Hei Tīmatanga

by Awhina Cameron

June 2020 3 min read download as Masterclass PDF

Mā te whakātu, ka mōhio
Mā te mōhio, ka mārama
Mā te mārama, ka matau
Mā te matau, ka ora.

Through discussion comes understanding
Through understanding comes enlightenment
Through enlightenment comes wisdom
Through wisdom comes well-being

THIS IS A fairly well known whakataukī, it has been reproduced by a number of community groups and government departments and is often at the beginning of various strategy documents to complement a staged approach to the attainment of planned strategic objectives.  Our reasons for choosing this whakataukī to represent the awakening of communities are slightly different but equally strategic. 

For those proficient in Te Reo Rangatira, this whakataukī paints a picture of various shades of light and dark, it identifies a starting point, a starting point which requires interaction with others, it speaks of a journey and it evokes a sense of connected learning as a means of achieving well-being. This is our beginning point, our chance at a first encounter between a writer and a reader, or between the participants and the content of a Masterclass. We begin by acknowledging that understanding is enhanced through interaction, through sharing, through discussion, through conversation.

Through the Tū Tangata Whenua Masterclass we have had the opportunity to engage in such creative, diverse, positive and challenging discussions around civic engagement.  Not challenging because the topics and the resources are difficult to comprehend but challenging because it requires a shift away from almost every other personal or professional development workshops or mainstream educational approaches to learning. 

Often the most challenging part for facilitators and participants alike is to slow down, to really listen, to trust in the process and to be more mindful of the everyday conversations we engage in.

This is as much true for an individual as it is for a collective. At times it is important for any collective to slow down, to listen, to be observant to both the silence and the noise, to trust in the process and the signs that alert us to when action may be required and being mindful of the conversations we may have input into and influence over across our communities. 

That is, this assumes that the many arenas for public, social and community conversations are intact and that we have a place, a space and time to engage in conversations that matter to our collectives.  Discussion, debate, wānanga are far too infrequent an occurrence on too many of our marae and across our communities. 

The people are simply choosing not to turn up.  The most fundamental thing is not happening, the people are no longer coming to together to talk.  The warning signs can be seen in record low voter turn outs across the many points of civic engagement, the unprecedented rises in negative health and social disparities and the frustrations voiced by whanau surviving on the fringes of society despite the increasing financial assets of iwi in the wake of post-treaty-breach settlements. 

What we are observing is that money does not heal, better branding or resources alone are having little impact on awakening our community spirit for collective action.

This whakataukī reminds us of what we may instinctively already know: that reconciliation, social innovation, development, and activism all require people, relationships and connection. The starting point for our journey to well-being is being open to the new understandings that come through conversation.


Awhina Cameron is the CEO of Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki, a Ngāti Mutunga Tangata Whenua Development and Liberation Service.  www.tutamawahine.org.nz