Honouring Te Tiriti: Te Rōpū Whakamana Te Tiriti

Ming Janssen (Pākehā) holds our events and industry relationships in her role as Kaimanaaki. She facilitates yoga for staff and students at our Wellington campus and is always passionately learning new things in the wellbeing space. She reflects here on a wānanga that was held earlier this year.

Read the first story in the Honouring Te Tiriti series here.

On a crisp, wet autumn day in Pōneke Wellington, some of our Dev Academy team gathers at Fidel’s, one of our favourite breakfast cafes. We welcome our colleagues from Tāmaki Makaurau, who arrived on an early flight. With warm vibes of a big whānau reuniting, there is storytelling, healthy challenge, and lots of laughter around the table.

There’s also a sense of excitement and preciousness in the air. The occasion for gathering is a rare opportunity for the members of Te Rōpū Whakamana Te Tiriti to spend two days kanohi ki te kanohi (in person). This team was born about a year earlier, in response to a candid and openhearted kōrero on the balcony. Dougal, our leader in this space, had called in support from the wider team for this important kaupapa. We heard that call, and felt the challenge to uphold the original intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi too — this is not an easy, comfortable or fast journey, but it is the right thing to do. The rōpū has nine members now, Māori and Tauiwi, who champion this kaupapa in different areas of the organisation — from teaching, to policy and decision making, to how we design events.

We head up the road to Aro Valley Community Centre to begin our wānanga. Our energies settle in the space when Dougal opens with a Karakia Tīmatanga. I follow with movement and guided mindfulness practices, inspired by Te Whāre Tapa Whā (Māori health model by esteemed academic Mason Durie).


Warm vibes and whanaungatanga  📸: Carolyn Stott

We follow the mauri around the circle to offer our mihimihi. This is a safe space to practice te reo and for whanaungatanga; deepening connections to each other and this kaupapa. It seems we learn something new about each other’s whakapapa every time we do this. With no time box or need to rush into business strategy planning, we can take our time with this and the kōrerorero that follows can go deeper.

After a kapu tī and some fresh air, Carolyn and Kirsten lead us in learning a gorgeous new waiata ‘Ka Poipoia’, by Rob Ruha. A particularly poetic waiata, the story has both beauty and drama that are palpable in the melody. When we waiata together, it is a way for the team to connect on a wairua level, share strength and build trust as a rōpū.


📸: Carolyn Stott

We follow the singing, after some delicious kai, with a rich and thought-provoking discussion around the concepts of Mana Wāhine & Mana Tāne. Some key themes and questions emerge:

What are the qualities of mana wāhine and mana tāne?
What is their symbiotic relationship with each other? How can we equally validate both realms in ourselves and in our organisation? What are the personal qualities that we see in others, and reward, for example?

The toxic patriarchal system, which many of us grew up in, has influenced our collective narrative.
What is the new narrative that we want to create together? What are the wholesome examples of how we can relate to one another and our wider whānau or environment?

History is often told through a colonised lens.
How can we unlearn this colonial conditioning on an individual level, as well as an organisational and systemic level? What insights about mana wāhine and mana tāne are woven into significant stories, like the creation story of Papatūānuku and Ranginui?

We wrap up the day with waiata and close with our Karakia Whakamutunga, letting the rich discussions percolate overnight.


Dougal leading a discussion on Ngā Kaitiaki o Te Tiriti  📸: Jack Tolley

Loud rain drums the roof of Thistle Hall where the rōpū gathers on day two, ready for more discussion. Once again we kick off with karakia, waiata and mindfulness. On the agenda for the day is taking time to revisit our values, Ngā Kaitiaki o Te Tiriti:

Whanaungatanga, Mana, Aroha ki te Tangata, Rangatiratanga, Manaakitanga and Wairuatanga.

In groups, discussion centred on how we live these values in our organisation. How do we express them day to day, in the decisions we make and the interactions we have with our students, industry and wider community? Where are we stronger or weaker and what can we adjust or update?

For example, one of our values, ‘Aroha ki te Tangata’, aligns with our commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging. A relevant conversation we’re currently having in the organisation is around how we model allyship in our organisational culture and tackle unconscious bias to uplift and nurture success for all those in our staff and student bodies. How do we reflect that in our documented values?

We close our hui with more waiata and circle up to hongi, honouring each other’s wairua and the meaningful space we shared over the last couple of days.

I walk home through the forest up Matairangi (Mount Victoria), inhaling the beautiful smells from the rain. I feel filled with aroha and ponder: What is our shared breath? Our shared life force? How do we, Tangata Tiriti, serve this whenua and future generations — one breath and one step at the time?