Last May all Maori welfare officers met at Paraparaumu for a week's up-to-date lectures and discussions which helped their thinking about Welfare. Here are the impressions of one man who attended the course.
Training Course at Paraparaumu
SINCE the passing of the Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act in 1945, two or three different Conferences have been held and all at Parliament Buildings. In my own experience I have only attended one other and that was at a General Conference of Welfare Officers held in 1954.
There the setting proved unsatisfactory in that the Administration sat at the one end of the Hall and the District Welfare Officers at the other so that an atmosphere of awe, first in regard to Administration Officers and secondly in the placing of the Senior District Welfare Officers in a position, that accentuated their seniority. Partly because of the kind of topic discussed at these earlier meetings any individual Welfare Officer standing to express an opinion would not enjoy freedom and self-confidence.
In other words a class consciousness was created, not deliberately but there nevertheless. Placing everyone at the same level means that the Seniors have to come down from the clouds so to speak and the reserve of the individual Welfare Officers broken down. This was accomplished quite noticeably at our Residential Course from the first day on, first because of the attitude of our Seniors and secondly because of the very nature of the term Residential Course, in which all participants, lecturers and students alike shared not only working hours but leisure hours as well; if one could term such off-duty hours as leisure hours. In fact all the time was spent in discussing the various aspects of the Course from the opening session to each successive subject and afterwards.
Before the course much speculation was evident but the plan of the course became clear when the Secretary Mr T. T. Ropiha and the Controller Mr C. M. Bennett made their opening addresses saying that the time would be utilised in improving the technique in the execution of our work as Welfare Officers.
I sincerely consider that this has been achieved and although the outward appearance of any individual Welfare Officer may not have altered I reiterate by saying that inwardly an emotion has been stirred with intent to act and work harder for the purpose of achieving good and not only good but a general spirit of goodwill firstly among our own people and also with the pakeha. The pakeha knows his own position and his capacity and therefore acts accordingly; for ourselves our situation is known but our full capacity has not been completely extended and therein lies the challenge to all Maoris who hold responsible positions be they the leaders of the community, the school teachers, the farmers, the man in the professions, the employer of labour, the contractors, those in business, those in executive positions and last but not least, the Clergy. And what of the parent? Theirs would be the greatest task of all; and upon them falls the privilege of accepting the challenge, bearing in mind that if the capacity is there all the resources possible should be applied to aid those who possess the ability.
Nothing in the week of instruction, discussion and debate can be really considered new to the Maori Race. Nothing that emerged from those to whom we were privileged to listen was difficult to comprehend and this I record as a tribute to all of the lecturers who obviously knew their subject
and furthermore enjoyed giving their respective addresses. Add to that, personality, and ability to understand the Maori situation, plus a sincere desire to help and it will be understood why we the Welfare Officers rate this Course the best ever held. Dealing with the first sentence in this paragraph, almost in every subject parallels with past history could be made whether it was with Child Care, Education or Budgeting. The very nature of the Course suggested the Whare-wananga of old with each day beginning and ending with a short Karakia. Certainly, only a short prayer but delivered with equal fervour and sincerity with those incantations of old. And the Tohunga, was he present too? The Tohunga, the paramount being, the navigator, the astronomer, the psychiatrist, the doctor, the tutor…I would say yes and again I pay tribute to our lecturers who in part re-portrayed the duty of that once prominent gentleman.
The venue of the Course, how does that compare with the past? Situated in the low rolling hills of Paraparaumu the Conference Room encased completely with large windows overlooking the sea, and a stone's throw from Kapiti Island and the shadow of Te Rauparaha dancing across the rolling waters really made the atmosphere tense and exciting and it was this very scene that inspired and provoked a remark at the conclusion of the discussion on Budgeting, when we all subscribed to the opinion that it was something new to the Maori. Yes, new to the Maori of today.
How could it best be advocated to our people as the proper way to set our daily lives? By the use of the graph system of division with each item cut to fit its proper place in the family income. That would be the method by which we could deliver our subject on the appropriate occasion. Certainly the idea is good we all agreed.
But then, budgeting to the Maori is not new it is something that is inherent and only requires a re-awakening as to its suitability and usefulness to us the Maori of today.
Let us turn back the clock six hundred years to the period when a fleet of canoes left the shores of Hawaiki and what do we see? Months and perhaps years of preparation for the journey across the vast oceans with only a small canoe to carry the manpower, the energy…the instruments…the stores of food, all within that limited space. Every item calculated to give its full capacity, every muscle trained and tested to its full ability. Sir Peter Buck in his “Vikings of the Sunrise” calls it the budgeting of resources. We can correctly assume that that was no hit or miss journey but maybe “Tangaroa” had some protecting influence on the safe conduct of those budget minded Polynesian Vikings. Nevertheless there is the lesson which we can all do well to remember.
