Te Hurihanganui – Post-Budget Announcement speech

"Racism exists – we feel little and bad."

Those were the unprompted words of one student during an interview for a report produced by the Children’s Commissioner last year.

And I want to acknowledge Judge Andrew Becroft, who is in the audience today.

That study of nearly 2000 children - including 150 face-to-face interviews, with mostly Māori students – revealed more insights like this, with disturbing frequency.

The Education Matters to Me report found many young people were subjected to racism at school and said they were treated unequally because of their culture.

In 21st Century New Zealand that is disturbing, but to Māori whānau, not surprising.

As Māori, we all have brothers, sisters, parents, children, or grandchildren who have experienced an education system where we have faced racism, unconscious bias, deficit-thinking and the self-fulfilling prophecies of low expectation.

These experiences leave Māori learners and their whānau with the clear message that: You don’t belong; your culture, your identity isn’t valued; you’re invisible; you’re doomed to fail.

These insights and experiences were borne out in a series of regional wānanga held by the Ministry of Education last year, to provide the opportunity for Māori whānau, hapū, iwi and communities to contribute to the future of education in New Zealand.

There were 36 hui held up and down the country, with over 2,000 participants.

One of the common themes that emerged, was that racism and bias continue to impact Māori learner confidence, achievement, and outcomes. That efforts to recognise Māori can feel tokenistic sometimes.

Participants also said that the system needs to better reflect and foster Māori identity, culture and values.

And places of education need to be welcoming to and supportive of whānau.  

We know that the education system has underserved Māori learners for a long time.

We know we can do better for Māori learners and their whānau.

That’s why I am pleased to be here with my colleague, the Hon Tracey Martin, to officially announce the Restart of Te Kotahitanga.

Restarting Te Kotahitanga was one of the commitments we made in the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

We are delivering on our commitments to support the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

Last year, we invested in the design work to Restart Te Kotahitanga.

I want to thank Professor Mere Berryman and the Mātanga group, many who are here today, for their commitment to this kaupapa. 

One of the key drivers in our overall programme of work to transform the education system is to ensure it delivers for Māori - now and into the future.

To do this we will need to work together in true partnership.

We know that when we focus on our shared aspirations and form strong relationships we can do great things for our people and for our country.

We need to transform the settings and the framework of the education system.

But we must also support the people within the education system.

That is what restarting Te Kotahitanga was about.

Relationships and supporting people. Supporting learners, their parents, whānau and communities to develop and share their aspirations. How they can work together.  How schools will work with them to achieve those aspirations.

It is also critical that we support teachers, leaders and governors to reflect on and strengthen their practice.  How they integrate this practice into the culture of their school, so they can better serve the needs of Māori learners and their whānau.

Put simply, learners and whānau need to know what they should expect from the education system, how to ask for it and what to do if they don’t get those things.

On the other side of the equation, education providers need the capacity and support to build powerful relationships with learners and whānau.

We know that when these relationships have the right focus they work. 

You told us we need to do more than simply restart Te Kotahitanga.

You told us what was needed was transformational change and you created Te Hurihanganui – the Blueprint to guide the transformation of our education system.

But we also know there were a lot of lessons learned from the previous phases of Te Kotahitanga which means we are not starting from scratch.

I am pleased that the Wellbeing Budget is investing $42 million across three years to implement and test Te Hurihanganui.

I want to acknowledge Minister Martin for her support of this important work.

We will test and evaluate our work so that we learn as we go.

We know that improving education outcomes for Māori learners means committing to a genuine partnership with Māori. And that is our starting point for Te Hurihanganui.

The Ministry will support the programme but to get real change we need communities to lead the design and implementation - because they know what will work best for them. 

We know racism exists in our education system. We now have a plan to rip it out and transform the learning experiences of our Māori students.

Kia kaha ki a tātau.