The late Dr Moana Jackson described the whatihua as “the active cosmos that curves into the sky between the dreams of the seen and the unseen…boundless in its vision and inspiring in its reach.” For me, that is the promise and possibility of Whānau Ora.
Whānau Ora starts from that premise – that we should dare to dream it, believe it, then build it. From our Navigators with Manawhenua ki Mohua in Takaka and Te Āwhina Marae in Motueka, through to Wave initiatives led in Rakiura, in Rēkohu/Wharekauri, west to Hokitika and Kawatiri; east to Kaikōura and Koukourarata: we have seen over 600 models of inspiration change the future their mokopuna would inherit.
It is breathtakingly beautiful.
On 13 March 2014 Ngā Iwi o Te Waipounamu gathered to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that would lead the way for Whānau Ora in the South Island.
A vision signed up to by Te Taumata: Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō; Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāi Tahu; Rangitāne ki Wairau; Ngāti Rārua; Ngāti Toa Rangatira; Te Atiawa o te Waka a Māui; Ngāti Tama ki te Waipounamu. They made a decision to invest in whānau oranga through whānau self-determination. From the pursuit of rangatiratanga, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu was born.
Whānau have set up low-cost GP clinics; created Kākano Cafe in the innercity and on Māori TV; build Soul Full food; donated ipu whenua to every hapū Māma; made the world’s best dumplings; gave Niho Taniwha to every school; addressed intergenerational trauma; the youngest CEO in Aotearoa received funding for her company Pōtiki Poi; the Waves have provided space for tangata whaikaha to claim their dreams; fed the homeless; supported Te Pātaka and Kohatu Kai; Koha Kai; Manaaki condiments and Manaaki gifts; the Gift Sisters; Angel Trio; Hawaiki Kura and Hikoi Waewae; provided mobile outreach to those the system has cast aside; distributed Reo Pēpi books to every kohanga; given whānau a second chance at success; ignited the spark of self-belief.
The ripples radiate far and wide.
It is a wave that keeps rolling; a momentum with a dynamic flow that nothing can stop – no flood too deep; no earthquake too savage; no pandemic too cruel.
When the going gets tough – as it does – the tough keep going.
Because the rush of inspiration and innovation knows no bounds.
There is no greater purpose than the drive of self-determination.
No greater reason than the future our whānau want to map out for themselves; to chart their own pathway forward; to be the solution.
As I write this on the dawning of my last day as Pouārahi, I am overwhelmed with grief and calm; walking a tightrope between such sadness at leaving and incredible belief in the magic of what whānau are doing for themselves. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to be walking alongside wonder in a muliplicity of ways. I will treasure my memories of your manaaki; hold dear to the dreams you believe in and built; and never ever forget my absolute love for you all. My heart will be linked with yours until the end of time. Because Whānau Ora is the love story that keeps on keeping on. Believe it. Be it. Live it.
As we prepare ourselves for a potential second wave of Omicron, as well as other variants that may still be on the horizon, it is concerning to see that vaccination and booster rates for Māori – especially tamariki – continue to lag behind the rest of the country. This week I shared my vaccination story – visit here to read it in full.