Prior to 2013
Tiaki had not had a lot of prior involvement in this kaupapa, but had heard about the work going on. From his early teenage years, he has had leadership roles for a range of youth development programmes, including ‘Aoraki Bound’ and Enviroschools’ ‘Youth Jam’. More recently, he has been on an ocean-going Polynesian voyaging waka, prior to coming to stay at Te Mauri Tau.
The story of 2013
Tiaki became involved with the men’s group because he was present one day when the core group of men were meeting at Te Mauri Tau, and was drawn into the conversation. He became interested in their work as a group, and then took up the role of coordinating the logistics for the meetings (organising the venue, contacting men to remind them, bringing resources and cake). He also helped organise a series of wānanga for men from Te Rōpū Tāne to build their capacity to carry tikanga relating to hui, in Te Reo Māori, led by Winiata Whare.
Tiaki takes part in the men’s group discussion; he is the youngest in the group and the only non-father. He has been able to reflect on the kōrero and think about his own up- bringing, his relationships with nephews and nieces, and his intentions around being a father one day.
Apart from the men’s group, Tiaki attended workshops led by Ruth, Brian, and Wheturangi. He was one of the team of young people who supported Brian to work with a group of youth in the 3-day holiday programme ‘Te Reo o te Rangatahi’. Tiaki also participated in ‘Te Reo o te Ngākau’, held at the marae, where Poutiria te Aroha was conveyed through a series of lessons in Te Reo Māori using Te Ataarangi methods.
Tiaki sees his participation in the men’s group as laying the groundwork for future fatherhood.
“I feel like I am in awe of those tāne, having children and coming with real solid material to talk about – every time they’ve got more! Anticipating having children at some point in the future, this feels like the best possible preparation I could do.”
He finds the skills and understandings from this kaupapa are applicable to all relationships. “For me, it’s all about preparation and I see this stuff comes back to myself. Talking about regulating – if a child is disregulated, you’re no good unless you’re regulated – it comes back to you. The skills around understanding myself, so I can know how to be in a healthy adult-child relationship – by understanding how I tick and tools I can use to be centred and grounded – those are skills transferable all through life. They ground me in my relationship with my partner – it’s been huge to have the support to really practise empathy. I didn’t really have a sense of what empathy was – to feel it, to start to see it, and see it being modelled, and then to do it – the practical exercises. I have taken that into relationships with my partner and with nieces and nephews. I have noticed a shift in those relationships and I have seen I can even be an example to my own parents in terms of interacting with their grandchildren – they say they are learning from me. And all I was doing was trying in all my interactions to be connected and empathetic, and loosening my judgements of what they should or should not be doing.”
He has seen this approach make a difference with his nieces and nephews. “I have noticed closeness. A desire for them to be around me, to be cuddly, feel really safe – it happened so quick.”
Tiaki has been reflecting on what he hears in the men’s group and how it relates to his own family history. “The men’s group has been massive for me - learning about myself, my father, our cultural context, and the way I have become – there’s a whakapapa to that. It’s important having the elders in the group to offer the intergenerational whakaaro. They can say how things were for them and I hear my father and grandfather in their stories. I can understand the context I am swimming in and have been swimming in all my life. It’s an amazing place for self-enquiry, plus Wheturangi as a pou – living it with his kids and being real reflective – it’s in him.”
He takes this new awareness into his role in youth programmes as a ‘tuakana’ – providing leadership from one who is slightly older. “Being in the role as a tuakana I have to model, have to practise all this that I’ve said. Especially with the drama/ theatre based work and exploring creativity and self- expression – moving beyond self-consciousness and caring about it – you have to open yourself right up – put it out there, be a model for others.”
How does Tiaki encapsulate the experience for the youth in the programme?
“Being given permission to explore their feelings, their world, themselves – whether it’s verbally, through dance or music or art or writing or theatre. In Te Reo o te Rangatahi, whatever creative medium they wanted to use was encouraged, even though the emphasis was theatre. They had lots of time to write and some of them really took that on. They played so many games and activities; they could explore how to explore themselves. As well as having us as role models. Being given some tools such as Antonio [Te Maioha]’s “I am” [spoken word tool]. It’s an activity where you choose a subject, like it might be ‘wood’. Everyone yells out words that come to mind for that subject. They choose 10 words, then write 10 lines. They came out with great lines like ‘Wood: I am the ancient embodiment of the sun.’ They could choose a symbol to liken themselves to. The whole experience was really fun, supportive and safe, and while some were so resistant to being there, because they were kind of made to come, by the end of the first day they were into it (90% of them anyway).”
“They also were really exploring deep concepts of power, privilege, prejudice and bias and how that affects us.” Tiaki described another exercise exploring these concepts. “Everyone stands in a line across the room. Then they step forward or back according to the instructions given. These might be ‘Step forward if you... grew up living with two parents...lived in a house your family owned... Step back if you are Māori...’, and so on. Then everyone has to turn around and have a look at where everyone else is. Brian says: ‘This is the start of the race. How does that feel? How does it feel that your friend is starting the race three steps behind you?’ One girl said she didn’t notice anything - she was at the front, she looked around, couldn’t see anyone, they were all behind her. I said to her: ‘But when you’re at the back, you can see everyone who’s ahead.’ I think it was a big realisation for her.”
For Tiaki, it has been important to enrich his Reo through the wānanga organised for the men’s group on tikanga and reo Māori, and through the language classes Te Reo o te Ngākau. The experience of participating in these classes at the marae showed how the kaupapa of nonviolence aligned strongly with his understandings of Te Ao Māori.
“It’s been great to see what that looks like – Poutiria te Aroha and how that looks from a Māori paradigm. Firstly, of course, because it’s in Te Reo - that doesn’t just make it a Māori paradigm of itself, but it has been made so by Neria [Mataira] and Katarina [Mataira]. It’s clear they have been doing the wānanga to think this through; it’s not just NVP [nonviolent parenting] being translated.
Māma [Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira] gave it that name – Poutiria te Aroha, and really looked into it. It’s not just a mirror programme; it’s its own entity. To be in that room with mainly Māori parents on the marae, learning Te Ataarangi – reo acquisition with the rākau and the combination with Poutiria te Aroha concepts – amazing things are coming together in that one space.”