Tuesday 1 January 2008

Hone Harawira on Maori health

Below are the notes for a formal speech Hone Harawira, MP for Te Tai Tokerau, was to give at the Public Health Association Conference Tapu Noa: Environmental, Physical or Both? in Waitangi, 1 July.

As the meeting was held on a marae Hone spoke without notes, though covering many of the points made here.

Kia ora koutou katoa

On this day in 1842, the governor's newspaper Te Karere o Niu Tireni, made the following comment:

"...e hoa ma, kua wareware pea koutou ki te pukapuka i tuhituhia ki Waitangi, i roto i taua pukapuka ka waiho nga kauri katoa, nga awa, nga aha katoa ma te tangata Maori hei aha noa atu ki a ia."

[Translation] "...friends, perhaps you have forgotten that document written at Waitangi where in that document all the kauri, the rivers, everything is left to the Maori to do with as he wishes."

Three years later, the British launched a full-blown assault on Kawiti's pa at Ohaeawai, with cannon and troops outnumbering Kawiti's followers by six to one.

Thirty years later, troops were rampaging through the central North Island, looting, pillaging, stealing and killing, and they were so successful in their campaign of death and destruction that by 1 July 1900, a memorial was erected in Auckland to "the dying Maori race".

We tried retreating to our papakainga to survive, we tried new religions, we tried our own parliament, we created our own monarchy, we tried living like white folks, we tried hiding our culture, we accepted having our language thrashed out of us, we adopted Pakeha names, we gave our lives in every overseas conflict this country has ever been involved in, hell, for the last 120 years we even taught ourselves to vote for Pakeha political parties and to deny our own right to self determination ­ all in the name of survival.

So when I hear Michael Cullen and John Key say that war never happened in Aotearoa, all I know is that if it wasn't war that killed off generations of my people and deprived us of millions of acres of our own land, then it¹s been a pretty rat-shit peace we've had to live with for the last one hundred years.

And when I hear Michael Cullen and John Key say that war never happened in Aotearoa, I would dearly love to offer them some of the peace my people have had to suffer.

And yet, I know that here, at this conference, I'm talking to the converted.

I know that people at this conference will understand me when I condemn this nation's decision to pursue corporate profit at the expense of an ever-increasing population of the poor.

And I know you'll understand me when I tell you how angry I get when I realise that in this era of multi-billion dollar surpluses:
  • we still have kids being hospitalised and dying from the symptoms of poverty;
  • we still have families forced to live in damp, mouldy and unheated houses, making illnesses like asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis worse; and
  • we still have too many families forced to live in cowsheds, caravans, garages, vans, and even car crates.

And I know you'll also understand how angry I get at power companies charging exorbitant rates, and cutting off power to poor families, and I know too that you know that when the power gets cut off:

  • the fridge turns off, food spoils, milk curdles, and people get sick trying to eat kai they should have chucked out;
  • families turn to dangerous ways of heating, cooking and lighting ­ starting fires in old cracked chimneys, bringing old gas-fired BBQ¹s inside to cook, and putting candles in unsafe places for lighting;
  • and people die.

And here, in these lush surroundings, here at the birthplace of the nation, right up the Waitangi river, I can also tell you that we have our own horror stories:

  • of kaimoana beds draped in condoms, tampons, faeces and toilet paper because the local authority wouldn't fix the breaks in the sewage lines;

  • of people being so poor that in spite of the pollution, they eat kaimoana because they have no other food, and their kids end up in hospital with a sore stomach;

  • of water-quality so poor that you wouldn't let your dog drink it;

  • and of pollution of kai moana in Northland caused by farm run-off, septic tanks, boaties, and failed sewerage systems, being so bad that the Northland Medical Officer of Health has actually described it as "crapping in our own food basket".

The challenge for the PHA is how to improve the health of all New Zealanders, and the challenge for Maori is how to improve the health of our own people.

