Past gi­ants guide path to fu­ture

South Waikato News - - OPINION - By TAR­I­ANA TURIA

Sir Maui Po­mare was a man of great char­ac­ter. He ded­i­cated his life to lift­ing the health and well­be­ing of tan­gata whenua, and was pas­sion­ate about ad­vanc­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of our peo­ple.

A doc­tor, a politi­cian, a leader – he made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of Maori peo­ple, and is truly an in­spi­ra­tion for those of us who are here to­day. It was an ab­so­lute plea­sure and priv­i­lege to cel­e­brate his mem­ory, and his con­tri­bu­tion to our na­tion on the week­end along­side his whanau, and his hapu.

I was re­minded of the jour­ney that we have taken over gen­er­a­tions to im­prove the health sta­tus of our peo­ple. While we face our chal­lenges to­day, it is true that in the time of Sir Maui Po­mare and other great lead­ers, we were fac­ing ex­tinc­tion.

Times were dire, and hard, and if it were not for lead­ers such as Sir Maui Po­mare, along­side Sir James Car­roll, Sir Peter Buck, Sir Api­rana Ngata and oth­ers – the health of our peo­ple would have de­te­ri­o­rated to a point of no re­turn.

This clas­sic gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians and lead­ers taught us to grasp on to the learn­ing of the mod­ern world, while en­sur­ing that we main­tained our cul­tural essence. They put health and well­be­ing at the cen­tre of our de­vel­op­ment, and worked tire­lessly to push for­ward to en­sure that we sur­vived.

There are no bet­ter words to de­scribe their pas­sion, than Sir Maui’s own ‘‘we seek the re­gen­er­a­tion of Maori, and un­less we af­fect that we are doomed. We will do it, we must!’’

Al­most 100 years later, I look around to­day and see the fruits of his work. We may still have our chal­lenges, we may still face spe­cific is­sues in the ar­eas of health and well­be­ing – how­ever, the fact that we are still here as a peo­ple, that we are still hold­ing on to our whanau, our whaka­papa, and our iden­tity is a trib­ute to the work of this man.

This week­end was a time to cel­e­brate his mem­ory, and re­flect on the work that he had done; for me it was also a time to think about where to from here. Af­ter all the work that has been laid down by our an­ces­tors, what is the path­way for­ward that con­tin­ues our jour­ney for de­vel­op­ment?

I be­lieve that the an­swer is that we now have many paths, and many more lead­ers who can lead the jour­neys that we must all take to­wards col­lec­tive de­vel­op­ment. Our marae, hapu and iwi struc­tures main­tain their strength, and are con­tin­u­ing to make strides to­wards selfdeter­mi­na­tion. Our whanau are armed with knowl­edge, both of the mod­ern world, and of their cul­tural roots that stand them in good stead. And our peo­ple are do­ing amaz­ing things, which fur­ther progress our col­lec­tive kau­papa.

As a politi­cian I look around me, and while I have my work in en­sur­ing that Maori needs and as­pi­ra­tions are be­ing ad­dressed by the gov­ern­ment, I can see that the world has changed.

The choices that we have to­day, the strength that we have to­day, have been built upon a foun­da­tion of courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion laid down by our tupuna of the past. We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to build on their work, and to move our whanau, hapu and iwi fur­ther for­ward on our jour­ney.

Our big­gest cam­paign must be to alert to some of the ap­palling health out­comes be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by far too many whanau, as a result of so­cio-eco­nomic de­ter­mi­nants; that is the im­pacts of poverty. I am think­ing of the per­sis­tent skin in­fec­tions, res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses, and of course the un­ac­cept­ably high rates of rheumatic fever, what is be­ing la­belled the ‘ne­glected dis­ease’. We must build on the legacy of the cham­pi­ons of our past, to con­tinue to place health and well­be­ing at the cen­tre of our de­vel­op­ment; to in­vest in our sur­vival through phys­i­cal, cul­tural, eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Sir Maui Po­mare was sec­ond to none, and when you have gi­ants such as this guid­ing the way then there is no other way to move, but for­ward.

GREAT MAN: Sir Maui Po­mare

Tar­i­ana Turia

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