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Turia: Nga Maia Maori Midwives

Speech – New Zealand Government

As we gather here today, on the eve of the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquakes that ripped Otautahi apart, our thoughts inevitably are with all of our whanau who have endured a year like no other.
Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Health

Nga Maia Maori Midwives: opening of new national office, Hastings
Tuesday 21 February 2012, 10am

[check against delivery] Speech

Tena koutou katoa

It gives me great pleasure to be here today, at the opening of this new whare.

As we gather here today, on the eve of the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquakes that ripped Otautahi apart, our thoughts inevitably are with all of our whanau who have endured a year like no other.

Your chairperson, Aroha Reriti-Croft and one of your trustees, Amber Clarke, connect us today to the people of Christchurch; and so through them, we express our love for them all to rebuild and restore whanau to their full potential. Tena korua.

In the philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism, there is the concept of a lotus flower, which emerges out of the mud to be an object of great beauty. Through the rubble and the paru, the unopened bud struggles through, emerging unspoilt and pure.

The exquisite lotus flower inspires us to continue striving through difficulties. Chinese poets also refer to the strength of the plant’s stalk – which is easy to bend but very hard to break because of its many strong sinuous fibres.

This is said to represent the relationship within a whanau, reminding us that no matter how far away we might live from one another, nothing can separate our connection in our hearts.

I move back home to Aotearoa, and in particular the whakatauki that are handed down to us from our tupuna.

“E kore au e ngaro, he kakano i ruia mai i rangiaatea” –
I will not be lost, a seed that descends from Rangiatea.

I think of this whakatauki not just because of the work that you are involved in, which entails protecting our most precious babies on their journey into the whanau.

But also because this whare standing here today represents resilience; rebirth and restoration.

Nga Maia was affected by the earthquake, in the impact it had on your movement, your people, and the damage to your offices.

I can only imagine the level of stress caused by losing access to your business, your files, and valuable information. A level of stress compounded of course by the trauma faced by the city at the time.

When we are faced with challenges in our lives, such as the Christchurch earthquake we have no choice but to rise again.

We rebuild, and we continue onwards and forwards.

Why? Because the people remain – nga kakano i ruia mai i Rangiatea. He tangata – the seed through which new life and development begins.

So for me, being here today is about celebrating resilience.

It is about a new dawn for your organisation, and indeed, a new step towards our growth and development as a community of whanau. You work in the heart of whanau, during one of the most special times in our lives.

The birth of a child can bring so much joy. It can bring whanau together, and for me at least, one of the most amazing things is that no matter what else is going on in the world, the welcoming of a new baby can make all other troubles and challenges seem so small.

Each new baby, like the legend of the lotus flower, enter into life to remind us of the miracle of beauty; of life, of love.
They offer us all another opportunity to be the very best that we can be; to help shape and support the sacred gift of life. So I do have great admiration for those who take on the role of ensuring that this special time for whanau is safe, memorable and filled with joy.

I have always been proud of Nga Maia; the national coalition of Maori midwives, for your specialist focus on caring for our Maori whanau, and ensuring that our cultural and spiritual strength is drawn upon during the time of birth.

There was a time when giving birth meant parking your dignity to one side for a short while, while the doctors and nurses did their thing. Mothers had little say in how their birth was directed and whanau had even less of a role.

These practices did not meet the needs of whanau. In fact, I sometimes wonder if maternity care at the time deliberately sought to diminish our cultural birthing practices.

It seems incredible to think Nga Maia have now been operating for almost two decades, since your inaugural meeting in October 1993.

I want to congratulate you for holding on the vision of those before you – and those who continue to guide Nga Maia to cherish and protect the birthing traditions that have passed from generation to generation.

Your logo – and the taputoru in the design – stands forever as a symbol of the stories, the histories and the events that surround Te Whare Tangata.

You were demonstrating the value of mother-centred care long before it became written about as a birthing strategy.

But even more than mothers, you have articulated the desires of whanau to be involved in writing their own birth plans. It means that we can now bring our tikanga and culture into the birth process like never before.

Nga Maia is about living and breathing our kaupapa – the unity of tupuna, matua and mokopuna; the precious bond of whakapapa; the connection between our sacred waters – our whenua; and our land, Papatuanuku, growth and creation.

The health data tells us that is a high birth rate of Maori babies born each year and these numbers are expected to grow. Maori women have a birthing rate of three live births to every woman, which is higher than the national average of two births per woman.

But what you and I know is that there is also a rapidly increasing demand by Maori women for the care of a Maori midwife to support them in the birthing process.

Today there are so many options surrounding the birthing process. You can give birth at home, or in water; you can choose who will be part of the birthing process, and identify roles for whanau; you can choose to have karakia, karanga; you can also determine how the whenua or placenta will be cared for once the baby is born.
These choices are wonderful – and honour the significance of the passage from te whare tangata to Te Ao Marama, the world of light.

But it is of grave concern to us all, that the identified shortage of a Maori midwifery workforce will have serious impacts on the aspirations Nga Maia seeks, and indeed whanau want as well.

It is vital that we ensure a healthy and sustainable workforce to support you into the future. We need to have midwives and lead maternity carers who understand the needs of our mothers and our whanau in the holistic sense of the word – who are culturally competent; who can truly support our mothers and our pepi.

I want to acknowledge the important work that midwives are doing, especially the work of our Maori midwives who have led the charge in opening this doorway and allowing our whanau to take control of a birthing process that reflects their needs

As you know, Whanau Ora is built around the notion that we as whanau have collective strength, and can determine the future we seek for ourselves.

The work that you do, and the charge that you are leading is all about Whanau Ora in practice. You will no doubt be aware that when you are in the position of making change you have a responsibility to ensure that you bring others with you on your journey.

You will no doubt take on the role of educator, of advocate, of support person and of mentor. This too is valuable work. Whether in your daily role as a midwife, or in your own whanau settings at home, it is this role that will embed the change that we need for our future generations of whanau.

It is a big job ahead of you all, but when I look around this whare and see the quality of midwives, lactation consultants, Maori providers, kaumatua and kuia, and most of all our precious mokopuna – I have every confidence that the future is in the greatest of hands.

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