What other matters arose that would be of general interest? Such terms as non-directive approach as against direct approach to any problem. This means to let the people decide on the course they wish to pursue (let them direct their own course) and restrict our work to guiding them (showing them by what means they can get to where they want to go). The first is recommended by the School of Social Science not only as a method of approach but also as a means of obtaining a solution to a problem. And then again we have another new term…emotional maturity. To dissect and analyse needs a scientific mind to determine the full implication and meaning of this term. Are we, or is anybody emotionally mature? To what extent or degree does one claim this maturity? I cannot give a satisfactory answer to that one.
The Value of Social Science
Some of our Welfare Officers are products of the School of Social Science. Many of us are not and cannot claim any academic qualifications either, but the point arises as to whether these qualifications are absolutely necessary or not and if they are whether they should come before one undertakes the work of a Welfare Officer or after they have had the experience of the outside world:
I am reminded of the words spoken by a German social worker, Mr A. T. Blaschke, who attended a University Refresher Course with a group of Social Workers in Wellington in 1952. He was himself a student at the Berlin Seminary of Social Workers prior to the Nazi Regime. These were his words:
No one can really know just how much the other person is suffering unless he has suffered the same experience himself. No one can full understand the meaning of loneliness until he has stood alone in the world. To acquire this experience one does not need academic qualifications, and understanding does not necessarily come of a university training but academic training will be a help. The true social worker does not regard his work as a job or a profession, but as calling”. There are some who say proudly. “I am a product of the School of Hard Knocks and experience was my Master”. The school may well have taught the lesson but possibly a little of the scientific skill could have diminished the hard knocks.'
The German gentleman's final analysis was very well delivered in this fashion:
‘I advocate that future social workers should undertake a course of alternate six month periods in various occupations in the field with the people with whom he intends to work—without pay…and the other six months at the University so that in the course of time will have gained experience and the acquired skill of the Social Scientist.'
Welfare officers take every opportunity to stimulate Maori arts in a practical way…some lady welfare officers give a demonstration at the league conference in Christchurch last April. (Green and Hahn Photography).
To us who attended the Course at Paraparaumu the scientific approach is recognised to the full and we fully appreciate the very good people who in every way contributed the worthwhile addresses and arranged the very stimulating discussions that took place and if we in our lifetime can fully apply all that was put forward, then the success of the Course is assured.
Our special thanks to Professor Minn, John McCreary, John Booth, Charles M. Bennett and Bill Herewini for the splendid manner in which they controlled proceedings and to all the other lecturers who gave of their time to address us in the very able manner that they did.
In the absence of the Minister of Maori Affairs, Mr Corbett, we were honoured with the presence of the Minister of Welfare. Dame Hilda Ross, who in the short time at her disposal gave the impression that she enjoyed our company.
For the lighter side of proceedings, yes we had time for that. A concert programme was arranged for the night prior to our departure. What Maori gathering overlooks this important function? As a member of the second intake of Welfare Officers I cannot comment on the programme of the first group but I understand that they had a first class programme under the leadership of Peter Awatere, Brownie Puriri and Jimmy Pou.
For the second group the organisation was in the capable hands of Waka Clarke, Peter Kaua, Maud Tamihana, Sam Mitchell and Wi Amaru. To an audience who literally dropped out of the sky (fifty plane passengers were marooned at 6 p.m. because of the wet weather and had to spend the night at the hotel) Waka Clark, compere, introduced the “Musical Extravaganza of 1957” with the first number “Down at Paraparaumu” conducted by Professor Amaru and rendered by the Eight Singing Fools “a la” Platter style. The programme varied from singing to magic mysteries of the East with thirty six items to complete, the final being a stirring haka led by John McCreary in full cry “Koko Ma Ko Koko Ma” less the bagpipes of course.
We are grateful also to the Management of the Majestic Hotel for the splendid service rendered and the wonderful supper they provided not only for the Conference Group but also for the plane travellers who, with the Management, were our guests for the concert.
This week was a really great deal of benefit to us all personally and I sincerely hope that in time our people will also gain by our renewed outlook, shown and demonstrated.
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Many visitors from New Plymouth and coastal districts as well as from the South Taranaki area took part in the Methodist Maori Mission's June rally held at Wesley Church and Hall, Hawera, recently.
Choir competitions held during the rally were judged by Mr Lynch of New Plymouth. The winner of the Emma P. Rangi Memorial Challenge Cup for the junior competition was the local Ngatiki choir under the leadership of Mr Morehu Whareaitu. The Te Mutunga Challenge Cup for senior groups was won by Te Awhina club from New Plymouth under the leadership of Mr K. Euruiti.