PACIFIC VISION INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCEPrime Minister
Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Pacific Island leaders, my Parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Good evening and welcome.
First, let me say how honoured we are to have Sir Kamisese with us as the keynote speaker for this important Pacific Vision International Conference.
This conference is a historic occasion, bringing together a wide cross-section of key decision makers and Pacific leaders.
It is, I believe, the beginning of a very significant journey for our Pacific people.
New Zealand is a Pacific nation.
Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world. And happily, the traditions of Pacific people permeate the city's landscape from Cook Island drums at rugby league games to the wonderful smells of the Otara fleamarket and the excitement of the secondary schools cultural festival held each year.
We now also have several Pacific Island members of Parliament.
Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit South Auckland's De La Salle College, where there is a strong Polynesian presence. I was extremely impressed by the head boy Altar Peni who also happens to be a Pacific Islander.
Mr Peni was incredibly charming and confident and articulate. He represents the new face of Polynesia in New Zealand.
New Zealand's cultural landscape is changing. In 1945, only 0.1 per cent of our population consisted of Pacific Island people. Today it's six per cent. By the year 2051 it will have doubled to 12 percent.
To me, that is what this conference is all about. It's about clearly defining a vision of the future, backed up by an effective strategic plan that reflects our values, and then getting a commitment to that plan.
My hope is that your vision is one where New Zealanders are free to be the best they can be.
It is one where we support winners. It is one where we champion people who want to achieve something in life. It is one where we do business freely with our trading partners throughout the world to promote peace and prosperity everywhere.
And it is one where we support those people who are unable to support themselves, but make plans so they can see themselves as winners in the future.
I'm pleased to say there are many winners and excellent role models in our Pacific Island community and I take great pride in that. I'm sure you do too. In fact, I saw some of them help the All Blacks defeat Australia in the recent Bledisloe Cup rugby test last Saturday.
Later tonight, we will see the creative works of some of the best Pacific Island fashion designers in the world in the Style Pasifika fashion show. Designers like Ani O'Neill, Jean Clarkson and Frances Palu.
The unique part about this show is that the designers are so strongly supported by their families. As organiser Stan Wolfgramm says "Fashion for [Pacific Islanders] is the whole bit: it's Mum, Dad and the kids, it's the music and the food."
There is no denying that Pacific art and Pacific fashion is now a part of New Zealand's identity - the New Zealand psyche. And Pacific designers are among our highest achievers.
But there are also many Pacific people who are not doing so well and we must acknowledge that.
The recently published report entitled ?The Social and Economic Status of Pacific Peoples in New Zealand? highlights some disturbing facts.
Among other things, the report shows Pacific people have:
- low incomes,
- high unemployment,
- poor health,
- low educational achievement,
- high crime rates, (71 per cent increase from 1990 to 1996 in criminal
convictions for Pacific men)
- and an increasing number of single parent families.
These issues are a concern for the Pacific Island people and for the Government and we are doing things to turn the tide.
I am also encouraged by some of the positive trends identified in the Social and Economic Status report that perhaps people have overlooked.
For example, according to the report, increasing numbers of Pacific business people are using their creative and entrepreneurial skills to open up new markets and ventures. This is reflected in the vibrancy of Pacific arts, fashion and youth cultures.
The report says Globalisation may open up further opportunities for Pacific peoples as the demand for cross-cultural skills increases.
Current trends suggest Pacific people will continue to move from plant and machinery type jobs into sales and service, and trade and technical occupations.
We also know that many of the health problems suffered by Pacific Islanders are preventable. These include meningitis, measles, rheumatic fever, heart disease and obesity.
I believe the report represents the beginning of a brighter future for Pacific people. Its findings should be fed into this conference so we can develop a strategy to lift Pacific people to a higher plane.
