The Māori Women's Welfare League National Conference was opened at Rongopai Marae in Te Tairāwhiti, with members being urged not to allow internal conflict to overshadow the responsibility of the organisation and the work that lies ahead.
The conflict arose regarding a constitutional change which saw National President Prue Kapua re-elected for a second term.
Taitokerau branch member Mere Mangu says, “If you stand in that role and take that responsibility, you have one year and then you should step down from that position, don't hold it for yourself.”
A remit by the Otautahi, Waipounamu branch to expel members will be tabled on Friday on the basis that court action by the complainants brought the organisation into disrepute.
Mere Mangu says, “They didn't discuss it among us at our national conferences, that's something for everyone to agree upon, those types of changes. That's the crux of this stance.”
Ripeka Lessels says, “This thing called discussion, sitting down to discuss, to debate the issue so that we can reach an agreement as one, that aspect has been lost.”
Members of the host branch, Te Tairāwhiti, encouraged the wider membership to engage in peaceful, respectful and robust discussion.
Tairāwhiti branch member Meka Whaitiri says, “We've got to remember that at the end of the day that we are strong wahine toa Māori and we've got to work as one, particularly not just for our whānau but actually for our people going forward and of course there's going to be robust debate- that's what the league is about.”
MWWL look to prioritise issues such as breast and cervical screening, breastfeeding and issues around the state care inquiry as key topics.
Kapua says, “We really want to be pushing the government to be talking to us as one of the groups that they should be talking to get the perspective of Māori women. We've got business that we want to be doing over the next few days. Hopefully it won't be consumed by the position of a few people.”
The conference runs until Saturday.