Global, Maori

Indigenous leadership high on the agenda

By Trevor Simpson

In April next year Aotearoa New Zealand will welcome the global health promotion workforce to Rotorua City for what is arguably the most important event on the health promotion calendar. The 23rd IUHPE (International Union for Health Promotion and Education) World Conference 2019 on health promotion will bring together experts, practitioners and interest groups who will converge to discuss health promotion across a range of political, economic and social contexts.
At the earliest stages the notion of the importance of indigenous health promotion and the opportunity to leverage indigenous aspirations for wellbeing were at the fore. Elevating this discussion to the highest level became a driver – not only for the inclusion of indigenous elements in the conference programme but rather to underpin and permeate every aspect of the meeting.
There is an unprecedented opportunity for indigenous health promotion leaders to use this platform to share our ideas, strengthen our resolve and promote wellbeing from a specific indigenous perspective.

Milestones for Indigeneity – a conference with a difference
From the initial discussions around the feasibility of bringing the conference to Aotearoa New Zealand through to the eventual bid in Curitiba, Brazil, the team at the Health Promotion Forum (HPF) were deliberate in ensuring the place of indigeneity. Indeed, the bid made to the IUHPE Global Executive Board in May 2016, included an indigenous Maori approach that ensured cultural imperatives were attended to from the outset; thoughtfully laying a platform upon which the entire event will be projected. In doing so this conference will provide the basis for unity in diversity for global health promotion, aligning western, eastern and indigenous perspectives across the theme of sustainable development and planetary wellbeing.

There is an unprecedented opportunity for indigenous health promotion leaders to use this platform to share our ideas, strengthen our resolve and promote wellbeing from a specific indigenous perspective.

The overarching theme of the conference for the first time includes the indigenous term “Waiora” loosely meaning “life-giving water”. Similar to “Vaiola” in Pacific vernacular the word relates to the sacred nature of water as a life-giving element. Appropriately, delegates will be situated in the south of the Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water on Earth, the historical home to many indigenous people, all of whom maintain a deep appreciation and affection for the ocean and the islands upon which they depend.

Te Reo Maori a world-first
For the first time Te Reo Maori as an indigenous language will be one of the four official languages of the conference. It will not only be used and encouraged throughout but also built into the official programme. Delegates will be able to experience this from the opening powhiri (Maori welcome ceremony), the inaugural speech in the Maori language by a plenary speaker, Tamati Kruger through to the poroporoaki (closing ceremony) where in each case the language will take precedence. Broadly, indigenous Maori themes, language, storytelling, arts and performance will provide a wonderful array of cultural features to enhance what is shaping up to be a wonderful scientific programme.
Significantly, along with Tamati Kruger four of the other 11 plenary speakers are from indigenous backgrounds. Stanley Vollant, Sir Mason Durie, Tony Capon and Colin Tukuitonga will bolster what is already a strong format for indigeneity at the plenary level. In terms of leadership this group provides a global perspective that will influence indigenous health promotion practice well into the future.
The programme also includes an Indigenous sub-plenary and opportunities to observe and participate in oral presentations, workshops and poster walks where indigenous health promoters and those working in indigenous communities can share their ideas.

Committed to the cause
Some wonderful work is also going on in the background. For the first time a team of guest editors will pull together an Indigenous Supplement to the IUHPE Global Health Promotion Journal to be released in time for the conference. The propensity for a supplement such as this to reach across the globe is not underestimated and the leadership of the IUHPE team working on the journal, the editors and guest editors to engage in such a project is a fine example of commitment to an important cause.
Additionally, a small team is working on drafting a Rotorua Indigenous Statement (yet untitled) to be considered for ratification in Rotorua. Not underestimating the magnitude of this project, the team is looking to include a wide range of perspectives, draw on expert knowledge and finally put out a call for support. At this stage the proposal is to release draft one version early in the New Year for members to consider, followed by a second draft in early March. The third and final draft will be presented at the conference itself and with the support of the delegates, formally endorsed.
In mentioning Rotorua, it should be noted that Te Arawa, the tribal hosts and supporters of the conference are renowned not only for their hospitality but also for their cultural strengths in history, language and arts. These are significant factors which have contributed to tribal, social and economic development not only in the city but across the lake’s region. It is impossible to escape indigeneity in this part of the world. It is an indelible asset that speaks to a world of possibilities, not only for Aotearoa New Zealand but for everyone and every place.

 

Trevor Simpson is HPF’s Deputy Executive Director / Senior Health Promotion Strategist (with Portfolio in Māori development).