Kokiri Marae Youth Guarantee Programmes

Ka haere tonu nga Akoranga o rātou ma, mo ake tonu āke.
The teachings of those that have gone on, will go on forever.

The morning ACE Aotearoa visited Kokiri Marae at Seaview, Lower Hutt, to have a good chat with Pam Campbell and Tania Pene about their mahi, the 28 rangatahi on the Youth Guarantee programmes were out: they were over in Wainuiomata helping at the community pātaka.

“They love going there,” says Pam, who manages the programme. “It’s part of learning manaakitanga – helping others.”

Providing an opportunity for Māori, entrenched in a non-Māori social and economic environment, to learn about manaakitanga and all the other Māori customs and traditions, is the reason that Kokiri Marae was established – way back in the 1980s. A Māori employment caucus at that time was vigorously promoting the need for special employment and vocational training for Māori who were increasingly becoming part of the long-term unemployed – a group that was ballooning as a result of new economic policies. As a result MACESS was established: In Lower Hutt the programme was held in the old US army prefabs in Seaview, where many of the local gang members lived – and learned.

Because of the need to provide tangihanga services the centre quite quickly took on the role of an urban marae while continuing with its education and training programmes.

In the early years they were also influential in helping to develop public policy by making submissions and piloting other new initiatives such as Te Ataarangi.

Today Kokiri Marae provides a comprehensive health and social service programme, a kohanga reo – and continues the tradition of providing education and training for Māori who are failing to flourish
in the mainstream system.

“Because the goal posts have shifted so often,” says Pam, “we are now funded by the TEC as a PTE and our programme is restricted to Youth Guarantee. We no longer provide education for adults, which used to be popular.

“But the good thing about the Foundation level 1 NZQA programme is that it is flexible. We can alter it – with NZQA approval. It includes literacy in te reo, numeracy, life skills, budgeting, computer skills and health and safety awareness in the workplace.

“One of the first things we talk about is their pepeha so they can introduce themselves and share their whakapapa. Most of them are not connected. They have no sense of belonging. They don’t know their tribal boundaries and some don’t know where they come from. We ask them to go home and find out – find out who their grandparents are and where they came from. About 10 percent of their whānau don’t know either.

“They come to us, either through word of mouth, or because they have been referred from our secondary schools. We have great relationships with local schools – the social workers, truancy officers and careers advisors. They are all keen to refer rangatahi here because they know they will stay. Most are boys. The few girls that do come are usually just shy and lacking in confidence – often because of bullying. Some have high levels of anxiety so we can help them with that.

“Everyone here is known as auntie (or uncle). We run this place as a whānau and we are allowed to give them a good growling – and they listen! So many of our rangatahi come from a difficult home life and have had poor attendance at school so they need a good growling from their aunties to keep them on track. They like that! I think it makes them feel secure. And if they need it we can wrap around all our other health and wellbeing services. We have everything here. Health services, social workers, counsellors, anger management stop smoking… everything they need.

“When they start we pick them up each morning and drop them home. We encourage the older ones to be independent and find their own way here.

“Some of our sessions are classroom-based, others involve informal learning – working as a team, cooking, how to care for visitors. The things that they learn here they are encouraged to take into their homes. I think that manaaki is the biggest thing we have going for us as Māori – looking after each other, supporting wellbeing. And our spiritual side. We love to take them into the wharenui: they are more respectful there!

“We encourage all of our learners to go through all three of our programmes. About 70 percent do. We want them to go onto good work, onto a proper career pathway. Not just any old job. Most of the boys go to Weltec and into a trade and the girls often go to do something like nursing at Whitireia.

“We have some remarkable successes and past learners, even though they have jobs and families, often want to come back and help out. That is our way – tuakana, or those with more experience, help teina, the younger and less experienced.

“We have an alumni page on our Facebook and you can read about all the wonderful things happening in their lives. They have good well-paying jobs and are providing for their children. They are finding accommodation for their families. They are not getting into trouble with the law!

“And you are always part of the whānau here. It awakens something inside of them. At home there may be challenges but here they learn a different way. To look after each other and feel good about themselves.

“We can awhi our students and our tamariki are hugged. It is all about love here.

“By the end of their time they are amazing human beings, ready to work and settled.”

The management and governance of Kokiri Marae is, like all marae, based on collective responsibility and decision-making by the marae whānau. Whakawhanaungatanga is its central characteristic. It allows people to share knowledge, values, and ideas. Everyone works to maximise group benefits while allowing different sections to retain their autonomy. The views of kaumātua and kuia are recognised and valued.

On their website there is a Tribute and we thought our readers would be interested to read about those who are mentioned:

When people talk of the work of Kōkiri Marae Seaview over the past [38] years there are many people past and present that this could be attributed to and to name them all would be difficult. Some of these include Kara Puketapu, in his role then as Secretary of the Māori Affairs for his vision in shaping the policies around Tu Tangata which was the genesis of Kōkiri Centres. Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi for her foresight of these policies.

The Māori Women’s Welfare League and in particular Bubby Turner for the ability to knit communities together. Te Ataatarangi for firstly establishing themselves at Kōkiri Marae to reach Māori families in the urban centres.

The negotiating and building skills of ‘Pop Tuhaka’ and the driving force and determination of Keriana Whakataka Olsen QSM for her Leadership.

Kōkiri Marae Keriana Olsen Trust, with its long record of responding to the education and training needs of Māori, is an important part of our ACE history.