On the cover of this publication, there are two things that stand out for me.
They tell me everything that I would want to know, about the richness of the stories included within. The first is a message that drives straight to our heart.
Kāore ōna mutunga, kāore e mehemea, ka tū tonu,
ka tū tonu, kāore hoki e taea te neke.
Strength of the whānau, which is infinite, cannot be broken, is invincible, and cannot be moved.
And the second, is the most beautiful picture of the kuia, Kataraina Te Moana, or as she was known Nanny Kaa, with her mokopuna Ohora Te Moana and Lisa Te Moana-Hohua.
Moe atu rā e kui, moe atu rā i roto i ngā mahara me ngā ngākau a o mokopuna.
Written right across the face of the kuia is her beaming pride and sense of bliss as she cuddles the cherubs on her knee. Those babies stare out at us – a picture of glowing health and contentment – showing us that all is right in their world.
And so it is that we enter the wonder of whanau, as told in the stories of Te Pumautanga o te whanau.
We marvel at the sense of resilience – that ability to turn adversity to advantage.
And we are moved by the wisdom of the whanau from Tuhoe and South Auckland; who express their dreams, their hopes and challenges; and who allow their voices to be heard.
I have to admit, I did a double-take when I first realised this was a publication about the whanau of Tuhoe and South Auckland – I thought my staff must have double-booked me. The report responded to my dilemma.
It explains the rationale of wanting to represent the experiences of whanau living within their tribal rohe – the ahi kaa – as well as whanau who have moved to the city – the taura here.
And I want to really mihi to all of the key players involved, for your generosity in sharing this space together.
The Tuhoe Education Authority and the Manukau Urban Maori Authority were the initial points of contact who opened the door for the Families Commission to be able to interview eight Tuhoe whanau, and eight taura here whanau living in Tamaki Makaurau.
Two whanau based organisations, Te Kaokao o Takapau and Hinepukohurangi Trust, supported the research journey in Tuhoe; while in South Auckland the Aotearoa Credit Union, Western Districts Budget Service; the South Auckland Christian Food Bank and the Manukau Rugby League Club; provided an invaluable point of access.
As with any initiative of this nature, the project required leadership from people with a sense of burning passion to turn the stories into words; and I want to particularly mention Haromi Williams; James Papali’i; Colleen Tuuta; and Kahukore Baker for believing so fully in the infinite strengths of whanau.
The stories in this collection provide us with a deeper understanding of the circumstances that surround and affect whanau.
It is not an easy read by any means. But there are gems within the stories that keep coming through.
The reflections of Tania Matawhiu remind us of the enduring richness of a life centred around whanau. When asked, how do whanau survive when there is little or no money, Tania replied:
“To give money, to live together and pool everyone’s resources. It is from your basket, it is from my basket, that my family will survive. All of these principles are exactly as practised on the marae where you live as one, eat as one, and sleep as one. It is a cycle of when the family is in strife, it is always the family that salvages the situation”.
Harnessing the often untapped extended whanau potential within hapu, iwi and local communities is a key Whanau Ora objective. Connecting such expertise to struggling whanau as early as possible is critically important if we are to manage our own futures, in the way that we know best.
That vital thread of whanau connection runs through the stories in South Auckland. Moana Parekau, in response to the same question about how whanau survive, tells us:
“We actually don’t cope….but at the end of the day you have to rely on your family. I only get $60 in my pay after everything’s paid, we end up having to borrow off our families. Whanau get us kai, blankets, stuff like that”.
Throughout all of the stories, the sense of value accorded to Tuhoetanga and to kaupapa and tikanga Maori is made manifest. It is through whakapapa bonds that cannot be severed; it is through the rich learnings found in te reo rangatira; the healing powers of rongoa and wairuatanga; the sense of generosity that knows no bounds.
The way in which the whanau survive, demonstrates a remarkable spirit; a determination to get through. And to be honest, the reality depicted in these stories is very hard reading. Aroha describes the situation for her whanau in South Auckland; a situation replicated in the other stories.
“Most of the time we adults don’t eat so the kids can; we don’t get milk, only milk powder for the baby. We also dilute the milk powder to make it last longer. Sometimes when things are really tough my kids don’t go to school as we don’t have lunch or breakfast and we’ll only cook one meal a day which we have to wait for”.
