Mr Speaker, tena tatou katoa.
Our nation is marked by moments that define a generation.
There is the generation who paid the ultimate price of citizenship in serving in the C Company 28 Maori Battalion during World War Two. The Battalion was formed along whakapapa lines, drawing on the enduring connections from common lines of descent.
A generation later, during the 1960s many of our whanau took up the opportunity of a drive to encourage young Maori into skilled trades, building on the strengths of the collective spirit as their foundation for success.
And so now, a decade into the new century, our whanau are hungry to embrace a new vision, the vision which will be the defining moment for their generation.
That vision is whanau ora.
The Maori Party has welcomed the statement of support from the Prime Minister, for a new approach to the way Government works in many communities, and in particular with Maori families.
This new approach will require government agencies to be innovative and to apply greater flexibility in the way they deliver services.
It will require the State to change the way it does business in the provision of services to whanau.
Whanau ora is a vision which is born from the history of tangata whenua as entrepreneurs, as people willing to embrace new challenges. Across the globe tangata whenua have a reputation for being innovative, for taking on new technologies.
That spirit of enterprise has now taken on a new edge, in the call for whanau ora.
Just as the Maori Battalion and the trade training schemes drew their strength from the connections made through common genealogy, so too, whanau ora is about the commitment between and across generations based on the shared hopes of whanau.
In this House, we often bear witness to the pathology of Maori as members of the Unders and Overs club – under-achieving in education; over-represented in justice, under-reported in health; over-represented in areas of high deprivation and low income; described as an underclass which successive administrations have overlooked.
The drive for whanau ora responds to the poor outcomes experienced in health, educational, economic, justice and many other layers of our current social infrastructure.
But the key determinant of success in this approach is the realisation that in this moment of greatest challenge there exists an even greater opportunity.
An opportunity to rebuild the integrity of whanau by empowering them to determine and take greater control of their lives and wellbeing. An opportunity to move forward, to restore to whanau their capacity to be self-determining.
Mr Speaker, it is for all of these reasons that in the relationship and confidence and supply agreement we signed with the National Party there is a fundamental statement that I think is timely to remind the House.
“The Maori Party seeks significant outcomes in whanau ora, through eliminating poverty, advocating for social justice and advancing Maori cultural, economic and community development in the best interests of the nation”.
That statement signed in November 2008 is just as vital now in 2010.
The intentions of the Prime Minister, laid out in his speech today, state a commitment to lift our economic performance while also delivering increased incomes and better living standards.
For the Maori Party those better living standards are firmly about whanau ora – and essential in this focus must be the importance of eliminating poverty.
In this light, we have begun the process of working through some of the impacts of the tax system upon our people – and in particular the difference that will be made to low income families.
We are adamant that we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that these families are at the very least no worse off; and hopefully in a position to enjoy an improved quality of life.
Mr Speaker, we believe that whanau ora is an essential approach towards advancing opportunities and outcomes for whanau.
Ultimately, whanau ora is in the hands of our whanau – and it is their resilience, determination and courage that will unleash the greatest potential for our nation.
I will shortly be receiving the report from the Taskforce that I established to provide Government with advice on whanau ora.
From the feedback I have received to date, there is enormous excitement amongst whanau about their aspirations for them and the generations to follow.
I have heard about the enthusiasm of whanau to be self-managing; to participate fully in society while also being confident in their contributions to te Ao Maori.
There has been a keen hunger for living in ways which are consistent with nga kaupapa tuku iho – the values, beliefs, obligations and responsibilities passed down through the centuries.
This to me is one of the most profound aspects of the transformation – it is a sense of renewing the promise that our ancestors signed up in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
The promise that our traditions and our heritage; our cultural assets would retain their integrity while at the same time enabling us to benefit from the full opportunities of citizenship.
And in this light I want to emphasize that the benefits of whanau ora will indeed be benefits that all peoples who call New Zealand home can expect as well. It is not for Maori to tell other cultures, other peoples, how to achieve outcomes that will measure their success, but we do know that there is an interest from many communities – particularly our Pasifika families – to apply whanau ora to their own situations; and we welcome that.
While the vigour for transformation within our whanau is evident, we must not abdicate responsibility within the state apparatus, to respond to that high level of optimism that things can be improved.
We all know that the social framework that successive governments have put in place has been unwieldly, fragmented, creating barriers to efficiency.
In some of our smaller centres we may see 35 providers all vying for the same target population. The overlapping contracts, the duplication of efforts have helped to shape the call for simplified funding and reporting structures.
The appetite for a new approach is motivated by the call for services which are integrated and comprehensive and which focus on measurable outcomes that will contribute to whanau empowerment.
The transformation being pioneered by whanau must be met with a transformative process for government agencies and providers alike. We are hearing about the desire for a fundamental shift in approach to support whanau to become self-determining.
It will be demonstrated in a united focus on achieving whanau outcomes; that are specific measurable differences in the lives of individuals but importantly, noting also the tangible difference made in the lives of collectives.
It won’t happen tomorrow, but with optimism, and with faith, we can all be part of an approach which is honest about the challenges that we face but prepared to stand up and be counted.
This is an opportunity to make the change that will not only bring benefits to Maori families, but will add greatly to the nation, and to the opportunities for future generations.
Whanau ora is, quite simply, an idea whose time has come.