Event Synopsis – Mana whenua engagement and the cultural narrative: Informing school and curriculum design

By Judy Bruce

Reflecting on the Tārai Kura Online Event #2, Anne Robertson shares with us some insights and perspectives.

In our latest Online Series we talked to Lisa Cavanagh from Ngākōroa School in Tāmaki Makaurau and Tony Grey from Te Ao Mārama School in Kirikiriroa. In the pre-session video we asked:

What strategies and approaches have you used when engaging with mana whenua, and when working toward a culturally sustainable school?

  • How did you journey with mana whenua to develop a cultural narrative?

  • How did you design and develop a local curriculum?

It was inspiring to listen to their words of wisdom and we invite you to listen to some of their whakaaro in this pre-event video and the online event kōrero video as well – it is a 10 minute watch.

As a Pākehā educator facilitating a kōrero about mana whenua engagement I was mindful of framing the conversation, inspired by Maria Tibble. Maria talks of Hūmārie being the act of humility, the lack of ego, the ability as a leader to listen, to step into others’ shoes, to find out what is important for them and their tamariki. As educators in this space, and especially in this kaupapa of mana whenua engagement, we know that as Tangata Tiriti we can bring our expertise to help “weave the worlds of our tamariki into a distinctive curriculum reflective of the haukainga and cognisant of their needs.” We can only do that by listening, building relationships and in partnership with mana whenua. We have to do the mahi before the mahi, and although it seems counter-intuitive in our Pākehā world, we have to go slowly and carefully to go fast! 

In addition to hearing Lisa and Tony share more about their journeys, there were also two opportunities for participants to move into breakout rooms for discussion. Tony shared about Janelle Riki-Waaka’s kōrero, Seeing your school through the eyes of Māori parents. So our first kōreroro centred on how you might see, hear and feel your cultural narrative in your vision and values, the relationships and interactions in and around school, your curriculum and your learning spaces. Ideas were added to this Jamboard.

Participants shared their whakaaro in the chat, or took the mic in the main Zoom session after the breakout session. Challenges included ‘sustaining narrative across all aspects of the school’ and also ‘getting the see, feel and experience clear and aligned-visuals with behaviours!’

We moved into our second breakout where participants considered questions from a resource called Making Metaphors Meaningful, originally created by Poutama Pounamu and shared via NZSTA. The resource is about strengthening and deepening mana whenua engagement. Participants unpacked the definitions of some key kupu which are often used but not often really understood:

  • Mana whenua

  • Koha

  • Kanohi kitea

  • Whakawhanaungatanga

  • Mahitahi

  • Kotahitanga

A key challenge that came out of this kōrerorero was how to engage with iwi when your whenua is shared amongst multiple iwi. It was noted that even when there is one iwi, their time and resources are scarce. Others talked about how we can start with giving rather than asking. The concept of ‘kanohi kitea’ (being seen) was discussed, and that a way to build a connection with a local marae might be to offer to get involved with one of their projects.

Image by: Judy Bruce

In our final ‘Glow and Grow’ reflection participants talked about holding our ideas lightly, that building relationships takes time and perseverance, the importance of giving and participating, and knowing that we are not alone – the challenges that you face are faced by others as well. 

A special thanks to our wonderful Tumuaki speakers, Lisa Cavanagh and Tony Grey. You can learn more about their schools’ journeys in these articles: 

Te Ao Mārama School 

Ngākōroa School