Honouring Te Tiriti: A Year On

February 20, 2022 | Honouring Te Tiriti, Industry | Dev Academy

In January 2021, Dev Academy Aotearoa made steps to explore new ways of honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, in ways which felt not only right, but vital. The role of general manager had only existed for 18 months at that point, but the leadership team saw an opportunity to expand the role into two important positions: one focused on Te Ao Māori, and one focused on Te Ao Pākehā.

Now a year on, Dougal Stott and Emma Barnes reflect on a year of working towards authentic Te Tiriti based partnerships:

In the beginning this was an idea that came from a loving heart. The development of these roles has had a big influence at Dev Academy as an organisation. As co-general managers, recognising the mahi which needed to be done and the mana that these kinds of organisational changes can bring, we’ve built space to really commit to each other and Dev Academy.

It has been both easier and harder than we imagined, at times. We’ve had some big successes but naturally there have also been some hard times that we’ve worked through, together. Our commitment to each other is something that filters throughout the organisation from small daily decisions to bigger questions of our existence and future. Looking forward to the year ahead, we’re excited for the possibilities of year two as Kaihautū Hourua.

Like many workplaces in Aotearoa, we’ve been introducing aspects of Te Ao Māori into our work environment. Starting and ending meetings with karakia and holding mihi whakatau to welcome in new staff have become common practice. These are important steps, but over the past year the team has also worked to ensure that the inclusion of Te Ao Māori does not start and end with ceremony. If real change is to be made, then Te Tiriti partnership must be woven into the structure of the organisation at every level.

Starting with the development of the dual roles of General Managers a year ago, we began working from the ground up. A conscious effort has gone into hiring as well. Although we’re still a lean team with around 35 staff members, we’ve doubled our Māori staff in just one year. Māori staff are visible in all parts of Dev Academy Aotearoa from General Managers, to teaching staff, to space managers. We’ve recently hired a very senior programmer to work in our teaching team who is our first Māori practice lead. We knew if we wanted to bring more Māori students into the sector, we had to ensure that Māori saw themselves represented here.

Members of Te Rōpū Whakamana Te Tiriti on a wānanga in March 2021
Members of Te Rōpū Whakamana Te Tiriti on a wānanga in March 2021

We are conscious of ensuring that our work does not stop with hiring. We have worked hard to grow cultural competency across the organisation, with ongoing training available for current and new staff members. We believe you’re always learning, and our staff love the opportunity to further their mātauranga, particularly in this subject. The biggest challenge for us is equitably sharing access to this opportunity. Many members of our team are fully focused on our students and unable to take as much advantage of this space to learn as others. This kind of training has also been an opportunity for Pākehā and Tauiwi staff members to have a safe space to ask questions and even potentially make mistakes. The most important thing is that we give ourselves space to learn. This is of course ongoing mahi, but we’re proud of how far we’ve come.

Another aspect we’ve worked hard on this past year is incorporating more tikanga and kawa into our spaces. We wanted to add to what we already do in a really authentic way, employing kawa which suits us and our environment. Some of this looks like eating kai together, or fostering tuakana / teina relationships with students, staff and recent grads. Even regular check-ins with students ensures that our awhi and tautoko are as well rounded as possible.

Our course is a fast paced intensive bootcamp, so ensuring that we fully support our students and their various needs is vital to their and our success.

Students and staff celebrating at a graduation ceremony | Photo: Bob Zuur
Students and staff celebrating at a graduation ceremony | Photo: Bob Zuur

The various tikanga we have employed ensures that we are creating a safe, inclusive and productive space which centres Māori, but helps everyone.

One aspect of our Te Tiriti partnership journey that we are working on next is building whanaungatanga and establishing relationships with mana whenua in the locations of our campuses. Though we have some established relationships with Māori organisations, we want to take this further in the future. This is really important for us because we want to build a future together with tangata whenua to support their aspirations for their whānau.

Everything we have achieved in the past year will need continued mahi, further development, and potentially even reworking. It’s important that we stay flexible to new mātauranga and fresh ideas. Dougal and Emma closed their reflection with this:

Dev Academy is built everyday from the collective effort of all of our people, past, present and future. When we ask people to bring all of themselves to our workplace, that comes with a need for us to all appreciate each other’s differences, which isn’t always easy mahi. Everyday, we work together to find the path which provides for as many people’s diverse needs as possible. Compromise is an important part of our kaupapa and helps us maintain many different types of partnerships that work towards a different future while respecting our past, together.

Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini – My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective.

The team at Dev Academy Aotearoa, 2021 | Photo: Kristine Zipfel
The team at Dev Academy Aotearoa, 2021 | Photo: Kristine Zipfel