Yesterday I received a panui from Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa; advising me of their national hui coming up this Labour Weekend.
But it is not just any old national hui. This hui will celebrate twenty five years of weavers coming together.
It will be the first national hui of weavers that Te Kingi Tuheitia will attend.
And it will also include a special group of weavers referred to collectively as Te Kahui Whiritoi, who will share with the hui, the wisdom and legacy of their contribution to the weaving arts.
It seemed to me a perfect symbol of what I have come to know of the contribution of the community and voluntary sector.
I am pleased to be here today, to acknowledge the selfless dedication, the years of committed service, the specialist expertise of your work and the vital influence of the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa, in shaping this nation.
Your influence is all about weaving together the people.
Knitting together a consortium of national, regional and local NGOs. Threading through your art, a focus on communication, on networking, on accessing relevant information.
Trailblazing initiatives which demonstrate partnership in action – whether it be joint ventures between the community, business and government, or projects between groups with similar aims and desires.
Whether it be ComVOiceS – an independent network of sector organisations; the New Zealand Council of Social Services, the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare organisations; or marae, hapu trusts, the Maori Women’s Welfare League and others – there is one absolutely consistent thread which unites you all.
And that is the philosophy which we in the Maori Party recognise best as Mahi aroha – the unpaid activity which is an expression of tohu aroha; of manaakitanga; of whanaungatanga, of rangatiratanga.
The activities that we align under tikanga and kaupapa Maori as being about maintaining mana and rangatiratanga – rather than for monetary or personal gain.
The Maori Party, is in fact, the ultimate expression of Mahi Aroha. Other than the four Members of Parliament, not one of the 21000 members of our organisation receive financial payment for the voluntary activities they uphold to energise and inspire our communities.
And so, when I learn about the project led by Philanthropy New Zealand, Volunteering New Zealand and the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector in promoting generosity, I can’t but think of the amazing gifts of time, of passion, of tautoko that have blessed our party from day one.
Gifts of great generosity are also seen in the volunteers who last year, delivered more than 600,000 Meals on Wheels; the volunteers who bring library books to the housebound, the volunteers who knit ‘trauma teddies’ for children suffering after an injury or accident; the volunteers who distributed donated goods, furniture and clothes, within our communities.
The Maori Party is sincerely appreciative of the contribution that more than one million volunteers make to their communities and society. There is an immense amount of unpaid work that goes largely unacknowledged.
The Maori Party is particularly aware that te Ao Maori thrives on the devoted commitment of so many volunteers who support their loved ones in maintaining good health, in surviving the rigours of daily life, in keeping the community functioning.
We are keen to create an environment that supports, values and encourages effective volunteering by the people of Aotearoa.
The Maori Party is committed towards doing all that we can to support communities and we are therefore pleased to talk today, about some of the initiatives we are seeking feedback on.
Genuine Progress Index
The Genuine Progress Index distinguishes between positive contributions to society – such as the building of schools – and negative activity – like this Government’s obsessive practice of building prisons.
In a GPI framework, community and voluntary activities which contribute to the expression of positive social and cultural values must be recognised and measured, as adding to the comprehensive, sustainable and inclusive advancement of our nation.
The time and resources given for the strengthening of whanau; the support offered to marae and other community activities are all ways and means of expressing whakawhanaungatanga – which in turns offers a true value for all aspects of our community wealth.
A key issue we would be interested in learning your views about, is how the skills and expertise of the community and voluntary sector are being recognised in a financial sense, to acknowledge the value of the policy advice you provide to government.
2. Strengthening Whanau Participation in Community Activities
We, in the Maori Party, see whanau as the universal building block, the foundation for economic, social, cultural an environmental benefits.
We seek to extend the Community and voluntary sector by investing in all sectors of our community – recognising the value of parenting and the vital contribution of the volunteer workforce.
Our focus is proudly motivated by the wonder of whanau.
Rather than starting from the viewpoint of dysfunctionalism and deficiencies, we instead start from recognition of the security, strengths and assets that exist within whanau.
We seek to explore how whanau relationships can be supported to nurture individual and collective development.
