problem of how to hold on to their identity and culture and to pass it on to their children and grandchildren.

Those women that came in the '50s and '60s were forced to adopt a culture foreign to them and leave behind their own culture. These women endured many hardships and difficulties throughout their lives in endeavouring to establish a new life in a new country. The outcome of this was that they were successful in laying a path that has allowed the women of today and tomorrow to come to a country that now acknowledges, welcomes and embraces the culture Pacific women bring with them.

Women's care and attention has seen Pacific cultures in New Zealand evolve, adapt, modify and change while still maintaining the distinctive and enriching characters of these cultures.

PACIFICA has provided the networks and stability for Pacific women to work together for themselves, their families and communities.

The work of Pacific women in the families and communities is increasing being rewarded in visible significant achievements.

Pacific women are now entering a wider range of occupations than before. Pacific women are educators in the early childhood, compulsory and tertiary sectors, they are managers, policy advisors, and health professionals. Pacific women are business women. Pacific women are sportswomen, musicians, artists, craftswomen, fashion designers, journalists and writers.

New Zealand at the eve of the millennium is providing Pacific women with a platform to be vocal in a way that is different from traditional Pacific structures and role for women. How this role is defined and how it develops is a key challenge for the new millennium.

PACIFICA has set itself the timely task of addressing this challenge at this conference.

While we are thinking of the future, I would like to mention the new portability of Superannuation for Pacific people.

For some Pacific women and their husbands and partners, the millennium will see them retire and, as with us all, seek a calmer, less stressful life. Some Pacific people will want to remain in New Zealand in the retirement years but others would prefer to return to their Island homeland.

The Government is sympathetic to these feelings and has recently announced the introduction of a new scheme that will allow Pacific people who qualify for superannuation in New Zealand to return to their Pacific home and still receive superannuation. The full superannuation will require 20 years of residence in New Zealand.

This is a pro-family policy that is good for both New Zealand and for Pacific countries. It acknowledges our special relationship with the Pacific.

Legislation will be introduced to begin this portability of superannuation by 1 October 1999.

I want to pay tribute to Arthur Anae M.P. Arthur is part of our National Party Caucus and he works very hard on behalf of Pacific people and in respect of this, portability of superannuation shows what can be achieved when you are represented in Government.

I am privileged and proud to have come to Parliament to meet and work with Arthur. He and I as Pacific cousins are honoured to serve in Parliament and we thank you for your support.

This leads me on to a key event for Pacific people later this year.

As I hope some of you are aware, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs is holding an international conference in Auckland in late July. The theme of the conference is "Navigating the Currents of the New Millennium". Pacific vision will examine issues facing Pacific people in five key themes: leadership; partnership; identity; society; and, prosperity.

The Pacific Vision conference will provide an opportunity for key players and influential community leaders like the women of PACIFICA to contribute to a shared vision for Pacific people in New Zealand. The Ministry of Women's Affairs will be presenting a paper to the conference.

The Pacific vision conference is the ideal opportunity for Pacific people to determine their own future, working in partnership with others to fulfill the needs and aspirations of Pacific people in New Zealand in the new millennium which is now only a few short months away.

I expect that targeted policy advice in the key areas of education, health, employment, welfare and justice will result from the conference.

PACIFICA has a proven record of providing advice and information to government through participation in consultation processes. In particular, you enjoy a sound relationship with the Ministry of Women's Affairs who value your input on issues for Pacific women.

I urge PACIFICA women to take the opportunity offered by the Pacific Vision conference and to seek input into the conference outcomes.

In the lead-up to the conference, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs will be releasing a series of status reports which will provide a snapshot of the current socio-economic status of Pacific people in New Zealand. I look forward to these reports with interest.

To conclude, I would like to thank you for the honor of opening your conference. I know PACIFICA and the work you do on behalf of Pacific women and their families. You work hard and serve your members and communities well.

I wish you all the best for this conference. I see women here today who will lead a strong and focused organisation into the new millennium. My best wishes to PACIFICA as you go forward into the new millennium.