Building relationships with iwi – a regional and a national initiative

While eight tangata whenua iwi in the top of the South Island came together recently to improve outcomes for tamariki in education; another initiative has provided support for a growing number of principals and schools throughout several regions to connect with hapū and iwi since 2013.

Read More

Te Tauihu iwi forge connections with schools

An iwi-led education symposium held in Nelson/Whakatū in late October 2022, named ‘Kia Wetewetea, ko Maui ahau’, successfully introduced all eight iwi of Te Tauihu (the northern South Island) to teachers from across the early education, primary and secondary sectors.

“It was wonderful, really great for us,” said Matangi Āwhio (Auckland Point) kindergarten head teacher Michelle Dons. “It felt like it was well-organised, but it also felt real. People speaking from the heart and sharing their knowledge, it was lovely.

“One of the great things was making sure that we know stories from the eight iwi. We might hear one story, but Matangi-āwhio, where we are, was a pā, kainga and tauranga waka site with links to the eight iwi, so we want to make sure we’re hearing everybody’s voices. We really feel that we owe it to the history of this place to get it right.”

Speakers and presenters at the symposium were very approachable, and meeting them kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) opened up the possibility of further communication. “Now we can say we heard about your pukapuka or resource at the symposium. It gave us that kind of icebreaker to be able to start the kōrero,” said Michelle.

The symposium was organised by Te Kāhui Matauranga o Te Tauihu o te Waka-a-Māui, a collective formed in 2019 of the eight tangata whenua iwi of the region – Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama ki te Waipounamu, Ngāti Toa Rangatira ki Wairau, Rangitāne o Wairau and Te Atiawa o te Waka-a-Māui – to work alongside the education sector. 

With support from the Nelson Kāhui Ako (Community of Learning) and the Nelson Tasman Kindergarten Association, many schools and kindergartens in the region closed for the day so all their staff could attend. Over 1,100 people attended, says Hayley Pemberton, who is chair of Te Kahui Matauranga o Te Tauihu o te Waka-a-Māui, and representative for Ngāti Toa Rangatira in the group.

“They’ve known for some time that we’ve been working towards something, so it feels good to have them come out in support.” 

The theme ‘Kia wetewetea, ko Māui ahau!’, ‘free me, I am Maui’ resonated with attendee Bruno Watkins, assistant principal at Nayland College, Nelson, of Te Rarawa descent. His own son, aged five, is fascinated with Maui, and his positive (and cheeky) characteristics.

“Māui is a big part of our pūrākau, our reading panui at the moment at home. And the theme also made me think about how some of our school structures can be detrimental, undermining children’s freedom of exploration, inquiry and expression. All those things that we value. They framed the kōrero and the wānanga throughout the day around that, which was really cool.”

While the symposium was just a beginning, it was a positive start which also challenged teachers to tackle the racism in their schools and begin a relationship-building process with iwi.

The symposium grew out of an initiative called Te Hurihanganui, which began working several years ago with early childhood education (ECE) services and schools in the region to lift their awareness about unconscious bias, with the support of a research and development group called Poutama Pounamu based at Waikato University. This pilot has involved three ECE services, a kura kaupapa, two primary schools, an intermediate and a college – all in Nelson.

Hayley Pemberton, chair of Te Kāhui Mātauranga o Te Tauihu. Photo: Melissa Banks/Te Kāhui Mātauranga o Te Tauihu o te Waka-a-Māui.

The Hurihanganui-led process lays the groundwork for starting to engage with iwi and learn different pūrākau or stories relevant to the identity and history of the eight iwi, says Hayley.

“They need to address their own bias around what they think Māori means, and whether its important or not. Then we can come in and support the teaching of history. So they need to move forward or at least address some of that, so we can work as iwi within kura.”

Because many of the teachers at the large symposium were Pākehā and at various levels in their understanding, there was acknowledgement at the start of the hui that some aspects might make them uncomfortable, but they were encouraged to remain in their seats, or at least come back in after taking a breather. Support-people were provided for those who might want to talk through how some of the terminology might make them feel, such as ‘white supremacy’, ‘colonial settler’, and ‘colonisation’.

