Celebration of the International Older Persons Day

Speech – The Maori Party

It is very easy to celebrate the kaupapa of today because it a celebration of the love we hold for our elders; the admiration we have for them; the inspiration and the motivation they instill in us.The Hon Tariana Turia Maori Party Co-Leader | MP for Te Tai Hauauru

Celebration of the International Older Persons Day

Owae Marae, Waitara 5 October 2011

There’s a classic song by the Brotherhood of Man that came into my head as I was making my way here today.

‘there’s nowhere in the world that I would rather be, than with you my love; and there’s nothing in the world that I would rather see, than your smile, my love”.

It may sound like a love song and indeed it is.

It is very easy to celebrate the kaupapa of today because it a celebration of the love we hold for our elders; the admiration we have for them; the inspiration and the motivation they instill in us.

When I received the invitation from Rawiri to join with you today I couldn’t think of anything better.

And I want to congratulate Mahiamai a Whaitara and Te Hauora Pouheretanga for the initiative you have taken in celebrating our elders.

I have heard of some wonderful tributes paid to kuia and kaumatua throughout the rohe.

We have had sparkling “this is your life” events with friends from many decades earlier suddenly appearing as celebrity guests.

We have had our kaumatua transported to a surprise destination by helicopters or luxurious stretch limos.

And one of the most charming aspects of the Marae DIY series on Maori TV was always seeing our nannies being done up to the nine; enjoying a day of being pampered while their marae undertakes a similar remarkable makeover.

What I would most love to see is that these special days are not just one off events; but that our elder people are treated with respect and love every day of the year.

I was interested to read a paper by John Walden, entitled Oranga kaumatua: perceptions of health in older Maori people.

A survey of more than 400 older Maori revealed that higher standards of health are strongly associated with active participation and cultural affiliation; home ownership and higher incomes.

There were some really clear implications of this study. The survey participants identified strongly with their role and responsibility to carry their culture within own communities.

They were strongly in favour of increasing use of te reo Maori amongst younger members of their whanau.

And they expressed an enormous sense of satisfaction from the reciprocity of care experienced within their whanau. They were reliant on help from their whanau; and they in turn provided help and advice to their whanau.

I think these results are tremendously important – even if they tell us what we already know. And that is that our best answers lie within.

I am absolutely of the view that we must restore to ourselves the capacity to believe in our ways; to be proud of the kaupapa that have always stood us in good stead.

We do not – and must not – be reliant on others outside of the whanau to provide services that are better followed by our own.

I heard a story the other day of a kuia who was regretting the fact that she was no longer enjoying the brisk walks from the marae into town, that she used to take with her mokopuna each day.

Her mokopuna was working for a local Maori health provider that had won a contract for kaumatua health and fitness.

The issue uppermost in my mind was that even if the contract dried up; the real contract of any import was surely the one between the mokopuna and the grandmother; a bond which endures even when the funder shuts up shop. And so I am really pleased to see here today our mokopuna and tamariki from kohanga reo; kura kaupapa; Manukorihi Intermediate; and Waitara High School to remind us of the circle of life, and in particular the opportunity to learn from each other.

I am always really uncomfortable when we isolate ourselves from each other. In my mind, te pa harakeke is only in full bloom when you have the pepe stretching upwards within full and protective embrace of their elders.

Finally, then I want to leave with the message that Secretary General Ban ki Moon delivered for this International Day of Older Persons.

He gave this message:

In the current fiscal environment, we must be vigilant in ensuring that the provision of social protection, long-term care and access to public health for the elderly is not undermined”.

The greatest challenge for us all, however, is to remember that when Ban Ki Moon instructs us to be vigilant – we must not assume that care must be provided outside the whanau.

And so, I leave us with one more comment to ponder on

He toka tu moana ara he toa rongonui Ko te amorangi ki mua ko te hapai o ki muri

Your strength is like the rock that stands in raging waters.

Whether on the paepae or leading the ringawera; whether spending all their days being consulted by the local authorities; or whether they are participating in the hapu strategic planning process; our pakeke are an essential compass point in helping to shape our future direction.

They guide us on the basis of a rich background of lived experience.

They are the advocates and the authors of our own tribal archives – in their lifetimes they can recall actual experiences of people our younger whanau may only know about through oral and published histories.

And most of all they are absolutely precious in safeguarding and preserving our unique way of life.

That’s why ‘there’s nowhere in the world that I would rather be than here with you all today.

Tena tatou katoa.

ENDS

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