Launch: Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research

Speech – New Zealand Government

Hon Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Health Monday 17th October 2011, 4.30pm School of Population Health, the University of AucklandOfficial Launch of the Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research

Hon Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Health Monday 17th October 2011, 4.30pm School of Population Health, the University of Auckland

I want to firstly acknowledge Dr Amritha Sobrun-Maharaj, the Director of the Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research, for the opportunity – and the honour – of being invited to launch a centre of such significance.

It is fitting that this event, which is both a rebranding and a relaunching, is located here at the School of Population Health at the Tamaki Innovation Campus.

Innovation is one of those words which has taken on a popular currency – and so I think it is useful to remember its original meaning, as the act of introducing something new. When we talk about innovation in health; we are talking about a fresh approach; a change which will create a new dimension of performance.

And so as we look back to the 2004 establishment of the Centre for Asian Health Research and Evaluation; it is timely to consider the rationale for the change – a rationale that emerged in response to the evolving cultural mosaic of our land.

The new research centre that we are launching today has opened its arms wider to include other ethnic minority communities in Aotearoa from Middle Eastern, Latin American and African roots.

Through the work that the Centre was doing, a gap was identified that revealed some communities were not being catered for – and the decision was made to broaden the focus to include these groups.

In many ways this is an expression of manaakitanga –extending welcome to others; and whanaungatanga – the valuing and respecting of the extended group and the genealogy that connects through the generations.

Manaakitanga is also interpreted as the practise of caring for one another, of nurturing; of working together. The fact that the acronym for this centre is ‘care’ (CAHRE) is therefore absolutely appropriate.

And so I acknowledge the University – Professor Alistair Woodward, the Head of School of Population Health; and Associate Professor Peter Adams the Head of Social and Community Health – for your commitment to work together with the Centre to create a new opportunity to engage; a new vision.

Today, is a perfect time to celebrate; to pay tribute to; and to acknowledge the dazzling kaleidoscope of cultures and communities that comprise our contemporary nation.

There are over 233 ethnic groups living in this country.

In this one urban area – Tamaki Makaurau – people who identify as Asian, African, Middle Eastern and others – comprise 31% of the population.

And so on sheer numbers alone, if we believe in the goal of healthy and well communities, we must open our eyes to all the peoples who inhabit our worlds.

How well do we know our neighbours?

What are the events that bring us together? What do we understand about the differences that distinguish us – and how do we express our respect for one another?

I want to just share a few thoughts about the labels that statisticians like to rely on, such as ethnic minority.

In one sense, the concept of ethnic minority may refer to a racial group thought to be different from the larger group of which it is part.

But too frequently, this descriptor has also been associated with a group which has little power or representation relative to other groups within a society.

Manying Ip has referred to this latter definition in her work around the history of Maori and Chinese relationships. She described both groups as having “affinity in adversity” being impoverished and relegated to the fringe of respectable society, around the turn of the 19th century.

But I want us to consider that every group which is referred to as a minority, is inevitably a majority in another context; and we should resist any temptation to let others define us, in ways which lessen the very essence of who we are.

I remember a story told to me by the Pacific Advisory Group who had developed a Programme of Action for Pacific Peoples, in addressing family violence.

“An old man of Polynesia was approached by a man of the world and after talking for some time, he said to the old man, “so you come from one of the smallest nations in the Pacific”. His reply was humble but strong and he said, ‘No! We come from the biggest ocean in the world”.

That old man refused to be defined by others perceptions.

It must be all of your own stories and journeys of hope and success that lead you onwards in setting a direction for your health and wellbeing.

If there is one thing we know for certain, it is that the languages you speak, the experiences you bring, the cultural traditions and worldviews that shape your lives, must be preserved.

Ethnic diversification has grown to such an extent that we are welcoming an increasing share of the overseas-born population from ‘non-traditional’ sources: countries in the Middle East, and a vast sweep of nations from the Asian continent– from Uzbekistan and India, to Japan and Laos.

I am proud that this University, rather than perpetuate the melting pot myth, has recognised it is a fallacy to believe that a heterogeneous array of people enter Aotearoa all sheltered under the one umbrella as ‘other’.

The Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research must embrace the notion that it is not just a case that the Chinese and South Korean populations will have different identities and migration histories to each other, but also that within each population grouping, there will be a vast range of linguistic differences, of cultural legacies, of location issues from the home country.

A one size fits all pan-ethnic approach will have as many limitations as we in Maori communities find with a pan-tribal approach.

For ultimately we are talking about the survival of the people – the spirit of celebration that makes each of us connect to those of our own family groups.

And I think this is an area where I have the most excitement about the possibilities of collaboration with a focus on the health and wellbeing of each of our populations.

I am talking about Whanau Ora – the approach that recognises that our families are our strongest asset; they provide us with our most compelling solutions; they are the foundation for our future.

I want to congratulate everyone involved in CAHRE for your determination to provide effective and culturally appropriate support to enable a focus on outcomes that meet the unique circumstances of each community.

I see in this initiative, a commitment which aligns well to the momentum that is developing with Whanau Ora.

There is a recognition of the importance of families being able to give their children the best start in life.

There is the knowledge that success will come when families are strong, cohesive, interdependent, resilient, nurturing and richly engaged with their communities.

And there is the understanding that an outcome that all groups seek is our hope for our families to be self-managing and able to fully participate in their communities and in the wider society.

Of course, this will be best achieved when we can all appreciate the unique strengths of our languages, cultural identities, our spiritual beliefs, and our traditional practices – the essence of who we are.

Finally, I want to share a story within my own whanau, of one of my mokopuna, Brooke, and her relationship with Sunay, a young man from Turkey.

Every new situation requires a new set of eyes; a willingness to learn about the unknown.

I am a mother of six children, a grandmother of 24, and a great grandmother of sixteen mokopuna tuarua.

As each generation reaches out, we have forged new relationships with other iwi, with other Pacific nations, and now with other cultures from right across the world.

But one thing has remained uppermost whether my mokopuna have Ngati Porou heritage, Niuean ancestry, or Turkish blood enrichening their lives.

It is about holding fast to the sense of belonging, of strengthening and contributing to our own whanau and cultural base, that sense of connectedness, the duty of care we reinforce for each other.

There are many different programmes and providers that I could refer to who each aim at helping refugee and migrant communities to find their own solutions. You know who you are – and I thank you for the commitment you are making to strengthening our communities.

But most of all today, I want to refer to he tangata, he tangata, he tangata – the people who come to this land with a hope for a strong future ahead.

I would say to you – and to us all – that your whanau, your family – are your future.

This centre today, is testament to the partnership that exists within the research fraternity in seeking to embrace a wide network of health professionals and helping groups working across your communities. It is vital that if they are to provide a bridge in building new community capability, that families and communities themselves set the direction.

I wish you all great heart and much courage, in reaching out to each other; to embrace the unknown; and set your own pathways forward, in the pursuit of outcomes that will improve our lives forever.

I have much pride in declaring this Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research officially launched.

Authorised by Tariana Turia, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

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