Pursue The Distant Horizons, Grasp TheOpportunities

Close to Hand - Ko te pae tawhiti, whaia, Ko te pae

tata, whakamaua kia tina.


The Rt. Hon. Helen Clark,  Prime Minister.




Tena koutou katoa.  Sir Graham, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and the many leaders - young, and some not quite so young, but young at heart - who have come tonight and to this conference. This is a wonderful gathering.


I've looked back, as I am sure you have, at the history of the Young Maori Leadership conferences.  I have read about the first one that Sir Apirana Ngata brought together in 1939, and I am told that Bishop Manu Bennett was at it.  That conference discussed issues like economic conditions, employment, housing, health, and education.  


In 1959 the second Young Maori Leadership conference was held.  In between the first two conferences came World War Two, in which the Maori Battalion distinguished itself on the battlefields.   In the course of the war and the post-war years, many Maori moved away from the countryside into the cities.  By 1966, some fifty per cent of the Maori population was in the cities.  At that second Young Maori Leadership Conference were Merimeri Penfold, Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan, Pat Hohepa, Whakahuihui Vercoe, and Whatarangi Winiata - all names of leaders whom we have come to know so well over the years.


In 1970 the New Zealand Maori Council proposed another conference, this time to focus on the issues arising for Maori in the towns and cities.  It attracted one hundred delegates and fifty observers. Ranginui Walker was there, Maanu Paul, Hone Kaa, Neville Baker, Sid Jackson, Hugh Kawharu, and Turoa Royal were all there.  In 1977, there was another conference.


What I want to say to the young people, the rangatahi, who have come, is that you are the leaders of the future.  But, as our elder said when he introduced me, you are also the leaders of the present.  You and your whanau are going to define the path of Maoridom for the twenty-first century, and it is very appropriate to have this Leadership Conference in the first year of the new century.


The programme for this Conference has two distinct, but linked, themes. The first is about developing leaders, realising leadership potential and setting goals. The second is about the issues before Maoridom today with which its leaders must deal.


Let me comment first on issues of leadership, something I know a little bit about! I'll share some of the things I've learnt with the young people here.  One of your sessions said, ‘leaders are made not born’. That is absolutely true - leaders are made. 


As I think of my own experience, I was a child who was too shy even to give a morning talk at school.  If you came from an isolated rural farm as I did, with no early childhood education, then school was not an easy experience.   When I started school, I developed asthma so badly that my mother withdrew me from school and taught me at home. I think that what helped me develop leadership skills was being the eldest of four girls, having very supportive parents, and being given huge opportunities through education.  I think the most important thing we can do for our children, after loving them and caring for them, is supporting them in their education.  With education comes knowledge, and with that comes confidence.   If there is one message all of us in our different leadership roles have to stress, it is the absolute importance of education for rangatahi.


To be effective as a leader you must set goals.  If your goal is nothing, you will hit it every time.  You need to be task-oriented.  Reaching the goal that you set is going to take a lot of effort, because almost anything that is worthwhile requires a lot of hard work to get there.  You need to be organised and quite disciplined about the way you do it. As a country, we are actually quite hard on our leaders.   Our ministers and members of parliament are always on the go and give of themselves all the time. I see so many leaders in Maoridom and the general community who do the same.  It is really important as a leader - young leader, middle-aged leader, and older leader - to keep time for the family and yourself as well.  You need to keep that balance. 


It is also important in leadership to be networking with others.  That's what this Conference is about - you are sharing ideas with each other.  You are identifying other people who are interested in following a similar path and in developing leadership skills to put something back into the community. I would say to everyone who is here, whether young leaders, middle-aged leaders, or older leaders, that they should value the importance of mentors.  For the older leaders, always think of the young ones on the way up behind you who need a bit of a steer, and support them.


The final point I wanted to make about leadership is:  always remember who put you in the position of leadership.   It is really important in leadership to have a characteristic called humility.  Remember who put you there: your whanau, the community, and the people around you.


I now want to come to some of the issues facing young Maori leaders. Many of the issues identified at the first conference in 1939 are still current concerns: economic conditions, employment, housing, health, education, and community issues.  On the other hand, some things have changed a lot since 1939. During the course of my lifetime, and I was born in 1950, I have seen New Zealand develop from a place where the Treaty of Waitangi never got a mention in Pakeha communities. The treaty never died in Maoridom, but Pakeha were unaware of its significance.