 “They really encouraged people to lean into the uncomfortableness that they might face around the discussions of histories from an iwi perspective, and also, and experiences of racism in the education sector,” shared Bruno. “And they did a really good job of fronting that at the beginning, in a way that showed aroha and manaaki, to all those educators that were there.”

As Hayley says, the feedback was mostly very positive and many expressed the hope that there would be another similar symposium in 2023. With the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories/Te Takanga o te Wā curriculum changes now mandatory, many ECE services, kura and schools will be keen to continue progressing the kaupapa.

Arahou Aotearoa – Changing hearts and minds

Another initiative, focussing on supporting principals to improve iwi-educator relationships is Te Arahou Aotearoa, the Māori Achievement Collaborative (MAC). The programme was sparked by three Māori principals at a hui of the New Zealand Principals Federation in 2013.

“Executive members Peter Witana, Keri Milne-Ihimaera and Whetu Cormick challenged the table to look at ways we could support Māori achievement in schools,” explains deputy National Co-ordinator Damon Ritai, former tumuaki at Frankley School in New Plymouth.

With support from the Ministry of Education, a pilot of 47 schools in six regions was created. The regions were Te Tai Tokerau, Tamaki Makaurau, Waikato, Taranaki, Otautahi and Otepoti. There are now 438 schools involved, and 16 facilitators across the country.

“We’re working with tumuaki/principals, with the whakaaro that if the leader doesn’t make a change then nothing will change in the kura,” says Damon.  At a recent national hui of MAC principals, deputy principals and kaiako, held at the Waka Pacific Events Centre in Manukau, about half were Pākehā or non-Māori.

“Many of our mainstream schools have Pākehā kaiako, Pākehā tumuaki. Our kaupapa is ‘kia tuitui ai ngā rangatira, kia rarangahia ai te kaupapa’. Our job is to bind and bring everyone together and having our Pākehā whānau together on this kaupapa is important. We can’t do it on our own.”

‘Changing hearts and minds’ is the purpose of the MAC, bringing understanding of the impact of colonisation, and promoting better engagement with Māori students. Damon explains that principals need to understand their own heritage and culture, before gaining some understanding of tangata whenua.

“The way we do that is to have them understand who they are. Ko wai koe? Nō hea koe? He aha ngā kōrero e takoto ana ki tō kura?” Stories and narratives about the places where they teach, for example iwi histories, are shared as part of this process.

Stephen Soutar is a MAC facilitator for the Manawatu, Whanganui and Horowhenua regions. He organised a tour for two busloads of principals to visit and listen to Rangitāne kaumatua Manu Kawana about various wāhi tūpuna in the Palmerston North area.  

“We were able to talk about kāinga along the river (both sides), māra kai, remaining areas of ngahere, streams and wetlands that feed into the Manawatū, and maunga,” says Manu.

Stephen advocates for letting tangata whenua tell us the stories we should be teaching. “Principals are used to being the boss, but they just have to listen, and do it their way.”

Related Posts

It’s Time to End Streaming in Aotearoa  

All students deserve opportunities to achieve. The move to end streaming is a way of challenging socio-economic inequalities and the institutionalised racism that continues to persist in our teaching practices.

Read More

“We were refugees” Displaced by the cyclone

While many schools and centres were damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle, a few were forced into long-term closure with staff and children having to re-establish elsewhere. Ako talked to kaiako from three different institutions that found new premises, or were taken in by a neighbouring school or centre.

Read More

The power of collective action

During the recent weather events schools have emerged as first responders to crisis in many close-knit communities. Where local authorities failed, groups of educators joined together as hubs of help. Ako spoke with one group of schools in Tāmaki Makaurau about their joint efforts in the face of crisis.

Read More

Putting the Educational Leadership Capability Framework into practice as a middle and senior leader

Deputy principal Tania Yorke recently completed her Master of Educational Leadership. She shares what she learnt about developing as a leader and why the Teaching Council’s Educational Leadership Capability Framework is a goldmine of a tool.

Read More