I want to take a moment first to acknowledge all the New Zealanders affected by the devastating terrorist attack of 15 March against our Muslim community in Christchurch.
Professor O’Connor, I was moved by your article No words in The Big Idea in which you described how it felt to sing Whakaaria Mai in the Auckland Town Hall. To quote you, "in its communally created beauty … [the song] was an act of defiance against the ugliness of terror".
Because the arts let us communicate in a unique and direct way, they can help us to process events which we struggle to comprehend. They can help us heal.
Te Ora Auaha is extremely timely in its recognition of the importance of the arts to our individual and collective wellbeing.
I am pleased that through Te Ora Auaha we now have a space for the people and organisations at the intersection of arts, health and wellbeing to become visible to each other and to connect.
The Te Ora Auaha website – which I get to reveal to you shortly – will be a tremendous resource for national communication and learning. It will help individuals and organisations nationwide make those connections that can grow an isolated good idea into a successful, joined-up initiative.
Te Ora Auaha and its website will play a valuable role in bringing together the thinking, experience and expertise that can enable the arts to make a real difference in the lives of New Zealanders.
Wellbeing is a very important concept for this Government. You will have heard of our world-first wellbeing approach to the Budget, which recognises that our economy needs to be working for all of our people.
It represents a big shift to a new compassionate way of policy making that explicitly and unapologetically puts New Zealanders’ wellbeing first – and which generated a lot of positive interest when the Prime Minister spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.
Wellbeing of all the people of Aotearoa must be a key purpose of government
After decades of a mindset that has treated society as a collection of individuals rather than a collective – and after seeing heartrending evidence of the rifts and divisions that can create – it is high time we started to accept that the wellbeing of all the people of Aotearoa must be a key purpose of government.
The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has a role to play in this, because arts and culture are a huge contributor to wellbeing on an individual and societal level.
Not only do arts initiatives contribute to our personal health and happiness in myriad ways, they also help foster tolerance and understanding, building a more inclusive and cohesive society – the kind of society we want our tamariki to grow up in.
Ministry officials are currently collaborating with Statistics New Zealand to develop a specific set of cultural wellbeing indicators.
Contribution of creative spaces to wellbeing
I have also asked the Ministry to provide me with more information about New Zealand’s creative spaces and the contribution they make towards wellbeing in our communities.
Last year I presented the Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award to Ōtautahi Creative Space in Christchurch, and was struck by the power of arts activities to help people’s recovery in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes.
The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is collaborating with the Ministry of Social Development, the Office for Disability Issues, Arts Access Aotearoa and Creative New Zealand in this work – a good example of how important collaboration is, at the points where different sectors intersect.
And that, of course, is the key reason Te Ora Auaha alliance has been formed. I will continue to welcome the connections and the evidence Te Ora Auaha will highlight as we move forward on policy developments in these areas.
Te Ora Auaha has started as it means to continue, as a collective effort. I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate all involved with its development, and all its supporters.
It will be exciting to see Te Ora Auaha continue to grow as a multidisciplinary national community, dedicated to realising the potential of the arts in enhancing wellness and wellbeing in our society.
I am delighted now to declare Te Ora Auaha: Creative Wellbeing Alliance Aotearoa officially launched – and the website officially live.