Maori leaders take centre-stage
IUHPE2019 Rotorua put Māori culture on the world stage.
Māori culture was woven through the 23 rd International Union for Health Promotion and Education World Health Promotion conference with a powhiri by Te Arawa for overseas guests and delegates setting the tone.
The theme of ‘Waiora: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable
Development for All’ reflected the indigenous focus of the conference, which was attended by more than 1000 delegates from around the world and New Zealand. It was the largest conference Rotorua has ever staged.
For the first time at a world conference, Te Reo Māori was an official language and at an IUHPE conference it was the first time an indigenous legacy statement was released.
An indigenous lounge was set up in the exhibition area of the event, which was co-hosted by the Health Promotion Forum of NZ (HPF), where delegates could watch women from Hapai te Hauora weaving and speak to kaumatua.
Tūhoe leader Tamati Kruger’s speech was met with awe by delegates who
agreed it was powerful and inspiring. “The more we learn, the taller we get. Learning must never have the objective of knowledge. It must lead to action,” he told delegates.
Mr Kruger said it was good for our wellbeing to know who we are. It is not a protest, not a war against anyone but it was a “fight for our rangatiratanga, for our survival … that is our world today.
“Virtues are the habits that all of us need, so we may find the truths in our
culture and in our life,” he said.
“Tūhoe is Mauri ora … Tūhoe are looking for regular experiences of wehi, ihi, wana, in order to build themselves and fix themselves. Wana is a Māori term that generally depicts the thrill, joy and excitement of life and people need that to become decent and healthy people.
“Tūhoe declared Te Urewera, their land is a living being, their mother and can’t be owned. Their truth is based on their identity as Tūhoe. Being Tūhoe is their antidote to despair.”
Mr Kruger explained how Tūhoe was redesigning more appropriate spaces and buildings, criminal justice and crime prevention processes, energy and
recycling procedures and health services.
“Mauri Ora does not have an end date,” he said. He also emphasised the importance of climate change in Te Urewera. “Nature does not need people, people need nature. We don’t own the land. We live with it.
Dame Ann Salmond, Professor in Māori Studies and Anthropology at Auckland University addressed ‘Whaiora: The search for wellbeing”.
Dame Ann shared about the Christchurch shootings and said although there
was a need to acknowledge the racism and hatred that has always been with us, we can be hopeful about the emerging commitment to address these.
“New Zealanders pride themselves on tolerance but there has been much soul- searching in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. It was extraordinary to see New Zealanders reach for Māori values.
“We need to foster aroha and manaakitanga and kotahitanga,” she said.
Dame Ann said effective, accountable and inclusive governance sounded
mechanistic. “We need to look for new ways based on aroha and learn from Māori and Pacific traditions.
“The relations between and among people and other life forms are currently out of balance generating violence. Reciprocity has broken down.
“We need to strive for a state of ora: a balance between the wellbeing of the land, the wind, the sky, the ocean and all forms of life. Human wellbeing is just one element within this network of life,” she said. “If I am the river and the river is me. If the river is dying, I’m dying. It’s not poetry it’s reality, it’s public health. This is a relational theory of how reality works. We cannot separate our people from the environment.
“People are just one element in networks of kinship among all forms of life- health of people, land and oceans are but one.”
Sir Mason Durie who spoke at the launch of the conference emphasised how vital it was that indigenous approaches to planetary health and the health of people were acknowledged.
He talked about Te Pae Mahutonga, also known as the Southern Cross
together with the Matariki or Pleiades constellations to emphasise this.
Both star systems feature prominently across the Pacific as both navigational tools and as frameworks for the health of people and the environment.
He also shared his knowledge of indigenous health promotion and its intimate relationship to the natural world, the cosmos and people.
Sir Mason also reflected on the last two major health conferences held in
Rotorua, the first in 1907 when Māori Sanitary inspectors met for their first general conference. The conference took a health promotion approach.
The second was in 1937 when the Women’s Health League Te Ropu o te Ora, Tunohopu met.