The financial hardship common to all the families is accompanied by varying experiences with a raft of agencies around them - WINZ, the City Mission; Friendship House; Citizens Advice; Mercy Mission; the pawnshop; Aotea Finance; CYFS; Housing New Zealand; Cash Converters; the Loan Shop; and so it goes on.
I cannot help but think there is a virtual industry made out of the misery of some of our people’s situation.
It is profoundly disappointing to read through the lines, about the way in which our people feel after some of their encounters with government departments. Piripi Karapa expresses this view:
“their attitude, their persona; the way they come across to you even in their korero; their body language. I feel that I’m at the wrong end of the age scale. I’m in my 50s and the attitude seems to be you’re too old”.
So there is a lot of learning for us all in this report; learning about how whanau face the often unbearable burdens of economic hardship and adversity; and how they survive, despite.
I want to really thank the whanau who agreed for their stories to be told for their courage, their honesty and their absolute trust in letting their experiences be read. We owe it to you all to hear your stories, and to honour the trust you have placed in this research.
We have seen through the way you have described the current services of Government that it is at fundamental odds with the ways in which you define your world. For Tuhoe whanau in particular, you have chosen to withdraw from agencies that were perceived to takahi te mana o te whanau; removing yourselves from negative influences
“There is a tension: Mauri, mana and power. Pakeha concept of power, Maori understanding of mauri/mana. Both parties have mana; at some point; if the relationship is not working; our Tuhoe whanau disengage to maintain the mauri”.
While we have to admire the way in which whanau look after themselves, this must not be in isolation of their rights to support from Government services; the basic rights of citizenship promised in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Whanau Ora is about challenging the way agencies work, forcing them to rethink their approach; and to provide much better services for our whanau to access.
And I want to tell you all, upfront, that it is absolutely intolerable for any government department or public servant to treat the people they serve with less than the utmost respect. Government must do better and it is my firm commitment to you, that I will do all I can in my power to make that difference happen – and happen fast.
The very first thing I can do, is to refer your stories on to my colleagues in the Ministerial Committee on Poverty – so that they can see the remarkable efforts our families make to survive, up against almost insurmountable odds.
We need to take on a new lens – and perhaps that is to consider what the state can do to create an environment in which people can thrive, and prosper and realise their wellbeing.
The state should never be the first port of call. But it should, as an absolute given, enable all people to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights – the right to good health, to participation, to self-management.
Whanau Ora is about operationalising these rights –it is a practical way of ensuring all parts of Government pull their weight in a coordinated and sustainable way.
That means we must be able to expect quality services are being delivered; that communities are fully involved and participating; that accountability is assured.
It is timely then, at a time when Government is considering how to achieve better public services, that we start looking at how agencies can walk alongside of our families, to assist them in addressing the barriers that come their way.
The state has a duty to create an optimal environment in which people can do for themselves.
We must be very clear that the answers lie within the people. Whanau Ora is about whanau continuing to grow, to find ways of drawing on nga taonga tuku iho for continued strength and motivation; to dream the dreams.
It is an ambitious but vital task. Trusting people to find solutions for their own lives requires an absolute belief in ourselves. It is also about dismantling the reliance we have on others; to restore confidence in ourselves.
There are some glowing reports in the stories, of the support from Kaitoko Whanau workers; MUMA; Tuhoe Hauora; Te Kaokao o Takapau; Hinepuhokurangi Trust.
But the most significant connection in all these reports, is to see how they each operate, driven by their belief in the resilience and strength of whanau.
They appreciate and understand the rights, responsibilities and obligations that whanau have to the collective – and they are willing to support them in that journey. They are in it for the long haul – knowing that transformation may take a generation to get right, but that get it right we will.
And so finally, I leave the last word to whanau. The Kamau whanau encapsulate for me the message of inspiration from which this report began – the proof that the strength of the whanau, which is infinite, cannot be broken; is invincible and cannot be moved.
“Resilience, I suppose, is what we are all about. We survive because it’s how we are brought up. We take for granted all that the whanau does for us, believing that it’s a natural thing.
As a whanau, we all put our resources together, when times are tough, and that’s the main thing; knowing and understanding one another helps. Thank you to my whanau”.