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Turia: Women’s Refuge Conference 2014

Speech – The Maori Party

This is a milestone moment in my life. This will be my last official address as Co-leader of the Maori Party. On Saturday night at our Hui-a-Tau, I will be standing down from that role and enabling a new co-leader, wahine, to take the party forward.Women’s Refuge Conference 2014; Conference Dinner

Whanganui Racecourse, Whanganui

Thursday 30th October 2014; 5.30pm

Theme: ‘Child/Tamariki Advocacy within Domestic Violence’

This is a milestone moment in my life.

This will be my last official address as Co-leader of the Maori Party. On Saturday night at our Hui-a-Tau, I will be standing down from that role and enabling a new co-leader, wahine, to take the party forward.

But if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that I will never, ever stand down from the role of being an advocate, a champion, an activist for the cause deepest in my heart – and that is Whanau Ora.

For the flame that burns within – my love for whanau – does not need a ministerial warrant to keep alight.

It doesn’t require a formal leadership role nor spokesperson rights in order to know what I must do.

All it requires is you and I working with our whanau to never, ever allow anyone to diminish the mana of another by means of verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, physical, financial, cultural violence of any form.

I was interested in your theme of child/tamariki advocacy within domestic violence.

You will know, of course, that I am never comfortable with singling out; separating and segregating the situations of children from the broader context of whanau.

You might remember the lyrics of that haunting Michael Jackson waiata :

‘Have you seen my Childhood? I’m searching for the world that I come from ’cause I’ve been looking around in the lost and found of my heart’….

It is a message that I believe resonates with far too many adults who have sought to make sense of situations that are difficult to understand.

Their lives become forever compromised by the suffering they endured as children.

No child asks for a childhood that treats them as less than perfect. No child should ever be left to work their way through the maze of ‘lost and found’ trying to work out what is right, who they can trust, what they can hope for in their lives.

But if we only focus on the children in isolation – and not the adults around them or the adults they will be, we will never create the intergenerational change we need to address and prevent violence.

We must strip back the layers, and look at the core of the harakeke – as well as the outer layers – if we are to strengthen our whanau for tomorrow.

I like the messages that came through E Tū Whānau about a tikanga we would follow – tikanga in its truest sense of the word, doing what is right.

If all is right in the world of our whānau, our children will grow up understanding and knowing the fundamental meaning of concepts such as:

Aroha – expression of love; to feel loved

Whānaungatanga – being connected as whānau

Whakapapa – knowing who we are

Manaakitanga – upholding our dignity, that generosity of spirit

Korero/Awhi – open communication, being supportive

Tikanga – doing things the right way, according to our values

What we all know, however, is that in order to address such a complex issue as family violence we all need to be working together, doing what is right in our own contexts.

We need an integrated response from all of Government working with the community; we need the response to violence to be seen as a journey that all of us must travel.

One of the things I was disappointed about as a Minister, when we received the report from the expert advisory group on family violence, was that there appeared to be little interest in considering the possibility of a new statute aimed at the prevention of and responses to family violence.

All of us here know that the Domestic Violence Act is well and truly outdated in the ways it divides families into victims, perpetrators and children rather than taking a whole-of-government, whole-of-whanau response.

I also believe that Government needs to accord priority to family violence through designating responsibility – at least joint ministerial responsibility – with the Minister of Finance.

When we have the policy and the purse working in tandem, to prioritise an integrated and collaborative system based response to family violence, we can be confident of getting somewhere.

We must spark up conversations which cost the impacts of family violence in economic terms.

When I hear people marvel at our $43 billion dollar Maori economy for instance, I wonder whether our whanau struggling with conflict and crisis are receiving the fruits of this rockstar economy.

And yet one of the key messages through the Native Affairs polls across the seven Maori electorates was that our whanau were telling the nation, that addressing family violence was a key priority.

I want to see a reconciliation of our national accounts which places the costs of family violence firmly on the agenda as a priority target for government.

Look at the difference between casualties on the road and casualties in the home.

Recent estimates are that family violence costs our economy a massive eight billion dollars per year, and yet we spend a mere $60 million in response.

By comparison, it is estimated that road accidents cost New Zealand roughly half that – $3.4 billion per year – while Government spends almost five times as much on the response – $297 million per year.

I have to wonder, why is it that we are prepared to spend so much on saving lives in one sector, and so little in another?

Actually we don’t have to wait for the legislation to be drafted, or the cost-benefit analysis to be completed, we can start achieving intergenerational change now.

And that is why, this night, my last korero as Maori Party Co-leader – the time is absolutely right to commit myself to my next big campaign – the campaign of our lifetime.

I look at our kuia – Aunty Kiwa – and our kaumatua Kuini – those who have worn the love of whanau as a badge of honour throughout their life.

They have given every single breath of commitment and devotion to strengthening their whanau, to making sure our world is fit for their mokopuna.

They have guided me and led me forward, much like my Aunty Wai and Aunty Pae, my grandmother, and all my aunts from here at Putiki who showed me the way that I could follow.

They gave me a vision that we could do right by our babies; that we could take action and we could help others to change.

They were by my side when in the dark of night we confronted those who had abused the vulnerable.

They stood up to those who wanted to retain a privileged position of speaking on the paepae even though their actions didn’t warrant that right.

If we are truly to achieve intergenerational change we must learn from the bold courage of those who have gone before us and we must break the cycle; and enable our whanau, aiga, and families to stand up and speak up for a future free of pain.

I have been so blessed to have been alongside some amazing women from this movement – so many of you have touched my heart, have strengthened my resolve, have inspired me beyond belief.

I have absolutely loved the transformation I see in Nga Vaka o Kaiga Tapu; in E Tu Whanau; in the heroic leadership of our refuge collectives in demanding that our homes be restored as sites of safety.

We must make the issue of violence an everyday conversation – inspire the light-bulb moments that provide the rationale for change.

Thank you to all of you for your leadership and your courage in creating solutions within our families; for knowing that our whanau are the greatest foundation of hope we need to shape a better tomorrow.

Tēnā tātou katoa

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