For our part, the Government is working on a number of areas to improve the standard of living of Pacific Island people. These include:
- $1.3 million to increase the number of Pacific Island teachers
- $1.2 million for Pacific Health in the Wellington area
- increased funding for Early Childhood Education
- new literacy and numeracy goals to raise education standards
- an extra $21.7 million for alternative education for expelled students
- an extra $10.4 million for 70 social workers in 175 schools
- an extra $41 million to expand the Family Start programme
- the Vaka Ou Pacific Island Labour Market Strategy that fits within the
wider Government Labour Market Strategy
In May this year, Social Service Minister Roger Sowry launched Stage One of the Neglect Prevention Programme to fight child abuse and neglect.
Stage Two will be launched in a couple of weeks and Pacific Island staff of the Children Young Persons and their Families Agency will host a Pacific Peoples launch in Auckland on 12 August.
I'm pleased to say the message on child abuse is getting through, thanks largely to the Breaking the Cycle campaign we launched in 1995.
In 1997, the results showed a huge increase in Pacific peoples' awareness of child abuse and neglect and changing attitudes towards it.
That's encouraging news and we should continue to build on these results.
In terms of raising incomes and living standards, you will be aware that Auckland will host the APEC Economic Leaders' meeting in September this year.
One of the key aims of that forum is to raise people's living standards by liberalising trade in our region. We have got to enable enterprising people to sell their products to the world, unencumbered by trade barriers.
We have got to retrain, upskill and become smarter, fitter and faster than the competition.
To that end, we have got to encourage the current movement of Pacific Island people from labour intensive occupations into higher skilled roles and Government is working to achieve this.
This will require a commitment to education and I hope the current trends of more Pacific Islanders gaining tertiary qualifications will continue.
Finally, as you work hard at this conference to determine a vision and a plan for the future, I would like to make a few brief comments about what Pacific people can and should do, to help themselves.
These are my "Top 10" issues that I believe can make a dramatic difference to the health and wellbeing of our Pacific Island people.
These are small things, that if done on a daily basis, will have huge benefits for our children in the future. They will create opportunity and limit the risks.
They will unlock huge potential. They are my simple, but important, Top 10 and they're all achievable. My Top 10 issues are:
1. Get all children immunised when they are young. It's free.
2. Seek medical advice promptly and remember for your children it's free.
3. Teach your children to speak their own native tongue and to love their culture and their heritage so they know who they are.
4. Listen to them read. Read to them as often as you can. Take an interest in your children's education, find out what they're doing at school. Make sure they are attending class and doing their homework.
5. Encourage responsible sexual behaviour so every child is a wanted child and every pregnancy is a planned pregnancy.
6. Believe in the sanctity and innocence of childhood and make sure you protect your children accordingly. Abuse hurts and is never acceptable.
7. Raise your children in a smoke free environment, if possible.
8. Encourage children to limit junk food and cut down on fatty foods and salt.
9. Teach them that moderation is the key to drinking alcohol and teach them to drink safely.
10. Teach your children that violence is not the answer to settling disputes.
I know for a fact that one of the most cherished things in the Pacific Island communities is the power and beauty of the spoken word.
You even have your own speaking chiefs ? the wise orators who speak in a poetic language that paints a clear picture in the mind of the listener.
It is my hope that all Pacific Island leaders and church and family leaders will pick up these Top 10 issues and, through leadership, make them your own.
The Top 10 are equally applicable to other New Zealand families and I encourage them to pick them up too.
It is important that New Zealanders do not ask Government to do what the community is unwilling to do for itself.
Finally, let's support our winners and our achievers in the Pacific community
Help each other understand that you can and you will be great if you dare to.
Let your children know they can be the next Dylan Mika, or Jonah Lomu or Beatrice Faumuina or Albert Wendt and entrepreneurs in business.
I would like to thank the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs for providing leadership and creating a Pacific Vision for the future, at a time when the public service was being criticised.
That vision will greatly benefit Pacific Island New Zealanders and help them to achieve their aspirations.
It is now up to each and every one of you to play your part.
As Shakespeare once wrote:
"All the world 's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts."
The challenge for each of us is, what part can we play?
Good luck, good health and God's blessings on you all, as you consider these great challenges.