Raising our Cultural Consciousness by Participating in Māori Tikanga and Reo

Raising our Cultural Consciousness by Participating in Māori Tikanga and Reo

February 6 1840, the day our founding document was signed by the indigenous of Aotearoa – Māori, and the British Crown. Following this, Aotearoa was colonised and the issues following that, to the detriment of Māori, are still felt generationally and is a far cry from the original intent of Te Tiriti. However, through protest and revitalisation, te reo Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi are being recognised more all the time.

We have been thinking a lot about our responsibility as an organisation on what it means for us to honour Te Tiriti in our mahi. It is important to us that we strive to be culturally competent and encourage participation in our workplace as we have a responsibility to social justice and equity for our whaiora.

For us it starts with getting comfortable with te reo Māori, which those who are not familiar with the language, know it can be quite challenging. We have a small and predominantly Pākehā team with employees who are from the UK, America, and Australia. It means we have collectively worked together to improve our pronunciation and intertwine Māori language into our daily lives. We create opportunities for this by having a weekly te reo Māori hui, 15 minutes prior to starting our mahi for the day, where we practice our mihi’s, karakia’s and waiata’s. A highlight for us is being able to introduce ourselves in Māori and there have been plenty of opportunities in the workplace where we have had to do this.

Visibility of the language is infused in all our interactions from karakia’s to open and close meetings, beginning and ending our emails with Māori greetings, sprinkling Māori words into our conversations written or verbal, or using it in our official documents such as policies; it is an aspiration for us that commonly used words and phrases become the norm in our mahi.

While using the language is one part of participating in growing our cultural competency, we try to use Māori values as a guide in the way we do things. Manaakitanga is a big part of The Loft, and we use this principle to trickle down into the culture of how we do things here. It is important to us that the vulnerable people who access support here feel a sense of welcome and belonging through our hospitality. While our staff benefit from a work environment that is supportive, respectful, and where we treat each other with kindness. This concept directly feeds into the value of whakawhanaungatanga. As we have several agencies here, it is important to us that we find opportunities to come together and create friendships where we may not get the opportunity to when working in our respective agencies.

The Loft has a dedicated Culture Club where a representative from each partner agency works together to bring events or activities to the wider Loft whānau to support building positive relationships in The Loft in an informal and fun environment. We consistently have new people starting roles here through their respective agencies and so we have decided to put on a breakfast for those new people where they can meet the Culture Club and other new people. We implement a process of mihi whakatau and then a karakia to bless the food before we come together and mingle. It is these kinds of opportunities that are valuable as it directly elevates our ability to respond to our whaiora’s needs due to having strong relationships with our partners and an established spirit of collaboration together.

The Loft holds a principle of learning and so having opportunities to grow and learn together is important to us. We hold regular 3 monthly cultural development sessions with our cultural advisor, and it is opened up to the Loft partners to attend if they wish to. In these sessions we are invited not only to learn waiata’s, karakia’s and our mihi’s, but also learn about what it means to be Māori, what societal limitations are held against Māori, and how we can help be part of the solution to improving positive social outcomes for Māori. We are encouraged to ask questions, be confronted and uncomfortable with the information we may learn, and be inspired to implement this information in our mahi as we work directly with the community. Everyone always walks away from these sessions knowing how valuable and what a privilege it is to be able to have these conversations. Our Loft Kaiwhakahaere also has regular dedicated one on one time with our cultural advisor to compliment her growth in a leadership position.

The Loft had the privilege of being culturally guided by a Kaumatua, the late Dame Aroha Rereti-Croft, who was with The Loft from the beginning. We were saddened by her passing as she was a valued and respected member of the community, and we recognise how large the hole she has left that we now have a responsibility to fill so that we don’t lose that connection with our tangata whenua Ngai Tahu. Our entire team, including our Board members, have taken time to go out to the Ngai Tūāhuriri Marae and participate in their Tuahiwi education workshop on Ngai Tahu; learning more about the Ngai Tahu migration, pōwhiri process, tikanga and kawa. We recognise we can’t be allies without first making the effort to meet and get to know the tāngata whenua of Waitaha on their turangawaewae.

We know that there is so much more we could be doing and recognise our limitations, but we are committed to considering ideas that increase our cultural consciousness in accordance with Te Tiriti principles. As employees, we feel that we positively benefit from reflecting the cultural values and practices of our tangata whenua. We gain positive engagement from our whaiora and staff, and have the ability to understand and interact effectively with each other through cultural awareness. Through our mahi we try to be a part of reducing negative social outcomes and inequities and honouring Te Tiriti is a crucial part of doing this. We are always willing to learn more and welcome any feedback.

Ngā mihi nui,

The Loft.

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