How do we show leadership in public health?

How do we promote wellbeing instead of just fighting sickness?

How do we support research that will have a positive impact on public health?

Well, if I might be so bold as to say so, let me first give credit to the Maori renaissance of the 70s and the 80s for much of the turnaround in Maori thinking.

Let me also credit the Maori Protest Movement for providing us with much of the medicine we needed to ease the pain of past suffering, and let me pay homage to heroes like Syd Jackson, Whina Cooper and Eva Rickard for reigniting that fighting spirit within Maoridom, and challenging us to overcome all adversity, and to be proud, to be positive, and to be winners.

Because prior to those times, too many of us were happy to let our lives be determined by somebody else.

Nga Tamatoa changed all that in the seventies by refusing to nod, and by refusing to accept our status as second-class citizens, good for playing guitars, driving bulldozers, and for being happy with nothing. They woke us up.

The Maori Language petition in 1972, led by people who could hardly speak the language, but which led to the Maori Broadcasting Act, Maori Radio and Maori Television ­ they normalised Maori language, and created the avenue for the whole world to appreciate beautiful Maori music.
The 1975 Land March ­ not one acre more ­ forced Maori to realise how much we had lost and how much we were still losing, and forced the government to establish the Waitangi Tribunal to consider the massive land alienations.

The marches to Waitangi challenged the nation to recognise the importance of the Treaty to our whole society, and challenged Maoridom to make the Treaty a central plank in our lives.

The Kohanga Reo Movement which gave the language back to our mokopuna, and gave birth to Kura Kaupapa, Wharekura and Wananga in the 80s and the 90s.

Sure there were blips.

In 2003, Don Brash confirmed what we always knew ­ that National had no time for Maori, and I'll remind everybody here tonight, that for all of John Key's charisma and smiles, not one of the anti-Maori proposals put forward by Don Brash have been dropped,­ not one.

And the Takutaimoana Hikoi in 2004 made us realise that in the fight to hang desperately onto the Pakeha vote, Labour would follow the same path ­ by seeking to limit the role of the Treaty, downsize government commitment to Maori people, take Maori language out of schools, take the Treaty out of the curriculum, and vote to take the Treaty out of all legislation.

But what the Foreshore and Seabed March did do though, was give birth to the Maori Party ­an opportunity for a strong and independent Maori voice in parliament, and believe me when I tell you that if it hadn't been for Tariana Turia pushing it, I guarantee that in the current climate, the TREATY CLAUSE would not have seen the light of day in the revised Public Health Bill issued last week.

So I see hope in our future.

I see hope in my tuahine Paparangi Reid, Te Rarawa by heritage, Tumuaki of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland by profession, Public Health Champion of 2007, and foundation member of the Kawariki by choice ­ correctly calling this government's attempts to remove Treaty clauses, as being part of the movement against equity set in chain by Don Brash, and continuing through to this day in all spheres of government endeavor.

I see hope in the Maori caucus of Healthcare Aotearoa protesting against the decision to remove Treaty clauses from health plans.

I see hope in Peace Movement Aotearoa taking Treaty issues to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

I see hope in the Public Health Association telling the Select Committee that a Public Health Bill without the Treaty clause, would not only result in a clouded and confused approach to Maori involvement in health, but also be seen as institutional racism, enshrined in government legislation.

I see hope in the Child Poverty Action Group legally challenging the government to end discrimination against those 150,000 kids living in poverty and denied support through the Working for Families package.

I see hope in the fight to cut back on pokie machines and alcohol outlets in our poorer communities, and I see hope in the efforts of the smoke-free groups to battle the tobacco giants, and free our people from an addiction that kills 4,700 Kiwis every year.

And I see hope in gatherings like this, accepting the challenges, setting aside our fears, and having the courage to set a course that leads to good health, good attitude, good decision-making, and the opportunity to realise our dreams.

"Happy are those who dream dreams, and a re prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true."

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