Like other organisations aiming to strengthen inclusion and help build strong communities, Arts Access Aotearoa has been engaged in collective work to deepen its understanding and knowledge of Te Ao Māori and commit to being a Tiriti partner organisation.
I thought I’d write about our process, particularly over the past 12 months, in case it’s helpful for others. Please be in touch if you have any questions.
Embarking on Te Tiriti o Waitangi training, it’s important to have appropriate guidance if you’re not a Maōri-led organisation. We are grateful to our Kaumātua Bill Kaua, who set us on the path at a hui this time last year.
There was a special moment at the start when Matua Bill placed a facsimile version of Te Tiriti o Waitangi on the table in front of us and pointed to the signature of his tūpuna, Te Kaua. There was a profound sense of the Treaty being passed down for us through our Kaumātua’s connection. We have photographed the Treaty page and framed it as an organisation taonga. The green marking in the photo highlights Bill’s tūpuna.
We were also guided by board member Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp who used the metaphor of navigation to reflect on the “why” – why did we want to embark on this journey and what tohu would guide us?
Over the year we experienced excellent and accessible online Te Tiriti o Waitangi training delivered by facilitators at Groundwork. Wherever possible, we studied together and the conversations helped ensure our intentions were grounded in a strong understanding of the history of colonisation in Aotearoa and the ways it is still playing out today.
This process of study and reflection helped staff and board members explore the organisational context and how we could embed te ao Māori in our work and uphold Te Tiriti. Surveys and self-assessments by trustees and staff captured our thinking and fed into our action plan.
Our learning deepened when our Kaumātua, staff and several board members spent a full day of Whare Kōrero at Waiwhetū Marae in Lower Hutt in May. The warm experience, guided by our hosts, affirmed for us that whakawhanaungatanga is at the heart of everything we do.
Working through the kupu that speak to our organisational values provided important connections. Gifted to us by a former trustee, Awhimai Reynolds, Arts Access Aotearoa’s values are:
- Mōhiotanga - seeking understanding and awareness
- Rangatiratanga – respecting the mana of others
- Whanaungatanga – appreciating the value of relationships and partnerships
- Kotahitanga – working in harmony to achieve common purpose and shared vision
- Kaitiakitanga – service to others and nurturing leadership within others.
Our year of “beginning our understanding” has led to writing a Tiriti o Waitangi Responsiveness Policy. This consists of a Tiriti statement we developed together; a strategy to underpin this statement; an organisational tikanga based on our values; and an action plan.
Indebted to the leaders and guides
Again, I’m indebted to the leaders and guides who helped us arrive at this. The policy was adopted by the board this month, knowing that we are still on a journey of activity. Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua. I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.
How we communicate has been influenced by the training we’ve had this year. Connection, community and keeping in touch is the reason we write articles and news. You will see in the banner of this e-newsletter that we have introduced a reo title to its name: He whāwhā mai In touch.
The reo title confirms the importance of staying connected and providing a hands-on presence that is so pertinent to the work of Arts Access Aotearoa.
The word whāwhā means to hold or take in the hand, or to feel with the hand. Mai means to gather or bring towards me. It can also mean the stalk of a leaf that connects to the stem.
Supported by Manatū Taonga’s Regeneration Fund, Arts Access Aotearoa is developing four exciting new projects – all about increasing access to the arts. You can read more about the projects in a previous blog, Investing in resources to increase access to the arts.
We are pleased to welcome Jazz Lolesio to the team, supported by funding from Foundation North and the Auckland Council. Jazz's role is to engage the Creative Spaces Network in Tāmaki Makaurau, promoting the value of participation in the arts, and providing training opportunities that support staff development and promote their artists, programmes and activities.
We are still processing the knowledge gained through our “year of understanding” and know that the journey is important and the work ongoing. Thank you to Kaumātua Bill Kaua, staff and trustees, and everyone who has been a guide.