“Knowledge is power.” The words of one our greatest athletes, Dame Valerie Adams, stuck with me as I drove home from Te Pae on Thursday night.

Dame Valerie was one of the keynote speakers at Ō mātou reo: Te huarahi ki pae ora (Our voices: The journey to healthy futures), a day-long event run by Te Tāhū Hauora Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Partners in Care team as part of work to ensure consumer perspectives are reflected in the health system.

Dame Valerie was not there to share her steps to success or to talk about the many incredible moments of her career. Instead, she told us about her experience in the health system from the palliative care of her Māmā as a 15-year-old from South Auckland to her IVF journey and the birth of her second child, an event which should have been joyful, but instead lead to immense pain and suffering, both physically and emotionally.

“There is a certain type of expectation that is placed on you when you are a professional in sport,” Dame Valerie told the audience. “You are perceived as being strong, capable of anything and can face the world in a very high pressure situation. But I believe in telling your story in an open and forthright way so that young people, normal Joe Bloggs, can see that you are normal just as much as they are.”

Her emotional story reminded us that even giants can be overlooked and made to feel vulnerable.

To have a voice is one thing, it still needs to be heard and listened to.

The importance of listening was an aspect highlighted by Francis Tipene of the Casketeers, who with his beautiful wife and business partner Kaiora spoke to the audience about growing up on the marae, ritual and ceremony and their relationship to wellbeing.

“The marae is like a university. At this one there is no pen, no paper, back then you took it in through your ears and your eyes and spiritually. Now it makes sense why we were made to sit and listen; it means we have been able to hold onto the teachings.”

As I approached the corner near my home, I thought the voices of Māori, of Pacific people, tāngata whaikaha, kaumātua, and rural and rainbow communities, and the hope that one day there will not be a need to hui to discuss how to build a more equitable health system.

To get there, we not only need to have a voice and be heard, we also need to be trusted to make the best decisions for ourselves.

Ministers visit

Continuing with their Māori Budget roadshow, the Ministers of Whānau Ora and Māori Development were in Ōtautahi on Friday for a breakfast session with the Māori community.

Minister Peeni Henare and Minister Willie Jackson were joined by ministers Rino Tirakatene, Willow-Jean Prime and Rangitata MP Jo Luxton for the briefing, which provided a chance for the community to ask questions and seek greater understanding about the Budget and what it means for them. There was a good representation of the community, including Kōhanga Reo, Māori health providers, education specialists, and others.

Equally, it is important for the Ministers to see and hear what is happening in the community, and after breakast the rōpū were hosted at He Waka Tapu and all that was happening there.

New chapter for Koha Kai

Koha Kai in Murihiku is an organisation with a long-standing relationship with Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu. Founded as a pilot programme in 2015 to support and develop people who live with the challenge of disability, this week Koha Kai celebrated another milestone in its incredible journey, with the soft opening of their new café Tuck Inn at their current premises at 25 Gala St, Avenal in Invercargill.

Pouārahi Janice Lee said that the café would help support their training programme and provide a live learning environment for trainees to develop and apply practical skills, which forms part of their Ako te Mahi (Learning and Earning).

Tuck Inn will service surrounding businesses and whānau who are looking for great coffee and homemade goods. We congratulate Janice and the team on the opening of Tuck Inn.

Co-design workshops

This week the team were in Ōtepoti and Murihiku facilitating Wave 17 agreement co-designs. It is an absolute privilege to journey alongside whānau at this exciting time. In the co-designs, we see the growth in confidence as whānau start to unlock their potential to realise their moemoeā. Sharing these moments in time with whānau and as a team is very special. The team had an hour to spare and took a quick ride to Bluff.

In the spotlight

It was great to open up the May issue of Avenues magazine here in Ōtautahi and see a feature on WAVE recipient Cinnamon Laubscher and her pakihi Wild Skin. Cinnamon has seen solid growth in her range of New Zealand-made, vegan and cruelty-free cuticle oils and they are now stocked in 10 retailers and 90 nail technicians and beauticians nationwide. Cinnamon told the magazine she was humbled by the support she had received from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu. “I feel privileged to be Māori and supported in growing my business. Serving, being humble and hospitable are predominant qualities in Māori culture. So being able to translate that into my business is incredibly important.”

Tālofa lava! O le vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa

Next week we celebrate Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa – Samoa Language Week. The theme this year is ‘Mitamita i lau gagana, maua’a lou fa’asinomaga’, which means, ‘Be proud of your language and grounded in your identity’. The beautiful language of Samoa is the third most spoken language in New Zealand and has many components. There is simple Samoan, and there is more complex Samoan. There is everyday language and then there is respectful language. There is language specific to young people, and then language that pertains to chiefs and orators. Give the Gagana Samoa i Aotearoa Facebook page a like and make the effort next week to discover more.

Last call for Census

There are only a few days left to do the Census, so if you have not already, get it done and make sure your iwi is represented. Census Day was March 7, so you just need to fill out your forms for where you were staying that night. You can complete the census in Māori or English. Click here to get it all done.