22 September 2007
SPEECH: Speech to the Maori Women’s Welfare League National Conference

Speech to the Maori Women’s Welfare League National Conference Paihia Tena koutou nga putiputi o te Roopu Waahine Maori Toko i Te Ora. E mihi nei ki a rätou nga whaea o mua, nga whaea o tenei wa, nga whäea kei te heke mai nei. Tena koutou katoa. Greetings to you, the flowers of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. My tribute to you the mothers, the female leaders, of the days gone by, including Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Mira Szaszy, and Dame Te Atairangikaahu, who had the dreams for this organisation. To those the mothers of today, who have the dreams for now and the future. To those the mothers of the future who still have dreams to come. Greetings to you all. King Tuheitia and your good lady Atawhai, who I’m told was yesterday made the new patron of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, following on from your mother. My warmest greetings to you both. Madame President, my parliamentary colleagues and others. I am delighted to spend this time with you today; to meet you kanohi ki te kanohi and to share my thoughts about the future of our country. It is a great privilege to be here. Over the past qq months, since I became Leader of the National Party, I have made a mission of visiting as many towns, cities, and communities throughout our country as I can. These journeys have led me to Ratana, to Waitangi, on to marae, into the rohe of many iwi, into schools, into Maori community groups working for their people, into iwi development trusts, into churches, into the grounds that once held the first Maori Parliament. I have been impressed by the energy and the vitality that I have seen in Maori communities. I have also learnt a lot from these visits and I have been humbled by the warm and patient welcome I have had from the Maori people who have hosted me. I am certain that New Zealanders throughout this country share many of the aspirations that the National Party wants to foster. Today I want to talk to you about that vision and what it may mean for Maori and for the Maori Women’s Welfare League in particular. My vision is to create a stronger, prouder nation, where every child has security and the opportunity to fulfil their potential. A future where our children and grandchildren, in a world where they could work anywhere, choose to make New Zealand home. I share your organisation’s important goals of supporting families and increasing opportunities for Maori by improving standards in education, health, housing, and employment. National is committed to ensuring that the next generation has better education from early childhood to school to tertiary. We are committed to ensuring our health system delivers fast, reliable healthcare. We are committed to ensuring every young Kiwi, who works hard and saves hard, can aspire to own their own home. We are committed to a growing economy with good work opportunities available to all. After all, these are the things that will ensure our tamariki can see and climb ladders of opportunity. I look forward to the continued invigoration our New Zealand culture will receive from embracing the history, language, and traditions of our tangata whenua and the unique relationship between our peoples. This growing pride in, and respect for, our unique and shared traditions will be the essential foundation of a more inclusive and stronger nation. It’s for this reason that I welcome the Maori cultural renaissance we have witnessed in recent decades. I think all New Zealanders should be thankful for the enrichment our society has taken from an increasing use and awareness of Maori kaupapa, reo, and tikanga. We can be grateful to the Maori Women’s Welfare League for that. Your organisation and others like it, have played a vital role in preserving Maori arts and culture and in ensuring these taonga are passed from generation to generation. In doing so, you have promoted fellowship and understanding between Maori and Pakeha. Our country is the better for it. We have come a long way because of it. But New Zealand must not be complacent. We must not settle for where we are. We need to be resolute in focusing on our shared future, and not be tempted to expend our precious energy on litigation of the battles of the past. Today I want to talk about three areas where National is committed to improving things in New Zealand and which will have a positive impact on Maori. They are, in turn; advancing Treaty settlements and economic development, tackling the social issues our communities are facing, and equipping our children with the world-class education they need for a better future. Treaty and economic development First, let me assure you that National is absolutely committed to advancing and hastening the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. We know that the settlement of outstanding injustices must occur so that forward-looking relationships between the Crown and iwi can be restored in line with the honourable intent of the Treaty. I have been alarmed at the lack of settlement progress in recent years. The Government has taken just one settlement from negotiation to final completion during the past eight years. By comparison, q0 were started and completed under the previous National Government. While these claims involve complex and difficult issues, their delayed resolution only adds to the sense of injustice. It has meant that Maori have had to wait longer before gaining control over settlement assets, in turn delaying their development opportunities. National is committed to working quickly and effectively to achieve fair and durable settlement outcomes. We will properly resource the settlement process in the Waitangi Tribunal, and the negotiation and settlement of claims. We believe the Treaty settlement process must be conducted with a commitment to fairness, affordability, and durability. Most importantly, I want settlements to be progressed so iwi can spend their time looking out the front window for future opportunity instead of staring out the back window of the car. I know that Maori share that impatience and are eager to seize the economic opportunities before them. The Hui Taumata in 2005 was a clear demonstration of the strong determination by Maori to make their own way forward. Increasingly, Maori are at the forefront of entrepreneurial activity in New Zealand– the success of your own Maori Women’s Development Fund has shown that. Long may that continue. I want to see all Maori standing strong, economically independent, and fulfilling the complete promise of their potential. I am hopeful that this renaissance in economic confidence might be the basis for rebuilding and reinvigoration of other aspects of Maori society. It’s those aspects I want to turn to now. Tackling social