By Awhina Cameron CEO Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki
Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki (TTW) is a Kaupapa Māori, Common Good organisation. That is, the values that underpin tikanga Māori are central to its work. These values encourage active participation and help whānau to build relationships of mutual benefit.

Empowering whānau, hapū and iwi is the basis for the organisation’s work. TTW services (of which there are many – please see the website) facilitate opportunities for whānau to get a better understanding of development and liberation from the effects of oppression and historical trauma, within the context of their lives today. The desired outcome is empowerment of all people, resulting in informed whānau who are in control of their own future.

The underpinning belief at TTW is that all whānau want the best for their members. The role of kaimahi is to challenge, encourage and guide whānau to raise the benchmark by choosing to actively pursue purposeful living. They engage whānau in long-term planning which often requires strength, commitment and straight talk.

TTW has 30 years experience delivering health and social justice services successfully across the Taranaki region. The organisation’s origins however date back to 1881 and the

The Masterclass workshops use processes based on tikanga Māori and wānanga as well as communityled adult education practices.

plunder of Parihaka where clear instructions were given to the remaining women to continue with the work of their tupuna and take on the roles and responsibilities of upholding tikanga Māori, maintaining the care and wellbeing of whānau. E tū tama wahine i te waa o te kore. (Te Whiti o Rongomai, 1881).

The name Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki was given to the organisation in 1993 by Matarena Rau-Kupa (OBE) and Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru in recognition of the work being undertaken by its members to support Taranaki whānau. The organisational structure, operations and philosophy are based on Taranaki tikanga and, as such, the organisation has a deep understanding and profound desire to  support transformation in the lives of tamariki and their whānau.

Currently the organisation works to support the long-term development of both individuals and whānau. Each year TTW works with about 800 whānau – across all age brackets and at various stages of development.

Kaimahi are encouraged to view whānau as nations waiting to discover themselves and individuals within whānau as activists who are at various stages of development – awaiting an opportunity to create wealth culturally, artistically, socially, and economically. Whānau are encouraged and supported to examine and ask themselves: what their current situation is; who they are; where they are from; how they have managed to survive as a whānau; who or what has brought them to our door; how is the whānau reallycoping; what is the current situation; what are the boundaries or limits within which they function; and in what way do they want their whānau to move into the future?

The purpose is not only to unpack and address issues, but also to identify whānau leaders, teach planning and development, nurture and strengthen the whānau ability to manaaki tangata and tiaki kaumatua, tamariki and mokopuna.

The organisation also encourages whānau to demonstrate generosity of spirit in action, attitude and preparedness to advocate, and to respond and share responsibility and resources during times of stress and hardship.

Transition towards goals is seldom a linear process. Whānau are supported to understand that there is constant movement back and forth, which is normal. Finally whānau are encouraged to be more considered and deliberate in tracking their whakapapa and whānau history. Understanding this context allows whānau to plan, ensuring their tamariki and mokopuna are not left directionless, drifting without guidance into the future.

A new programme this year, a Masterclass for Active Citizenship – How Communities Awaken – Tū Tangata Whenua is a four-month programme which was first established in Taranaki in 2011. It is designed to bring a diverse group of local people together to awaken their involvement in civic life, in hapū and iwi affairs and to strengthen their skills and abilities to make things better in their communities.

The Masterclass achieves several objectives at the same time: Adult education – where participants are encouraged to reflect on their own citizenship, remember their gifts, and re-examine how communities can awaken, heal and thrive. Community-building – where participants are encouraged to get to know each other better, and explore friendships and connections with strangers. Transformation – where participants are inspired to renew their own sense of belonging, and to reclaim the deeper meaning and purpose of a common good.

The Masterclass has been part of a string of local activities that represent a citizen-based response to community development and education on its most important issues. Amidst the problems, challenges and urgencies of everyday life, these activities have been a way for citizens to pay attention to what it looks like when its communities are well, thriving and abundant.

Several hundred people have joined as participants in the Masterclass. They are coming from church committees, marae committees, sports clubs, service clubs, kaumātua groups, local authorities and social service and economic development agencies. We encourage them to turn up not as representatives of these organisations, but as citizens, friends, neighbours and family members.

The Masterclass workshops use processes based on tikanga Māori and wānanga as well as community-led adult education practices. The strategy for transformation is based, very simply, on conversation. The conversations focus on the cultural competencies which enable citizens and communities to develop and prosper. These topics for conversation were first offered by the US author Peter Block in his book Community – the Structure of Belonging and they include: Invitation, Possibility, Ownership, Dissent, Commitment, Gifts and Action.

The content of each workshop is initiated by the participants themselves, as they are invited to give a keynote on one of the competencies – drawing from their own life stories and cultural heritage. Local elders and thought leaders are also invited to ‘stretch the conversations’ with their own perspectives from tangata whenua and community development traditions.

In terms of mātauranga Māori, these ‘stretches’ have included insights into Tū Tangata Whenua, Tikanga, Rangatiratanga, Whanaungatanga, Māramatanga, Ōhākī and Koha. Being from Taranaki they also examine the local issues of peace, reconciliation and healing that arise from a history of colonisation, and the intergenerational impact that this has had on its communities. The participants are gifted three books for their study and reflection during the Masterclass and are also provided with links to a database of articles, audio interviews, videos, poetry and music which connect to a wider movement of citizen-led initiatives.

The Masterclass has emerged as a social innovation that is having an impact on civic engagement, on race relations, and on its wider strategies of adult education for the common good. This impact might be local and modest, yet it also seeks to play its part in the bigger picture of national and global challenges that the average citizen needs to engage with at this time.

Te reo Māori translations – for those of us that need it

  • kaimahi - staff
  • māramatanga - enlightenment
  • tiaki - nurture
  • Ōhākī - legacy

For more information related to the Masterclass and what previous participants say visit: Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki Vision: Taranaki whānau have a secured sense of identity and connection to each other where all are able to contribute and participate in the maintenance of a peaceful, prosperous community.