The Treaty is now central to public life.  It has a major impact on just about everything we do in government, one way or another.  We have come a long way in the last half-century.  The change came with events like the setting up of the Waitangi Tribunal in the early 1970s; the land march which Dame Whina Cooper led in 1975; the occupation at Bastion Point, and the decision in the 1980s to enable treaty claims to be taken back to 1840.  From that decision we have seen recognition to Tainui of the wrong that was done with the land confiscation. 


I grew up on a farm on confiscated land and I know exactly what Tainui lost.  They lost land, and they lost mana, but a process for redress was set in place in the 1980s.  When the Waitangi Tribunal reported on Ngai Tahu’s claim, the public could see why Ngai Tahu had been petitioning the Crown for almost 150 years.  A process was found to work that through in direct negotiations with the Crown. I am very optimistic about the processes we have developed.  They may not seem fast enough, or far enough to some, but they do represent real change.  In that process of change, new issues have been able to come to the fore. 


A couple of weeks ago, our government announced that the Maori television service would start next year, and we're very optimistic about its future.  This service's time has come.  There are many things happening in Maoridom and the television service will be able to pick them up, reflect them, and show them on screen.  It will give confidence to young people who are learning te reo, right through from kohanga onwards. The television service is going to be a very important part of the cultural renewal and language renewal of Maoridom.  Parekura Horomia also announced new initiatives to promote te reo Maori.


The approach that we have taken to the socio-economic issues is different from the past.  The New Zealand experience suggests that mainstreaming programmes from the centre actually doesn't really work well.  What we are endeavouring to do is turn the process on its head and develop a partnership approach.  That means supporting capacity building in Maoridom so the partnerships can be effective.  


Back in the mid to late 1980s, many Maori social and economic initiatives began.  Those initiatives are now mature, sophisticated networks of providers, purchasers, and sometimes co-funders in areas like health, social services, and education. Some of the projects we have been able to start in partnership this year, like the first ever Maori family violence prevention programme, will be a model for others to build on.


We have seen other wonderful initiatives.   I think of one in South Auckland where Maori have come together to try to help young people on the streets.  I have much more confidence that this is going to work than the traditional social welfare approach to that situation. Recently, I was briefed on the partnership that Maori Wardens have with the inner city police in Auckland.  Cruising the streets and parks of Central Auckland at midnight and three in the morning, the wardens are reaching the street people where they are, and making a difference.   What we are seeing is not only a tonne of capacity, but a lot of people willing to come forward and get involved in the many initiatives which are happening in Maoridom - across the social, health, education, housing and employment areas, and in the business facilitation service.


Yesterday I launched the Maori smoke free campaign advertisements.  The theme of the campaign is, ‘it’s about whanau’. In one of the advertisements, Peter Sharples comes on and says, ‘I gave up smoking because I wanted to see my mokopuna grow up’.  It's a very powerful message.  Maori designed these advertisements for Maori.  They focus on whanau, and on whakapapa. 


There is one more general point I want to make tonight about what is happening in the world of work and the world of the economy.  You might have seen last week on television the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland.  Probably people thought, ‘oh well, those people up there, they're not talking about us’.   Yet there was one very basic message out of that conference, and it relates back to what was being discussed at the first Maori Leadership Conference in 1939 – the importance of education.  It is now more important than ever before.


When I was at high school in the mid 1960s, it was still possible to leave school at age fifteen, get a job, and expect to be employed for life.  These days, that just isn't so.  Education is now critical.  Lifelong learning is critical.  Catching up with adult literacy programmes for the people who have missed out is critical. In New Zealand today there is big demand for educated and skilled Maori.   There is a tremendous demand for skills in Maori organisations - to run the businesses, lead the health services, to teach in the schools, and run the housing projects.   In the general community there is also appreciation of the absolute necessity of having Maori input.   The corporate world is looking for Maori prominent in the law.   We need more Maori in teaching, in health, and in so many areas.  The message has to be that nothing is more important than education and skill. 


As I have moved around the many different areas of Maoridom this year, I have been very impressed by the energy and the dynamism in the community.  The things that are happening excite me. As young people, you are moving into a world where Maoridom is more confident than ever before, more assertive, and wanting to take giants strides forward.


It is good that this Conference has come together and that it has had this overwhelming number of people turn up.  This is the beginning of the twenty-first century. Look ahead, strategise and plan, because the future of Maoridom is in the hands of the young people in this room.  You and your whanau are going to make the difference.