Promoting Generosity Communities of Interest Meeting
Wellington; Friday 19 June 2009
Hon Tariana Turia,
Minister of the Community and Voluntary Sector
(Delivered on behalf)
I want to acknowledge the Hub Chair, Elliot Strange; the Hub members, as well as all the people who have made their way here to think more deeply about the promotion of generosity.
I have a favourite necklace which I love to wear.
It is a beautiful creation of colour – a necklace which shimmers and catches the eye.
Which is exactly what it did when I first saw it and instantly admired it.
Without hesitation, the woman who was wearing the necklace took it off and put it around my neck.
I wear that necklace now with great love. It has become a symbol to me of the goodness of spirit that I see in so many people - that spirit that we call manaakitanga.
If you were to consult the Ngata dictionary you’d find some 18 definitions of manaaki – it conveys a sense of helpfulness, of kindness, good treatment, respect, hospitality, to care for, a blessing, to treat with consideration.
You might also think of manaaki as demonstrating the generosity that every single person in this room knows on a daily basis.
It is wonderful to be invited to this event today, which not only gives you all the opportunity to input into the future of the work of the Generosity Hub, but also marks the end of a wonderful week of recognizing and valuing the role that volunteers play in our lives.
When I looked at the list of invitees to this meeting I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the enormous range of organizations who are dedicated to giving back; to helping our communities grow; to feeding the soul and nurturing the spirit.
Giving enables us all as New Zealanders to connect with each other; to support our neighbours, to do our bit to build strong, resilient communities.
Resilience is of particular meaning at this time, as we ride the challenging circumstances of an economic downturn.
Already we have seen that the recession is leading to greater unemployment, and as anyone could predict, the impact of this on already marginalized groups is of great concern.
There is no time better than the present, to think how we can promote generosity – whether that be from the philanthropic sector, the community and voluntary sector, the wider non-profit sector, the business sector, academia, or in our homes and communities.
There is a Buddhist saying which represents the opportunity of mahi aroha: ‘thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared”.
The symbolic power of this venue will not have been lost on anyone. And we remember the ultimate expression of generosity, in the story of a crowd of thousands who needed to be fed, and were miraculously satisfied by a feast consisting of just five loaves and two fishes.
Generosity is not about the sum of what is given; it is about the way in which it is given.
The other great equalizer in promoting generosity is that anyone can give. Volunteer Awareness Week has focused this year on youth. Our young people do volunteer, and more than that they give. They give of their time – at marae, at schools, in the communities, for a good cause, for a campaign they believe in. They give of themselves, without inhibition, without expectation of return.
And yet the returns are significant.
Giving to others helps nurture a sense of belonging, it also puts back some three billion dollars worth of volunteer labour into the economy.
A gift of time can also provide a valuable opportunity to learn new skills and gain training.
I want to pay particular tribute today, to the initiative that started back in November 2007 when a group of shared minds came together to honour those who give so freely and willingly, and to look to how we could grow and support that spirit of generosity.
From that first meeting came the vision, to be “connecting, influencing, cultivating and inspiring New Zealanders” to give in all aspects of their life. It’s a wonderful project and I commend you for the work you have already done, including the production of the ‘Focus on Generosity’ discussion paper series.
The Generosity Hub has evolved out of the culture of giving that Aotearoa is known by.
And I want to pick up on a couple of key points in the research and information that have come out of the work of the Hub.
The research tells us that although those on high incomes are able to give more, there are many thousands on low incomes who give what they can whether through money, time, acts of kindness or inkind. In actual fact, over half of New Zealand’s volunteers earn less than $30,000 a year.
Anyone who has braved the cold and the wind, and stood out on Lambton Quay with their collection box clutched in frozen hands, will know that there is no common denominator which can be identified in those who give a lot, and those who won’t give at all.
But the research also says that there should be different methods of giving so that people from all communities can comfortably donate in the ways which they find most appropriate.
The Generosity Hub is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with just the right amounts of vision, commitment and determination. The Hub represents the ultimate solution for cross-community issues – as the diversity of groups represented here today conveys.
At the core, the Hub is about creating supportive relationships between government, business, academic, philanthropic, and other non-profit organizations. The single most important focus is how, collectively, we can create a generous society through sponsorship, donations, employee volunteering and collaborative arrangements.
The Hub is also working with Inland Revenue to assist with the promotion of tax incentives and payroll giving changes.
I’m really pleased to see that the government agencies that I work with, take their relationships with this sector very seriously. I am particularly aware of the role that the Department of Internal Affairs plays in helping communities to take ownership of their issues, and help them find their solutions.
The Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector is a key player as one of the lead organisations in this project alongside Philanthropy New Zealand and Volunteering New Zealand. The Office is committed towards encouraging government agencies to do their job better while at the same time promoting purposeful relationships with the sector.
But by far the greatest role is that which our communities play, in encouraging and supporting generosity amongst ourselves, in all our daily interactions.
It is about taking the time to listen; to make a meal when a friend is sick; to help coach the netball team; to join Neighbourhood Watch. It’s about walking alongside communities by giving time, giving money, giving inkind and by random acts of kindness.
It’s about sharing laughter with another; it’s about never being too old to play; it’s about leaving the world a better place.
I want to thank all of you for having the generosity of spirit to open doors for another, to be the living expression of kindness in all you say and do; to be prepared to make the difference.
This then, is the opportunity to give back to you – and to let you know that what you do matters; it shares happiness, it makes for stronger, more secure communities. We are all better off for your giving.