Voices of Ngāti Hauā

Issue: Volume 100, Number 5

Posted: 28 April 2021
Reference #: 1HAK4Z

Drawing on the perspectives of three iwi members, this is the story of how one iwi is building a strong presence within its community for the benefit of its people. It’s a story of mahi, collaboration and a vision for the future.

Te Ao Marama Maaka: Nurturing tikanga

Te Ao Marama Maaka is one of the Ngāti Hauā kuia. She has dedicated decades to building and nurturing partnerships between iwi and the education community.

Te Ao Marama vividly remembers her first day of school nearly seven decades ago.

Te Ao Marama vividly remembers her first day of school nearly seven decades ago.

Although it was nearly 70 years ago, Te Ao Marama vividly recalls the day she started school as a five-year-old at Morrinsville Primary School. Upon introducing her, the principal said to her father, “We can’t call her that; you’ve got to find another name for her.”

“The first name to cross my father’s mind was Maureen – after Maureen O’Hara, the actress. So that was my name right up until I realised that wasn’t my name, and that wasn’t until after I’d had children,” says Te Ao Marama.

Her father was adamant she should “learn the Pākehā way”. Not only were there no opportunities to learn te reo Māori back then, but the general feeling among many Māori parents was that it would not help them forge a successful career.

Language advocate

Those memories stayed with her and Te Ao Marama made it her goal to be involved with her children’s education and to be an advocate for their language, culture and identity.

So when her eldest daughter turned five and started at Morrinsville Primary School, Te Ao Marama joined the PTA.

“Those days were very mokemoke, very lonely for Māori parents, because the school didn’t know Māori parents wanted to be involved.”

When her daughter got to Morrinsville College, Te Ao Marama was asked to join the Board of Governors to continue the mahi of Brian Thompson and Wayne Hotene, two governors who had served before her, advocating for Māori.

Serving on the Board of Governors was not a nice experience, says Te Ao Marama.

“I didn’t have that support. The chairperson knew what he was doing in terms of education but wasn’t really prepared to listen.

“I wanted to be sure my children, my mokopuna, my whānau, were going to be safe and looked after and listened to. It took some time.”

In 1989, Tomorrow’s Schools came into force and Te Ao Marama joined the Board of Trustees at Morrinsville College. She represented Ngāti Hauā on the board there for 14 years, while also serving on the board at Morrinsville Primary.

During that time, she was appointed to the Council of Schools’ Trustees Association representing Waikato Tainui, a position she held for 12 years.

“It was a great experience because we were able to share and meet different people across the education sector with similar aspirations. I felt really empowered.”

The blueberry orchard, run and owned by Ngāti Hauā, provides opportunities for work and upskilling for their people. Pictured here is Nikora Ryder.

The blueberry orchard, run and owned by Ngāti Hauā, provides opportunities for work and upskilling for their people. Pictured here is Nikora Ryder.

Giving parents a voice

But her real passion lay at the local level and the mahi they were doing at Morrinsville schools.

“It was 1998 when we were able to build Te Ao Whanui and establish our first whānau support at Morrinsville College. Whānau support gave parents a voice at the school. A lot of parents are whakamā, they don’t involve themselves in school curriculum or school events because it’s unknown to them – unless you have a sports event.”

This support extended beyond Ngāti Hauā to other iwi, to ensure that all whānau felt included.

“Te Ao Whanui was the start of a lot of initiatives. The Ministry and school supported it. That was the first physical thing that we could say, yes, change is going to happen at our college.”

Kura kaupapa movement

At the same time, the kura kaupapa movement was really coming into its own, says Te Ao Marama.

“It was a great initiative. They came to us and said they wanted their own voice, their own body. However, we realised that the majority of Māori children were still in mainstream education. Many Māori parents didn’t have the reo, so they kept their children back in mainstream.”

As cultural advisor for the Morrinsville Kāhui Ako, Te Ao Marama says most schools in the community have embraced their local Ngāti Hauā tikanga.

“The parents were whakamā to go to school, so we thought, we’ll bring the school to the marae. What they wanted for their children just came alive.”

Some initiatives have been going for a long time – for example, the college has held pōwhiri for new students for nearly 30 years. But it’s the last five years in which Te Ao Marama has seen a real willingness for change.

“One of the things we do at the college is we celebrate our Māori students. Acknowledging their achievements, whether it is making it to Level 1, passing Level 2, getting to Level 3. The parents all turn up, and they’re excited. We encourage them to sing and perform.”

Willingness for change

And at the other end of the sector, there’s a willingness for change as well. “We blessed a new early childhood education centre just a few weeks ago – and they said, ‘We want your history, we want to learn your reo, your tikanga’.”

For the last three or four years, they’ve taken their Kāhui Ako onto significant sites of Ngāti Hauā.

“I think we need to document our history so we can go into the schools and tell our history.”

Ngāti Hauā hosts an annual cultural festival involving the schools and early learning centres from the community.

“Our Pākehā community look forward to it – they love seeing their littlies up there, performing.”

Te Ao Marama says she is going to retire soon. She jokes that she and the principal of Morrinsville College, John Inger, have made a pact to retire at the same time.

Both can retire safe in the knowledge that the strong relationship between schools and iwi will endure, and that the mahi will continue.