breakdown I believe it is in the interests of no one, and to the shame of us all, that an under-class has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. In my first major speech this year I raised my concerns about the increasing number of Kiwi homes and communities where helplessness has become ingrained, where the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have been broken. Some of my political counterparts have naively claimed that this isn’t a real problem, that those homes don’t exist. But the reality is there to be seen. Your organisation will have seen it through the work you do with some of the families that make-up the underclass I am talking about. You have worked with families that have been jobless for generations; with families destroyed by alcohol and P addiction; with families who send their kids to school with empty stomachs and empty lunch-boxes, and with families where mum and the kids live in fear of another beating from dad. I am deadly serious about addressing these problems. I don’t think for a moment that these problems are found only in Maori homes or communities. I know that the underclass knows no ethnic boundaries. I am also aware that most families, be they Maori, Asian, Pakeha, or anything else, are doing a great job of raising their children, of seeking out and grasping opportunity, and making the most of their potential. But we must not use their successes as an excuse to delay action. And we mustn’t pretend that government strategies, handouts, and campaigns will be the answer. Your former president, Dr Erihapeti Murchie-Rehu, made this point very well when she said we must resist the temptation to be "Lulled into a false sense of security, being firmly persuaded that Social Welfare agencies will cover our mistakes, and our ills, that the government has the ‘kiss’ of life to rectify our indiscretions." I am convinced that the problems of social breakdown will not be solved by faceless, culture-blind government agencies. Rather, they will be solved by people taking responsibility for their own actions, their own whanau and their own communities. And so, let me look you in the eye when I say that National does not claim to hold the magic key to lifting Maori communities from social disrepair. Maori whanau and Maori communities hold the keys. Organisations like the Maori Women’s Welfare League show that the will exists to make change happen. In the wake of the horrific death of Nia Glassie, the league did not look the other way. Instead, your members filled the front row of the public gallery as Nia’s alleged abusers came before the court. You were there to show that there is enough strength within the community to prevent these horrific events unfolding again. I think it’s time for more organisations to follow your lead and stop pretending that child abuse, or any other social problem, is too hard to tackle. The excuses must stop. I don’t accept, for example, the notion that child abuse is somehow part of the Maori culture. When I visited the Papawai Marae in the Wairarapa recently I was told a story about the experiences of the missionaries who first landed in New Zealand. Their complaint about Maori men was that they wouldn’t pay enough attention to the missionaries because they spent so much time cuddling their children! Child abuse isn’t a cultural problem, it’s a problem of irresponsible men and women. Our task and your task is to strengthen the hands that rock the cradles of our children. Our task is to focus on the practical steps we can take to change the behaviour of those individuals who are creating the child-abuse problem. We need to ensure that the renaissance in Maoridom reaches all parts of society, and that it achieves a revival of the social and family pressure for parental responsibility, restraint on violence, and rejection of criminal activity. While Government has a role to play in this, it certainly doesn’t have all the answers. The more politicians intervene in our lives, the less opportunity each of us has to take responsibility for our own life choices. For example, I don’t think that Labour’s $q4 million government-funded advertising campaign about the wrongs of violence against children will do much to solve our child-abuse problem. I am certain that the family is the deepest spring from which the strength to overcome social breakdown will come. As such, your organisation has a vital role to play in strengthening the bonds of whanau and giving individuals the tools to better themselves. I would much rather see funding, like that put aside for the child abuse TV campaign, placed in the careful hands of organisations like yours and put to some practical hands-on use. To take the words of Dame Whina Cooper, as a voluntary body you spring from the hearts, the minds, and the needs of the Maori People. You have proven yourselves again and again to be effective at achieving lasting and culturally attuned outcomes. A good example of this is the work the league has done in assisting with immunisation programmes and reaching families that may have little contact with mainstream health services. Your help in the Wairarapa alone saw 94% of Maori babies fully immunised by q2 months, compared to a national rate of 7q%. That’s a great result, and it shows just how effective grassroots, member-driven services can be. What’s more, you are more efficient with resources than big government bureaucracies, because you simply cannot afford to squander resources. National is committed to turbo-charging the work of community and voluntary groups like the Maori Women’s Welfare League. We will do this through more and better contracting for your services and by reducing the bureaucracy and compliance costs so often associated with government work. One example where we see room for more work with you is in providing parenting programmes to at-risk families. I don’t need to tell you about the value of these programmes – you already have a long history of providing them in the form of Whanau Toko I Te Ora. And you know that they can do more to tackle child abuse than a snazzy TV ad ever will. That’s because these courses and the people who run them reach right into the homes and bedrooms where families rock the cradles of their children. They empower people to care for themselves and their own families rather than depend on the State. That aspiration lies at the heart of your organisation’s kaupapa and it is one that National shares. I am keen to work with you to ensure more Maori children and families are reached by parenting programmes like the ones you have run so successfully. Education The other area where the National Party is convinced New Zealand can do better is in education. Education is a major priority for me and it will be a vital area of emphasis in any government I have the privilege of leading. Why? Because education