Naida Glavish writes on what the Whanau Ora initiative means to all stakeholders
The Whanau Ora policy has the potential to be one of the most forward thinking initiatives by any New Zealand government for generations.
New Zealand has a reputation for being a testing ground, a population of early adopters of everything from the welfare policies of Michael Joseph Savage in the 1930s to our hunger for new technologies such as cellphones and texting in the 1990s.
In fact we've been a testing ground for millennia, since my Ngati Whatua ancestors voyaged across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) to experiment with a new life in Aotearoa.
Industries like the music business launch new tours and the latest CDs in New Zealand because it is a microcosm of the large Western nations of Europe and the US and a good place to trial something new. We are courageous and innovative as a people and have long punched above our weight when it comes to trying out new ideas.
Our Treaty settlement processes have been watched and admired by indigenous people and government leaders around the world, as developed and developing nations seek to put right the ravages of colonisation and the industrial era that stripped many of their mana, their culture and their resources.
Now, New Zealand again has the opportunity to lead the world with Whanau Ora, that if adequately funded and supported, could significantly impact the well-being, not only of Maori, but of all those in our society who turn up on the radar as negative statistics in terms of health, wealth and lifestyle.
Whanau Ora is an enlightened policy for our times because it is time for reintegration in society, where we seek holistic outcomes to ensure we are healthy in every sense of the word; healthy in mind, body and spirit.
Humanity, in its huge advances in technology and knowledge, has also created suffering; the breakdown of community, of family, alienation and loneliness.
We seem to find new illnesses almost daily; strange allergies, confusing mental sicknesses and viruses. Whanau Ora, in its holistic approach, provides an opportunity to turn the tide on this disintegration of our society, of our health and well-being.
Whanau Ora can be something, not to be viewed negatively as some sort of "iwi money grab", but as a solutions-focused approach to a wide range of issues facing Ngati Whatua and all iwi that include justice, housing, social welfare, health and education.
Whanau Ora is very simple. A basic translation of Whanau and Ora, is family and health. But as with many Maori words there are many depths and dimensions to these two words. They are concepts, holistic concepts.
Whanua, as family, is not only about the extended family, but a family's ancestors, and those not yet born.
Maori families have lost track of the natural order and hierarchies of their whanau. The restoration of this will enable us to achieve "ora", health and well-being physically, mentally and spiritually.
The way to this restoration and reintegration is to develop one-stop shops where the wide range of issues I have mentioned are treated as one whole, and we end the dependence lifestyle where Maori trundle from government department to government department failing to get any resolution or solution to their needs.
This will also end the huge waste of time and money that has failed to impact on the negative statistics.
Whanau Ora has the potential to restore three critical values that are the very essence of life for iwi such as Ngati Whatua - mana, manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga.
Mana is familiar to many in Western society and is often translated as pride. Manaakitanga can be translated as being of service to others, thinking of others ahead of one's self, and kaitiakitanga is often described as guardianship of the environment.
These concepts almost uncannily match the concepts of sustainability; a balance of economic, social and environmental development.
Our providers of goods and services, and those tasked with improving our economic, social and environmental performance could learn a lot from the holistic model of Whanau Ora as it develops, and of the sacred and powerful concepts of mana, manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga.
The world desperately needs a new way forward to survive the major challenges of our times. Perhaps the answers lie in some of our most ancient ideas and cultures that used these structures for living successfully for many thousands of years.
In fact far longer than the economic and societal political and legal structures we use today, that are only several hundred years old and are failing.