Turia: Pacific Health and Disability Awards

Speech – New Zealand Government

Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Health
Thursday 29 August 2013; 6.30pm
Pacific Health and Disability Awards
Holiday Inn, Māngere, Auckland

Firstly, my thanks to Reverend Logopati Mata’afa for your prayers and blessings on this special night.

I want to acknowledge Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow and Dr Teuila Percival for your contribution to Pacific maternal and infant health.

And I want to also thank Hilda Fa’asalele for your welcome- and to pay tribute to the influence and inspiration of your role as the National Clinical Director Pacific Health. I am always grateful for your advice Hilda.

Together all four of you represent the spectrum of specialist expertise and wisdom that cares for our health and wellbeing, from the cradle to the grave. It is, indeed, a strong foundation for this very important celebration tonight.

This evening we take the time to congratulate the recipients of the 2013 Pacific Health and Disability Awards.

Nights like tonight are so exhilarating.

They are unique opportunities for all of us to gaze in utter awe at these amazing young people of the Pacific and in doing so, admire the strength of their parents, their grandparents and their families around them.

It is, if you like, the ultimate expression of Pasifika pride.

We have much to appreciate – and I really want to mihi to the parents, the aunties and uncles, the elders who have encouraged these young students to take the risk, to make a difference by choosing to work in the health sector.

I want to mark this special night by sharing some words by Tongan poet, Karlo Mila in her poem for former MP and Minister, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.

In her poem Karlo describes how Pasifika peoples ‘alter the face of this nation with every birth’. She states:

It is a conversation
Between ocean and history
Genealogy and bone

It is a thin umbilical line
Through time
That pulls us
Reaching between
Destiny and memory

We are navigating
A new constellation
Mapped deep in your bones

An ocean of islands
United

You dream us
A sea of stars
At our feet

Tonight, those dreams are coming into fruition, as we congratulate an incredible 92 recipients of the 2013 Pacific Health and Disability Awards.

Each of you have made a decision to navigate a new journey forward – whether it be in medicine, nursing, oral and dental health, midwifery, allied health or some other area of specialist focus.

This celebration is not only about acknowledging your efforts but it is also about celebrating the development of a highly skilled Pacific health workforce.

The role of improving the health of Pacific people belongs to all of you – and I want to say how proud we all are of every single one of you, for the destiny you are writing for yourselves.

There are many aspects of your journey that should be recognised.

One of the most significant for me, is the sense of your Pasifika self that you bring to every aspect of your study.

Your culture, your upbringing, your connection to your family and community distinguishes you; it differentiates you from others in the health workforce.

Your ability to connect with other Pasifika peoples is absolutely vital to the greater health and wellbeing of all our communities from Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa living here in Aotearoa.

Initiatives like these Pacific Health and Disability Workforce Awards are driven by that knowledge that we need to support our young leaders from the Pacific, in order for you to succeed and make a positive contribution to improving health outcomes.

In this regard, I want to particularly acknowledge Dr Monique Faleafa and Walter Fraser for your support and contribution to the assessment of the 2013 applications, fa’afetai.

I want to also thank Toleafoa Sina Aiolupotea, Pacific Manager of Manukau Institute of Technology for your leadership.
In Karlo Milo’s poem, she describes that sense of navigating a new constellation which is mapped deep in your bones. That new constellation is one which upholds the value of family in enhancing the health and healing of their loved ones.

We will tolerate no more the out-dated view that wellbeing is the exclusive domain of prescriptions and medical interventions; or the fixation with health status only as much as it reflects the absence of disease or illness.

Tangata whenua and tangata Pasifika have always practised a different approach – one in which the strength of our families is intimately connected to the health of the individual.

We need to learn from the confidence and the competence of our ancestors, to be brave, innovative and consistent in applying fully rounded knowledge and experience to the challenges of life. Enjoy your time as a student, learn all that you can and absorb all the information and knowledge that is being given to you.
I see these health awards as really significant – not just in supporting Pasifika students who are committed to Pacific health but also in building the net growth of Pacific health professionals. They are part of a wider programme of increasing and encouraging Pacific students to choose health as a career.

You might be familiar with another initiative – the Healthcare Heroes Programme which the Ministry of Health currently funds and is run in fifteen low to mid decile schools in Auckland to encourage Pacific students to take science subjects in secondary school.

Financial support and encouragement are two pieces of the wider puzzle. We also know mentoring is vital to our Pacific students succeeding and that is why we have invested in the Students are our Future Programme and The Pacific Orientation Programme at the University of Otago.

Finally – this night belongs to you all – to our proud parents; our elders whose ambitions and aspirations for their grandchildren are being realised – and for those younger sisters and brothers who will build on the success demonstrated tonight as they contemplate their own future. Most of all I want to congratulate all the students who have received awards. These awards are not only an investment in your future but the future of our Pasifika communities and indeed the nation. We are all so much better off for your commitment. Ia manuia.

ENDS

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