is a liberator. Education is the biggest investment we can make in our most important asset – our people, our children. The better we educate our young, the more life choices we give them. As it is, New Zealand is not placing a high enough priority on education. Like you, I don’t think we can afford to put up with some of the mediocre results we are getting. Is it really good enough that only two out of three Maori kids take part in any pre-school education? Is it really good enough that one in five New Zealand kids, a staggering q50,000 children, leave school unable to read, write or do maths anywhere near their chronological age? Is it really good enough that 46% of Maori boys and 42% of Maori girls leave school without even the most basic qualification? The answer is no. It is not good enough. We must do better, and we can. National is committed to ensuring that every young New Zealander receives a quality education that provides them with the skills for future success. This starts with early childhood education. We‘ve heard your concerns about the Government’s "20 hours free" programme and the difficulty many kohanga reo have in accessing it. We’re determined not to make kohanga the second-class citizens of the early childhood education world, and our policy will seek to put kohanga on a more even footing with other forms of early childhood education. In primary schools, our National Standards policy will ensure that every child at every school has their reading, writing, and maths skills tested every year. This will oblige schools and teachers to identify struggling children as soon as possible and to do something about their lack of progress before it’s too late. The policy will also require schools to give every parent a clear, meaningful report about their children’s progress in reading, writing, and maths. Mum and dad need to know how their child is doing, especially if they are falling to the back of the class. If they don’t know then they can’t do anything about it - until it’s too late. Our National Standards policy will ensure we nip these problems in the bud. National will also bring hands-on trades and apprenticeship training back where it belongs – in the heart of our school system. Our policy to develop school-based apprenticeships, more practical learning opportunities outside the classroom, and specialist trades academies will ensure that more of our young people get something useful out of school. This has been a long time coming. As far back as q979, your organisation had the wisdom to pass a remit asking the Minister of Education to expand technical options within the secondary school system. Well, here in 2007, the National Party has caught up with you and is ready to deliver! National will make school relevant and interesting for all young New Zealanders, whether they have a trade focus or an academic focus. Between now and the next election, I will have plenty more policy to announce in the education area. I will be open to whatever works and whatever gets results. National is proud of its record in helping bring on-stream Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa and Wananga. In many instances, these institutions are catering better for Maori children than their mainstream counterparts, and we value the role they play in our education system. It’s also worth noting that what happens, and what is taught in our schools, universities and polytechnics, will also make an important contribution to how New Zealand deals with our cultural diversity and sense of nationhood. It’s a joy to see the ease with which Pakeha kids are using te reo and discussing Maori history and culture. That is a product of a changed school system and it’s a good change we can all be proud of. It’s something I’m keen to see continued. The last value I want to point to today, and that National and your organisation have in common, is our commitment to achievement and excellence. From what I have learnt about Maori tradition, beliefs, and language, I sense that Maori have a highly aspirational culture. The tradition of the great migration from Hawaiki to Aotearoa; the belief in the extraordinary feats of Maui; the proverbs and metaphors of the reo, all speak of optimism, courage, capability, and achievement. It is that aspiration, that never-fading ambition, that I want to appeal to in every Kiwi citizen. I have no doubt that our future is a bright one if we make some brave choices and keep our sights raised high. Many strands must intertwine for us to create the fabric of a stronger nation. Respect for each other, education, work and strong families – all will be essential for social and cultural success. The task of government is to weave those strands together, while encouraging all New Zealanders to do their bit – always with respect, always with gratitude, and always in concert with the people who invest their faith in us. Today, I commend the Maori Women’s Welfare League for being an essential link in the chain of organisations bringing strength to New Zealand families and devoting yourselves to the welfare of our community. I hope we will have the opportunity to work together in the years ahead. I think it is a fitting conclusion to this address, and an inspiration for the work and opportunities that lie ahead for Maori, and for New Zealand, to end with this aspiration: Whaia te iti kahurangi; ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei. Strive for the ultimate; if you must bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain


No Trackbacks

Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)

#1 - Rhea 2007-10-04 10:08 - (Reply)

You're right about the snazzy telly ad, it's just lipservice so that people think Labour are actually doing something. I commend your support of organisations like the Maori Women's Welfare League, they are doing a good job of helping communities and families help themselves, NZ is a better place for them. Self determination has always been the key, not Government agencies.

#2 - dad4justice said:
2007-10-08 11:00 - (Reply)

Shall I take it you won't publish my comments. I must let everybody know ? Kind regards Peter Burns PETER: All constructive comments are welcome. Your last attempted post was not constructive. You are most welcome to spread the word.

#3 - dad4justice said:
2007-10-09 17:38 - (Reply)

Sorry, I just thought this would be chance to ask if Maori Men have the same support mechanisms available to them, because I have several chaps I am assisting and we are struggling to find any suitable help ? I am trying to strengthen the family in New Zealand by helping fathers to accept responsibility for their children.

Add Comment

To prove you're not a spambot, just answer this simple question: Who is the Prime Minister of New Zealand?
Submitted comments will be subject to moderation before being displayed.