MWWL A Legacy of Māori Womens leadership

I was invited to open the conference this year and I wanted to focus on the legacy of the Māori Women’s Welfare League and the contribution of exceptional leadership and vision. Here’s a summary of some of the key messages;

I acknowledge that theme of this year’s conference is urging us to think about the purpose of the League at this time;

“Ko te pae tawhiti, whaia kia tata, ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tina.”
“Seek out distant horizons; cherish those you attain.”

I want to acknowledge the Patron Makau Ariki, President Prue Kapua and the executive team. We remember those who are no longer here and who contributed tirelessly to the MWWL kaupapa in Tairawhiti – I think of a few who represent so many, Lady Lorna Ngata, Emarina Manuel, Maraea Te Kawa, Peggy Kaua, Julia Whaipooti, Mana Rangi and all of their groups and members from their time. And of course the favourite member from the rohe that never missed a conference – Parekura Horomia – I’m proud to be here today to support an organisation that has made a significant contribution to the wellbeing of whānau.

To the local Tairawhiti Executive – President: Jasmine Puia, and Area Representative: Tui Takarangi. The hard work and effort put into organising this year’s conference. Tēnā kōrua.
Ngā iwi o Te Tairawhiti – the MWWL Conference hosts this year;
Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri;,Te Aitanga A Māhaki, Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngāti Porou.
Rongomaiwahine, Te Iwi O Rakaipaaka, Ngati Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāti Pahauwera
Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana.

As change agents, community leaders, advocates and the engine room of our communities, I want to acknowledge what you represent to so many whānau.
The League has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the health, educational, employment and social life outcomes of Māori women and their whānau.

With the guidance and leadership of your president and executive team, the MWWL have impacted on the political discourse in so many ways, having:

• made submissions to the Child Poverty Reduction Bill (December 2017)
• contributed to the purpose and function of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio (March 2018)
• helped shape the Draft Terms of Reference of Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care (April 2018)
• advocated and led thinking with Oranga Tamariki on what happens to our tamariki in care – participating in the Oranga Tamariki Care Standards 2018
• participated in the Māori Expert hui on eliminating violence (May 2018)
• led the challenge to the Ministry of Health’s decision reversal in respect of funding pēpi pods instead of wahakura, due to MWWL’s support and influence for an indigenous solution to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome / SIDSI also think of the many Māori women who are leading and working tirelessly in other areas of society and at all levels.

Māori women such as Dr Charlotte Severn just appointed as Māori Trustee; Hinerangi Raumati now sitting on the Crown’s Tax Working Group; Dr Rawinia Higgins, Chair of Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori, and businesswoman Rachel Taulelei, Chief Executive of Kono, named Māori Woman Business Leader for 2018 in May of this year. And of course the long-awaited and newly appointed coach of the Silver Ferns Noeline Taurua-Barnett.

Recognition of mana wahine is already clearly visible in some of our iwi authorities and we are beginning to see a step change in the way tribal matters are being shaped and led with people of the heart of decision-making.

This quiet revolution is bringing change to our modern society where men and leadership have previously dominated. We have mistakenly seen the paepae as the only place of leadership but clearly, without the kitchen nothing happens.

Change is slow… but it is happening and it is a fitting tribute in the 125 years of the suffrage movement to the early pioneers like Meri Te Tai Mangakahia and Kate Shepard who were pioneers of the struggle for women’s rights.

The changes serve to remind us that the traditional values of Te Ao Māori always recognised the mana of wahine. Importantly this change in leadership is not defined by western feminist thinking but the values that have long underpinned our culture, histories and traditions, in Maniapoto this concept is referred to as Mana Whatuahuru – a set of values and norms derived from a sacred source.

But I want to urge us to think about what we must do to continue the legacy, far too often it is easy to cut each other down. Nothing in my experience happens by accident. We must foster, encourage and grow each other’s leadership potential and contribution. Failure to do so dooms our ability to contribute merely to playing in the sandpit. We are destined for far greater service and contribution.

Not only do we bring a different perspective and worldview to these important conversations about tribal/Māori development, political advocacy, community and whānau transformation, leadership and excellence. We seek out a wellbeing vision that puts our children and mokopuna at the centre to achieve intergenerational wellbeing.
This brings me to the Living Standards Framework which is an attempt by our Government to take a different approach to the way we prioritise our decisions and investments to address intergenerational outcomes. We realise we cannot continue to take the same approach – a new way is needed.

It is trying to look beyond GDP as a measure of our national wellbeing and a more holistic approach to wellbeing and prosperity. The Living Standards Framework should represent the values and aspirations of our country.

But to be effective, this framework needs to incorporate ao Māori perspectives – not just for the benefit of Māori, but for the benefit of the nation. It contributes to our uniqueness as indigenous peoples, and as a nation. It should, in my view, be the living embodiment of what the Treaty of Waitangi envisaged for all citizens and Māori as indigenous peoples in particular. The indigenous component of the framework has real potential to shift the type of conversation that policymakers can lead towards a long-term vision, prioritising investment, committing to integrated solutions and focusing on outcomes that improve wellbeing and share prosperity.

Embedding te ao Māori perspectives within the Living Standards Framework, alongside other changes to legislation, helps to create a new environment. By taking an approach that factors in Māori perspectives of wellbeing which sit beyond an economic measure, it will mean we can put a ‘true value’ on things like language, culture, identity, belonging, connectedness as well as an emphasis on whānau or the collective rather than the individual. This convergence of thinking means government agencies will need to change its approach and stop looking for singular solutions to the most complex challenges.

In finishing, referring back to wahine leadership, I would like to leave you with another familiar whakataukī: “He wahine, he whenua, e ngaro ai te tangata.” It is often interpreted as meaning “by women and land men are lost.”
Rangimarie Rose Pere reminds us that it also refers to the essential nourishing roles that women and land fulfil, without which humanity would be lost. We are the essential element.

There’s a new generation coming through. They’re ready, we’re ready. A place waits for you at the leadership table, in our homes, our schools, our marae, our communities, our councils and the hallowed halls of Parliament.

Our leadership contribution has been designated by our first President Dame Whina Cooper when she said “Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa”.

Our service commitment was set by our first Patron Te Puea Herangi when she said “Mahia te mahi hei painga mo te iwi”.

No reira e ngā Wahine Māori Toko i te Ora whaia te pae tawhiti kia tata, kia whakamaua kia tina – Haumie, hui e, taiki e!
Pai Marire


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