Mokopuna Ora Seminar Programme

Mokopuna Ora Seminar Programme

Te Whatu Manawa Maoritanga o Rehua Marae, Christchurch

Helen Leahy, Pouārahi, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu

Wednesday 12 October 2016


It is an honour to follow the korero of Lisa Tumahai, and to acknowledge the leadership, the vision and the commitment that Ngāi Tahu have made out of love for the greatest taonga of all – our mokopuna.


Last year at the Hui a Iwi in Dunedin, Lisa launched the wahakura with a very clear message:

  • “From day one, our pepi will know that they are Ngāi Tahu.

  • From day one, our pēpi will have their Ngāi Tahu whakapapa by their side.

  • And from day one, our pēpi can hear the old traditions of their tupuna passed down”.


It is a beautiful gesture of long-term investment; which not only directly targets a reduction in infant mortality, but also associates survival with safety, with security and with pride.


The pride of our future; the legacy we are creating for generations to come.


And it in the true sense of that word legacy, that I want to also mihi to Whakawhetū in all that they have done to save lives, to promote safe sleep, to support wahine to quit smoking, to enable and empower whānau, to agitate, to advocate, to keep the korero flowing.   


It was through their proactive passion along with the specialist expertise of Professor Ed Mitchell and Dr David Tipene-Leach; that a couple of months ago we witnessed a rare and much welcomed policy reversal ending with the Ministry of Health’s unprecedented support to sponsor the introduction of the pēpi-pod or wahakura.


New research was showing Māori infant mortality rates have started to decline in regions with high numbers of pēpi-pods.   At least a dozen coroners had recommended wahakura be given to at risk whānau over the last decade.   


But it was only through the collaborative approach of the academics, the medical specialists, Whakawhetū all working together with one purpose – that the Ministry’s initial decision to not fund the development of the safe sleeping devices was overturned.

We come then, to these two days, to discuss, debate and promote the concept of Mokopuna Ora – a philosophy at the heart of all that Ngāi Tahu is expressing through the initiative of the pēpi-pods; a framework for minimising the risk of infant death through the creative collaboration and courage of Whakawhetū; of Dr Tipene-Leach; of scientists of weavers, of whānau.

My role is to share some ideas around that concept Mokopuna Ora – and in particular how it relates to Whānau Ora.

Two weeks ago veteran Maori activist and artist, Moana Maniapoto, was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.


One of the classics associated with her name is the waiata, Moko.    You might recall the lyrics:


I wear my pride upon my skin

My pride has always been within

I wear my strength upon my face

Comes from another time and place

Bet you didn’t know that every line has a message for me.


The waiata expressed the depth of meaning in the word Moko.

Moko – to be an imprint of your tupuna - Whänau moko mai, te tu, te roa, te poto, tënei ao. You are born marked for success and failure in this world.    Made in their image.  The expression of your genealogy.

Puna : a sacred spring of water; to well up; to flow;

If we go further into the components of the word moko

Mo: for the benefit of

(as in the tribal vision, Mō tātou, a mō ka uri a muri ake nei: for us and our children after us)

Ko: here, now, and in the future; to sing, to dig

(which in the context of Ngāi Tahu links us to the tradition of Nga Puna Wai Karikari o Rakaihautu which tells us how the principal lakes of Te Waipounamu were dug with his famous ko – a tool similar to a spade).

Over these two days then, we are looking at the power and potential of whakapapa, of histories and heritage, of tribal legacies and iwi visions, to protect all our children, to promote and uphold Whānau Ora; Mokopuna Ora (which in my mind is one and the same).


Like the moko carved on one’s face, the ideas we looking at in the Waitaua wananga, are motivated by a story of genealogy, creativity, accomplishment, beauty, identity.


It is about the messages passed from one generation to the next; the wellspring of hope and potential associated with every birth; the belief that our children are the messages we send into another time – they are our here and now which we must nurture well for tomorrow.   They must be free to sing, to discover, to search out new worlds; to live and breathe the notion of complete and utter wellbeing – ORA.


How then, did I come to be honoured with the opportunity to be part of this seminar?

I come to you, with the blessing of the nine iwi of Te Waipounamu who gave life to Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu – the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.


Our name is literally the convergence of the nine rivers…..bringing with it the ebbs and flows, the meandering streams of self-reflection; the rapids of challenge and crisis point; the depth and tranquillity of deep rivers of cultural heritage, history and whakapapa.


