Heartprints from the Talking Child

" The true measure of your courage is not whether you reach your goal – it’s whether you decide to get back on your feet no matter how many times you’ve failed’ (Oprah Winfrey, 2014) "

Photo : Doug Sherring

Photo : Doug Sherring

This last week the team at Te Puna Oranga had the special thrill of savouring the words of inspiration from someone affectionately known as the ‘talking child’. Talkback Queen, Oprah Winfrey, held an audience spellbound, as she shared her life’s journey.

Te Puna Oranga is funded by Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu to develop unique resources to support whānau in building resilience.  Their aspiration in doing so is to strengthen whānau to have control over their destinies, to enjoy a quality of life that is free from violence, and to achieve their aspirations, dreams, and visions.    So in many ways the message from Oprah resonated perfectly with the work they have dedicated themselves towards: to live without fear; to know that every moment you are a single choice away from a new beginning.

In many ways, that is the ultimate driver for Te Pūtahitanga – that each of us pursue our purpose with passion.   And in doing so we can be sure that each heart print we make; each person’s life that we touch, becomes our legacy.

It is in that spirit that I want to acknowledge two particular persons of Te Waipounamu who have always achieved the impossible; who have dared to dream no matter what.

The first is Aunty Kiwa Hutchen ( Ngāi Tahi, Whānau-a-Apanui; Ngāti Porou ) – patron saint of Te Puna Oranga – who last week was farewelled and celebrated for her retirement from a lifetime of service to Otautahi Maori Women’s Refuge – now known as Te Whare Hauora.  Not that any of us believe she will retire…..and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 


The second is Gary Williams ( Ngāti Porou ), who just last week was inducted into the Attitude Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame is the highest honour; it celebrates outstanding individuals who has given lifelong service to the disability community.  For 40 years Gary Williams has resolutely fought to make the world a better place for disabled people.  He and his wife, Ruth Jones, have established a leadership group to ensure there is an active attitude of accessibility in the Christchurch rebuild.


This time of year is characterised of course by graduations and end-of-year prize-givings as schools, learning institutes, providers recognise the end of the year and prepare for Christmas. Te Pūtahitanga was particularly impressed by the new twist on the Christmas spirit presented by Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Whanau Tahi – with their Whanau Tahi Christmas basket; 


And their new take on the conventional Christmas tree.  Their interpretation of the trinkets on the Christmas tree was to express the enduring value of the kaupapa that their kura endeavours to uphold: te reo Maori; manaakitanga; aroha; kaitiakitanga; tino rangatiratanga.


As we prepare for the Christmas season, there is another kaupapa that Te Putahitanga would like to add to our collective tree : whanaungatanga.   

If there was one resounding message from the korero of Oprah Winfrey it was about the value of gratitude.    She had a practice of keeping a gratitude journal, writing at the end of the day five things that she was grateful for.  Sometimes we become so fixed on the heights of the hill we are climbing, that we forget how lucky we are to have a maunga within our sights in the first place.  

So this Christmas let’s look around our dinner table and reflect on the wisdom and courage of our whanaunga – those like Aunty Kiwa or Gary who have lived their life fighting for a better world for us all.   Let’s appreciate the lessons and the legacy of those no longer with us who left such a strong heartprint in their place.   And let us look with wonder at those tamariki and mokopuna who deserve the very best future that we can all create.


Meri Kirihimete me te Tau Hou!


The team from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu