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Ngā pūrākau o ngā wāhine rangatira Māori o Aotearoa = The stories of Māori women leaders in New Zealand : a thesis presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Massey University [Albany, New Zealand]
Maori women form the backbone of Maori communities and have long worked within political, health, social, legal, religious and educational community environments to enhance the status and wellbeing of Maori communities. Traditionally, Maori were seen as maintaining roles of balance, harmony, and leadership in te ao Maori (the Maori world). This study sought to explore the life experiences of Maori women leaders and how these have been influential on their roles as leaders in Maori communities. Thirteen women were identified by Maori in their communities as leaders and were interviewed using purakau (traditional Maori narratives) as a method for life story narrative research in kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) interviews. Using a research analysis framework based on purakau and the four words which comprise its whole, pu (source), ra (light), ka (past, present, future), and u (from within), four important research findings emerged. First, their source of leadership began from their ukaipo (early childhood nurturing and protection) and was sustained by their connections to whakapapa (genealogy, descent) and guided by whanau (family) expectations. Second, particular experiences which led to enlightenment were important in sustaining and guiding their roles as leaders through the development of moemoea (visions, aspirations) for their communities. These experiences involved wairua (spirituality), matauranga (education) and experiences of racism and discrimination. Third, future aspirations in their roles as leaders were strongly influenced by past and present experiences in their specific social, historical and political contexts. Fourth, the individual attributes these women brought to their roles as leaders enhanced their roles in Maori communities. These attributes were nurtured and encouraged from generation to generation in Maori communities particularly through traditional Maori narratives such as whakatauki (proverbs) and purakau. These findings were interpreted to show how Maori leadership has evolved to meet the needs of Maori communities, and how Maori women have been actively involved in meeting and advancing these needs. As a result, this study provided insights into how leadership in te ao Maori was developed and can be used to encourage leadership in future generations.