Ngāi Tahu; Ngāti Rarua; Ngāti Tama; Ngāti Kuia; Ngāti Koata, Rangi tane ki Wairau, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā To; Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Atiawa.


Our iwi vision is given shape through the representatives of each of the nine iwi – our Taumata chaired by Whaea Molly Luke.


Alongside the Taumata is our General Partner Limited Board, chaired by Matua Norm Dewes.

In the context of our mahi, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has been proud to work alongside the organisers of this seminar, in support of the four key aims for our time together:


  • To increase the knowledge of Sudden unexpected death in infancy across the health sector, agencies, community and whānau;

  • To share ideas and strategies on how we can reduce the SUDI rates in Aotearoa;

  • To network with others

  • And to increase community engagement and awareness.


So where do we start?


What these two days are about is inspiring action, encouraging courage.   That takes leadership – a passion for leadership which resides within us all.  Leadership is pivotal in realising Whānau Ora in practice; leadership is standing tall and proud for our mokopuna; the imprint of their tupuna.


Leadership which is seen in an

  • an opening of the mind: (to challenge assumptions)

  • an opening of the heart (to truly hear one another) and

  • and opening of the will (to see what is really possible).   


So this is part of my story –acknowledging the insights towards Whānau Ora that

  • come from our own experience in our family –

  • both my family of birth and the whānau I was welcomed into through a partnership of love;

  • other insights around how we achieve ORA in our lives has come through my last 15 years working for the aims and aspirations of my mahi through the Maori Party

  • and in particular I acknowledge the life-changing difference made through the words and wisdom of Dame Tariana.


Whānau Ora is about people but it is also powerfully about the places we call home – the beauty of Punakaiki, the wild West Coast is where my mother and our McKay, Boustridge, Peillon ancestors gained the powerful sense of meaning, of identity of belonging.


When we lost Mum, in 2002, we came home to the Coast, to feel again the embrace of the stories, the land, the waters that shaped our knowledge of who we are.


And later that summer, as a family, we spent time exploring the urupā in which my father’s side rest at the top of the South. Some people raised their eyebrows at the notion that we might build a holiday around a tour of Nelson cemeteries – but it was truly one of the most special moments for us as a family.


We found the Leahy connection in the Irish Catholic corner at Wakapuaka; the Flett family cemetery in the Lower Moutere Valley; the Schwass and Schroder ancestors in the German cemetery outside of Hope.


At a time of such loss and sorrow, the gift of knowing ourselves better, strengthening our connections to the essence of who we are was incredibly comforting; it was restorative, it was healing – finding our greatest source of comfort was in our own.

At the time Mum passed away I was forty years of age.


I remember thinking at that time, if there was one gift that came out of our grief, it was to know, powerfully, the healing power, and source of meaning, that comes from the sense of identity, of connection, of belonging


It is the gift that keeps on giving, as we make our commitment to the whakapapa our children link into – all of these relationships help to create the essence of who they are.


But now – it’s back on the waka – but this time, it’s a speedboat – powered by Ngāi Tahu tourism.


I return to the concept of Moko – to be an imprint of your tupuna.


What are the messages, said and unsaid, that our parents hear as they enter into parenthood?   How do they grow in their skills and strategies, their understanding of how to keep our babies free from harm.


I am a powerful believer in the impact of words to weave the world we want our children to grow up in.


How do we share with our young mums that they are carrying a taonga which connects them to a proud history that is theirs.


How do we make sure that our parents are embraced in the love of the collective; to know there is an aunty waiting to help; to support mum and baby to bond, to place baby on the breast; to help train new parents in the greatest role of their life – the change to prepare their children for the future they will inherit.


This wananga is perfectly placed, this week in Baby Loss Awareness week – to think about how all of us can step up to the greatest role that society can play, to support all our children to thrive.


A couple of months ago, a report in the New Zealand Medical Journal says an unconscious bias might be to blame for Maori parents not receiving sleep safe information when engaging with health care services.


Maori babies are five times more likely to die of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy than non-Maori babies, but less than half of Maori families are being given the safe sleep advice, University of Auckland researchers found.


Researcher, Dr Carla Houkamau said health providers need to be educated about subtle and unconscious bias and how that can affect their dealings with Maori patients – what we might also call institutional racism.


