Past giants guide path to future
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