Strengthening whanau participation can also advance multiple and overlapping goals – such as the enhancement of te reo Maori; or in supporting collective business development strategies.
In a world where it appears every negative statistic brings out the call – where are the Maori leaders, we seek to answer that they are found in whanau.
Our focus, then as the Maori Party, is in looking at ways to encourage and support enterprising thinking and action in whanau, leadership. It is also about supporting the growth of whanau entrepreneurs; managing our own assets; and in fostering a belief that whanau offer a unique indigenous model for achieving economic independence.
3. Removal of Obstacles that confront communities
The logical corollary in building up the Community and voluntary sector, is that we simultaneously seek to remove or reduce any issues that hinder development.
A key issue for us, is the priority of removing or reducing gaming machines. We are very aware that gambling creates enormous harm, especially in communities identified as high deprivation or low income. The MÃ„Âori Party suggests that we should manage gambling as a social hazard rather than a harmless leisure pursuit.
Another equally urgent imperative is to de-normalise family violence; and to create opportunities for transforming whanau into sites of wellbeing. This will require education and liberation from within – and there is an important role for the community and voluntary sector in supporting whanau and families to take responsibility for making a difference in all of their lives.
Another of the issues we are deeply committed to is the ongoing need for standing up and speaking out against poverty.
We were fascinated to read in the Nightingale address that the Prime Minister gave last week in England, that she has been promoting Working For Families, as having dropped our child poverty rate to below the European Union average.
This is in direct contrast to the advice we are receiving from organisations such as the Child Poverty Action Group who tell us that the multi-dimensional impacts of poverty are still hitting home for the our most vulnerable families.
In fact even the Government’s own report on the measurement of inequality and poverty – released by MSD in July of this year – stated “there has been no improvement for the poorer poor”.
And so, we have challenged the prevalence of poverty wages; we have challenged the discriminatory actions of a Government in cutting off opportunities for those dependent on income support; and we will never turn our back on the 250,000 children still in poverty.
So, how then, can the community and voluntary sector make a difference in any of these areas?
One of the issues we are keen to receive your feedback on, is the proposal that we in the Maori Party have been considering, that contracts between community organisations and government should be with one government agency who then reports to all other relevant agencies.
Within such a system, the agencies involved would each contribute funding to the community organisation. An outcome of such an arrangement would be that only one report would be required (submitted to the contracting agency), resulting in reduced compliance and reporting costs.
4. Treaty Responsibilities
When I had the privilege of being the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, I was so excited about the work that the Community Sector Taskforce had advanced in establishing a two house model, where tangata tiriti and tangata whenua are full participants.
This was very courageous work, and the Taskforce must be commended for the initiative they took in leading the nation forward.
And I want to acknowledge too the importance of the leadership provided by Justice TaihÃ„Âkurei Edward Durie who has given life to this concept, as evident in his Waitangi Day address in 1989:
“… the Treaty of Waitangi is not just a Bill of Rights for Maori. It is a Bill of Rights for Pakeha too. It is the Treaty that gives Pakeha the right to be here. Without the Treaty there would be no lawful authority for the Pakeha presence in this part of the South Pacific…. The Pakeha are the Tangata Tiriti, those who belong to the land by right of that Treaty.”
The Maori Party is committed to the notion of shaping a tikanga Maori house to express our kaupapa.
The Tikanga Maori House embraces the commitment of those that live and act according to kaupapa and tikanga tuku iho. We believe this to be a key factor in distinguishing tangata whenua as a distinct cultural group on the national and international scenes for the next thousand years.
It is about enacting the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for whänau, hapü and iwi within our own land; speaking with a strong, independent and united voice; and living according to kaupapa handed down by our ancestors.
And we are also committed towards supporting the aspirations and dreams of tangata tiriti, in their journey towards living in a Treaty based nation.
We look forward to any ideas that you may want to share with us, as we continue in our ongoing search for Treaty justice.
These are just some of the ideas and policy priorities that we are considering that impact on your sector, as well as impacting at the very basis of our cultural and national identities.
We are absolutely committed towards working together in partnership to achieve shared outcomes, to ensure our respective world views are valued, and to live in a nation which truly honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The challenge before us all now, is simply to make it happen.