Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Social Development and Employment
Monday 30 August 2010 11.30am Speech
Visit to Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge
Talofa lava, Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Kia Orana, Taloha Ni, Malo e Lelei, Fakalofa lahi atu, Talofa, Tena koutou and warm Pacific greetings.
My special acknowledgements to:
• Bishop Robin Leamy (Auckland Catholic Diocese)
• Siti Mavoa (Chairman of the Mother of Divine Mercy Charitable Trust)
• Leanne Tiscornia (Director of Catholic Caring Foundation);
• Maria Mavoa, the Director of this Refuge;
• and all who have come together today to share this celebration.
A couple of years ago, the magazine, Rise, devoted an entire page to a photograph of a woman with the most amazing smiling eyes and generous grin – a woman whom was described as a Samoan Mother Theresa; “the Rock”; a woman whose father called her Princess.
That woman was Susana Fiu Fetalai – Aucklander of the Year – and Manager of the Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge.
The title of the article was ‘amazing grace’ and as I have learnt more about Susana – and the work of this amazing refuge those lyrics express such a lot about the dedication and the commitment we find here.
This is a place where women were once lost but are now found; a place where families were blind to the senseless tragedy of family crisis but now they see a new future unfolding in front of them.
This is a place where the wellbeing of mothers matters; a place where those at the grassroots drive the organisation; where success is achieved through a Whole of Family approach.
It is a place that I have been greatly looking forward to spending time at.
You may be aware that I have been advocating for a Whanau Ora approach to be taken across our services; and across our communities.
In many ways the philosophy of the Mother of Divine Mercy is already well on the way towards Whanau Ora.
From what I have heard of your organisation, the key motivation is your belief that everyone deserves to be nurtured in a loving and violence-free home; that others should be treated as you yourself would like to be treated; that we should respect each other; and give shelter to those needing help.
To me this is all about strengthening the role of the village; building the capability of our whanau; being self-managing; taking responsibility.
You have acted on these values in your commitment to provide a safe and peaceful environment to those in need of refuge. But of course this is much more than a site of shelter.
The yellow pages describe Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge as being a 24 hour crisis intervention service for women and children experiencing family violence and abuse, together with emergency accommodation, support, advocacy and community education programmes and individual, couples, and family counselling.
But still you do more.
For right at the top of my list of everything you do and provide, is the reputation you have acquired for being a house of hope.
I am particularly pleased to see so many rangatahi here today. It is wonderful to see the strength of a whanau atmosphere and it is obvious that you are empowering everyone who walks in these doors with a sense of self-belief.
Your investment in the future wellbeing of your people is manifest in the Whole of Family approach. Your emphasis is on helping families to resolve their issues and rebuild their lives.
And I want to return to that story from Rise, in which we learnt how Susana herself, shared the bitter pain of family violence. She let us all into her experience – a time when her extended family couldn’t help; a time when she used to prepare a hideaway in a nearby grove of trees for her and her children to run to.
I want to commend the courage and the inspiration of Susana in sharing her story and allowing others to know they are not alone.
So many of us have endured the horrific humiliation; the agony and the futility of family violence – but to speak of that shame requires a special strength – and so I want to acknowledge everyone here today for speaking out and reaching out for help.
I know myself, that the trauma of seeing my mother’s life haunted by the savage impact of violence will never leave me.
But what Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge reminds us is that the sadness and the grief of violence in the family can be addressed. We can stop the violence; we can heal the broken hearts; and we can take our families forward to ensure that every child deserves love and caring; every home can be a safe haven.
I want to particularly acknowledge your dedication towards making a difference for the children.
I have heard of your desire to build a Youth Centre to support the work you have done with your Youth programme.
And I congratulate you on all of the aspects of support you have included in the programme, “Our Kids: Our Treasures”.
The great diversity of that programme with child-centred counselling; after school homework sessions; sports; music and dance lessons, holiday programme; cultural activities and all of the extra touches to help support your tamariki in school shows me the emphasis you place on the children as the focus of the future; the heart of the family.
All of us here know the enormous pressures that families are under – the financial strain that threaten their capacity to provide; the influence of alcohol and other drugs; employment instability; rising rents. All of these factors cause tensions to explode and end all too frequently in the incidence of violence
You have provided a much needed refuge for families to turn to, at times of despair.
But there is something else that I want to particularly commend you on – and that is your insistence on the value of your cultural assets – the people of the Pacific.
I know that you have felt the warmth of the Auckland Pacific Provider Family Violence Prevention Network – a strength that can not be under-estimated.
The collaboration and partnership each of the providers within the networks invests in is a real boost to your collective strength. It is about expertise; it is about best practice; it is about being nested in the richness of your own cultural worldview.
Both the Network; and the Mothers of Divine Mercy Refuge; are united in your approach to your families. The women who walk through these doors become part of you. You work to retain connections with them; and to ensure their homes stay safe for them and their children.
And in turn I know that mothers have returned to the refuge to volunteers their support; children and young people have returned to help out with the Youth Programme.
And this is exactly how it should be – aroha mai, aroha atu. Love given, love returned.
I want to thank everyone here for the investment you have made in hope – you have shown us all the power and potential of our families to restore themselves to the essence of who they are.
I know that you wanted me to speak to you about Whanau Ora – but I really want to turn the time over to you, so that I can learn from your experiences, your challenges, your successes.
I truly believe that if we walk this pathway together, it will be our shared understanding and our collective belief, that will restore amazing grace to all of our homes.
Tena tatou katoa