He Kaitiakitanga, He Māiatanga: Mātauranga Māori and Care and Protection

Morgan Mōrehu Tupaea - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

Within Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori children are uplifted by the state at disproportionate rates compared to their tauiwi (non-Māori) counterparts. This state removal of Indigenous children from culturally embedded relational networks exacerbates intergenerational trauma informed by colonisation. Often, state placements assign tamaiti atawhai (children born of the heart) to unsafe contexts where additional instances of harm and cumulative trauma are not uncommon, and these children are rarely understood in the full context of the cultural being. Within state interventions offered, imported understandings of what constitutes knowledge, assessment and management processes have seen the occlusion of initiatives and practice that centres and attend to culturally embedded ways of understanding and being. This deliberate undermining of mātauranga Māori in the state care and protection system has created a harmful context for tāngata Māori working for the system, where their Māori identity opens them up to additional work supporting and educating their peers, and creates tension between their professional and cultural identities. This presentation draws from research undertaken for a Masters thesis, currently under submission that seeks to amplify the lived experiences of kaiāwhina Māori whose work supports the flourishing, care, and protection of tamaiti atawhai in state care to identify the barriers that prevent them from incorporating mātauranga Māori into their work. This work draws on and foregrounds Indigenous understandings that centre tamaiti within their whānau, hapū, iwi and communities, lending increased evidence toward interventions that position strengthened social, health and community outcomes as imperative for the flourishing of whānau and tamaiti alike. The experiences shared within this presentation draw from the second of the two themes within the thesis, which were Invisibilised Colonial Norms and Wayfinding through Mātauranga Māori. Narratives within Wayfinding through Mātauranga Māori discussed how kaiāwhina draw on culturally embedded practices to navigate unnecessary barriers within colonial institutions. These narratives positioned nuanced understandings of Māori constructs (like tikanga and mana) inaccessible in colonial contexts, and central in the provision of care that empowers tamaiti atawhai and their whānau in ways that are responsive to diverse contexts and acknowledge harm encountered in their lives. Tikanga, mātauranga, and reo Māori were understood as operating across individual and collective wellbeing, and social relations, providing kaiāwhina with tools to navigate harsh colonial systems. Similarly, fluidity between tikanga across rohe was understood as evidence for increased autonomy in the creation, management and operation of services to be able to respond to diverse contexts. Narratives within this theme foregrounded the importance of acknowledging mana within interactions, to re-centre tamaiti atawhai within the care provided to them. Discussions of whānaungatanga, maramatanga and kotahitanga spoke to the importance of listening to understand, while empowering the self-determination of tamaiti atawhai and creating space where instances of trauma and cumulative harm can begin to be processed, even where there is no access to kanohi-ki-te-kanohi reconciliation. In this way, systemic reformation and mātauranga Māori provide aspirational templates for care that acknowledges tamaiti atawhai within their full cultural context and potential.

Ko Maungahaumi me Taupiri ōku maunga

Ko Waipaoa me Waikato ōku awa

Ko Takitimu me Tainui ōku waka

Ko Mangatū me Whakatū ōku marae

Ko Ngaariki, me Ngāti Tipa ōku hapu

Ko Te Aitanga ā Māhaki, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia me Tainui ōku iwi

Ko Morgan Mōrehu Tupaea ahau