Dr Houkamou’s research with Maori and Pākehā GPs shows that some Pākehā GPs find it harder to communicate with Maori patients and Maori are less comfortable, trusting and forthcoming in their interactions with Pākehā GPs.


Only 43 per cent of Maori babies received their first five core contacts, compared with an average 57.7 per cent for all babies.   And of those only 48 per cent received the safe sleeping information.


None of us are under any illusion that we have the perfect circumstances to deal with.


There will be opportunity to look more at these challenges throughout the two days, and particularly in the next session on social determinants of health.


But if there’s one thing I want to really emphasize when I think about the precious relationship between Mokopuna Ora, Whānau Ora, and the world we want all our children to grow up in – it would be in drawing upon the amazing U-turn made in favour of the wahakura as a powerful symbol that if all our forces combine, if we have faith in our own solutions, then change for the good can occur.


I want to just finish with two new ideas that we are supporting in Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu which draw upon Mokopuna Ora and Whānau Ora in a very powerful and personal way.


The first initiative is called 1000 Days.  


Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has invested in 1000 Days Trust to establish a specialised service available to at-risk Southland babies and families during the first 1000 days of a child’s life.  The model, aims to promote early healthy parent/infant relationships, it is about being there in the early hours and the depths of night; to support our parents to care for their babies to sleep safe, to be well, to ask for help. 


The 1000 Days model consists of a residential service, and a comprehensive follow on programme for whānau.   Knowing that the first months of life are crucial to brain development means that we are compelled to intervene as early as possible.


We believe that this is a truly aspirational project, which has the potential to change the trajectory for 1000s of Southland babies and their families.  The model focuses on the parent-child relationships.  It is the parent-child relationship that buffers a child from adversity and builds resilience.  All that 1000 Days is intended to do, is to support parents and whānau with the tools to nurture all our babies to reach their full potential.


The second model, at the other end of Te Waipounamu is an initiative called Waka Whenua.   Inspired by the message, ‘creating tangible expressions of aroha for every family, Waka Whenua is developing a local, sustainable, eco-friendly, bio degradable Ipu – essentially a vessel – a waka – by which to hold the whenua – the placenta, when baby is born.


Waka Whenua is planning to launch on November 20th to coincide with United Nations Universal Children’s Day and to underline their commitment to He Ōati mō ngā Taitamariki ō tō tātou Whenua, the covenant for our nation’s children, signed by seventy iwi leaders at Hopuhopu two months ago.


Their initiative is around focusing on the process of birth; the journey from conception to birth, as a way of keeping the korero going that every child is a taonga.

1000 Days and Waka Whenua are but two ideas that whānau across Te Waipounamu have shared about having conversations that matter, in focusing on mokopuna ora.


Finally, we could also have a conversation in these two days about investing in New Zealand’s children- and what it will take to create an environment of Oranga Tamariki.


We take very seriously the recommendation in this report that Whānau Ora plays a role in assisting whānau to develop a stronger understanding of their own strengths.


We are excited by the invitation to enter into strategic partnerships; the recommendations to provide an opportunity and invite innovation for iwi, Whānau Ora and Maori organisations to  “commission new initiatives and approaches to improve life course outcomes for Maori children and whānau”.


And we agree wholeheartedly with recommendation 30 that all New Zealanders can have a role in providing love, care and support to vulnerable children, young people and their families.


Ngāi Tahu – over seven successive generations of breath-taking sacrifice – negotiated a settlement which is firmly focused on Mō tātou, a mō ka uri a muri ake nei: for us and our children after us.


Whakawhetū, Dr Tipene-Leach, Professor Mitchell, weavers, coroners, and Maori providers stood against the state – and the Minister of Health listened to them and made the change.


1000 Days, Waka Whenua; Tane Ora, Nga Maia, Dr Carla Houkamau, Kathrine Clarke, Lisa McNabb, and the effervescent, ever energetic Jeanine Tamati Elliffe, give us every reason to believe we can do what is required  - to be brave and bold


Now it is our turn, to keep important conversations at the heart of our relationships; to support our parents; to work with GPs; to raise questions when needed; to enter into strategic partnerships; to act in ways which honour the imprint all of our tupuna left for our mokopuna to wear with pride.



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Luke EganComment