Lisa Gardiner: Pursuing success

Lisa Gardiner is General Manager at Ngāti Hauā Iwi Trust. She is instrumental in getting initiatives off the ground with a vision for rangatahi to succeed.

Working on strategic goals of iwi in partnership with schools is important, says Lisa Gardiner.

Working on strategic goals of iwi in partnership with schools is important, says Lisa Gardiner.

Lisa says it’s because of all the groundwork put in by people like Te Ao Marama that she has been able to move the established relationships beyond providing cultural advisory support to forging clear pathways for their rangatahi.

“It’s about working in partnership with the schools and saying, ‘What are our aspirations for our kids in your schools and what do we expect from you?’ And actually telling them what our strategic plans are and our goals and how we can work together to achieve these,” says Lisa.

Currently only about 30 percent of their young people are achieving NCEA Level 2, says Lisa, a statistic that clearly appeals her. They have set quite specific targets around improving that, and are working with principals, boards of trustees and tauira to achieve these.

The trust has turned one of its settlement assets, Mangateparu School, into a learning centre, run in partnership with Wintec. A van picks rangatahi up from all over the community, providing the opportunity to participate in courses with a clear path to employment. The first course they offered was on landscape construction; the second on general horticulture. They help students find employment upon their completion of the course.

Lisa gives the example of one of their students. “Tema left school at 16 and hadn’t done any sort of employment or training for five years. He completed our general horticulture course and he’s now working in our native nursery. It was something he felt comfortable doing. You could say it’s the easy route but it worked for him. He got picked up every morning. He was with whānau.”

Entrepreneurial approach

The native nursery is a Ngāti Hauā enterprise, as is the blueberry orchard.

The orchard is flourishing. There are currently over 24 100-metre tunnels over two hectares and the construction team is working on getting another 40 more 120-metre tunnels up and running over another three hectares.

Around 12,000 seedlings are growing in the nursery ready to transfer to the tunnels. The orchard grows the Eureka species of blueberries and exports 80 percent of their yield.

“We’re continuing the entrepreneurial approach of forebears like Wiremu Tamihana, who exported flax,” says harvest manager, Menzies.

He says they aim to employ young people from within the iwi, giving them employment and an opportunity to grow their skill bases and gain certification.

Ngāti Hauā is now offering their first short course, Workskills for Jobs, which is very focused on getting rangatahi job-ready. The course is just nine days of intense training in which they can gain many of the skills and tickets needed to work in a range of industries, including their Health & Safety ticket, their forklift licence and others.

“We spoke with industry partners like Fonterra, Open Country, Silver Fern Farms and said to them, ‘If you’re looking for someone to employ, what sort of tickets would you want them to have?’ And they said ‘xyz’. So we said, we’re going to invest in 12 of our young people. We’re going to put them through the course and they’ll emerge job-ready.”

Progress towards success

Although there are clear signs that progress is being made, Lisa is not prepared to rest until she sees achievement against their strategic goals. She has a very clear idea of what success looks like.

“When we start to see the fruits of the hard work put in by people like Te Ao Marama, when we see our people achieving. I mean just 30 percent of our people are getting NCEA Level 2 – that’s just not good enough. So, when we see our involvement and our partnerships having an impact – that’s when we know we’ll have been successful.

Mokoro Gillet: Preserving te reo Māori

Mokoro Gillett is tumuaki at Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha and chair of Ngāti Hauā Iwi Trust. He is eager to see tamariki pursue education pathways with their reo and culture at the heart.

Mokoro Gillett has high expectations for his students.

Mokoro Gillett has high expectations for his students.

Lisa gifts Mokoro some blueberries from the orchard. They are enormous, ripe and ready for eating, but he’s too busy to indulge at that moment. The kura is a hive of activity, especially with the kapa haka group preparing for a competition in a few days’ time. Their young voices soar, filling every corner of the hall.

High expectations

Mokoro’s expectations for these tamariki go beyond the kapa haka competition.

“The way forward is education, no matter what. We need our tamariki to be educated because they are our future as well.”

“In schools like this one, which is a kura kaupapa Māori, it’s really important that there’s a balance: the physical, spiritual and the knowledge. We take the whole child. We bring in our history and our culture and add it to the knowledge of our history and the modern day.

“One of the key factors of kura kaupapa is the reo,” he adds. “You can’t take your reo away from your culture. You can’t divorce from it.

“A lot of the schools from 1930s, 1940s actually missed that language proficiency that the older ones had. There was a gap, so when kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa first started, the main focus was on reaffirming the reo.”

Worrying trend

Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha was established around 1999 with just 14 students. Its roll grew to 27, then to 56, and now sits at around 140.

“Our numbers have plateaued at the moment.” Mokoro says this echoes a worrying trend across the country in which fewer children from kōhanga reo are entering kura kaupapa Māori.

“I’d like to see a lot more growth,” says Mokoro.

Key role of iwi

He believes the iwi has a key role to play in fuelling this growth, and also in helping connect rangatahi with pathways into further education and work. Ngāti Hauā plays a connecting role with Mangateparu and the kura.

“Those days of being able to go from one job to another easily are gone. So we need to be more self-determinant, make our way in life because not all will be captured in that working space.”

“Our main focus is on university, on higher education and to bring those skills back.

The education pathway they’re establishing will see tauira continue on to Wānanga Reo.

“We actually start them on the wānanga pathway here at kura. We’re just starting on this journey.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:05 am, 28 April 2021

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