Global, Maori health promotion

Te Reo at conference is a world-first

Having Te Reo Maori as one of the four official languages of the World Conference on Health Promotion in New Zealand next year is a world-first for Maori and other Indigenous cultures.

The 23rd IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion: WAIORA: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable Development for All will be held in Rotorua from April 7-11.

Like the other dying languages of the 370 million Indigenous peoples of the world, Te Reo Maori is the repository for the Maori culture – values, knowledge, practices and history.

Sione Tu’itahi, the conference co-chair and Executive Director of the Health Promotion Forum which is the local co-host, says having Te Reo Maori as one of the four official languages of the conference is one way of acknowledging the rights of Indigenous peoples.

“Te Reo Maori is the native tongue of Maori, the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand.  It is also one of the official languages of our country,” says Mr Tu’itahi.

“Given that we are co-hosting this world conference, it is only right that we honour Te Reo Maori this way, especially when it is rights guaranteed for Tangata Whenua under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the founding document of modern New Zealand.”

One of the underlying themes of the conference, Indigenous knowledge on health promotion and sustainable development can offer solutions to our global challenges today, adds Mr Tu’itahi. “Indigenous knowledge enunciates that humanity and its environment are one. But we are confronted by environmental challenges, including climate changes, because of our dominant mainstream approach of separating humanity from the rest of the environment and exploiting the latter for our socio-economic gains.”

Trevor Simpson, the Deputy Executive Director/Senior Health Promotion Strategist (with Portfolio in Māori development) says “for the first time an indigenous plenary speaker will address the IUHPE World Conference in our indigenous language, Te Reo Maori”.

“This in turn will be simultaneously translated into the other three official languages of the conference – English, French and Spanish. This presents a wonderful opportunity for Aotearoa, New Zealand to take a leading role in building indigenous notions of health promotion through promoting the use of indigenous language.”

Mr Simpson points out that Maori Health Promotion is premised on the idea that world views and cultural identity are central and imperative to achieving positive Maori health outcomes.

“Te Reo Maori provides the basis for understanding how these views are formed in the first place and also illustrates how identity, language and wellbeing are intertwined.”

The conference theme sets the direction and intent of the conference that will attract health professionals, development experts, policy-makers and other professional leaders to Rotorua, the first city to be bi-lingual, and also the cultural capital of New Zealand.

A highly educational and informative scientific programme is being drafted while an equally attractive social programme is being shaped up.