Whānau whānui : investigating the plausibility of an organisational model based on customary whānau values : a thesis presented for the degree of Master of Philosophy, Māori Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis incorporates a case study investigation into the plausibility of an organisational model based on customary whanau values. The thesis title of ‘Whanau Whanui’ represents the case study organisation, Victory Primary School (VPS) in Whakatu/Nelson, Aotearoa-New Zealand, and its ‘whanau whanui’ – a broad grouping of people with a common kaupapa (mission). An innovative combination of methods is used to display the results of this case study. These methods include: a purakau (story), whakatauki (proverbs), visual images, audio-visual aides in the form of YouTube links to waiata (songs), and a comprehensive description of a Maori powhiri (customary rituals of encounter) framework, all alongside an academic writing style that is perhaps more expected for a thesis document.
The purakau was primarily employed to represent VPS operating in an ideal state. The words “times past will be used to inform the present, and the desired state is not set somewhere in the future but is present from the outset”, gives the rationale for why the purakau is included; as a regular reminder of the ideal state to aim towards. The heart of the purakau is a story of connections, between people and the natural world, between customs and innovations. It is about dealing with a changing world by holding onto time-honoured values. It is about reclaiming heritage and continuing with the responsibilities of being kaitiaki (guardians) of the world’s resources so they are sustainable for the future.
At its base, the use of a Te Ati Awa (a local Maori tribe of Whakatu/Nelson) powhiri framework for both the research project and the resulting thesis is to promote peaceful conflict resolution by increasing intercultural and interracial understandings in the New Zealand context. Components of the powhiri are also evident in the research project as it was conducted. For example, karakia (incantations) were employed to provoke spiritual guidance and protection. The raukura (three albatross feathers) image on the front cover represents the taki (challenge dart) laid down in the wero (challenge), symbolising peaceful intent. Examples of kokohu/koha (contributions) are woven throughout the research project, including trust given to the researcher by the VPS Principal and Board of Trustees (BoT), and the contribution of korero (oral discourse) and knowledge from participants.
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There is a mix of Maori analysis methods used for the data, including analysing interview data by drawing on Maori customs of teaching/learning through face-to-face korero, and following the natural flow of the powhiri process as analysis progresses. It is also imperative to keep returning to the image of the waka hourua (double-hulled voyaging canoe) in the introductory purakau to remain focused on the ideal outcome to aim towards. I.e. a community based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi), where the waka hourua consists of the hull of the tangata whenua (indigenous people of the land) being firmly woven together with the hull of the subsequent settlers, and the unifying connections being nga whanonga pono a te Maori (central Maori values and principles).
It is evident that VPS is currently in a period of transformation and change and the new Principal is assisting the BoT with the process of reviewing and updating VPS policies and procedures. VPS is also in the process of updating the School’s curriculum, with the next stage involving the critical work of reviewing the values of VPS to consider whether they accurately reflect expectations for teaching and learning, and to embed the newly developed cycle for curriculum review and reporting to the Education Review Office (ERO).
Currently, the intended meaning of the VPS vision is not clear and needs to be defined to see if it is capable of providing a future focus for the VPS mission. The te reo Maori translations of the VPS name, vision and mission need to be accurate and appropriate. The VPS hammerhead shark image and the four chosen ‘values’ that couple with this image do not appear to relate to the vision, mission, or culture of VPS at all. One idea is that the harakeke image currently used by Nga Mana Kakano o Te Wairepo (the VPS bilingual unit) would be a more suitable image for the whole of VPS to use.
The Treaty of Waitangi is stated in the VPS Charter 2015 as one of the seven school-wide ‘principles’. However, Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not a principle and should not be confused with the other ‘principles’ of VPS. Te Tiriti requires specific and focused attention in the VPS Charter and school operations in order to uphold its mana and help embed it in the School. It was also suggested that three of the remaining six ‘principles’ are renamed to become: Kotahitanga (an inclusive community); Ekea te taumata i te Ako (increasing teaching and learning competencies); and Kaitiakitanga (guardianship), so they align better with both the VPS strategic goals and ERO reporting requirements. In turn, this alignment should flow
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through to VPS policy, practice, and curriculum alignment in Maori and English mediums. It also appears input from the six mana whenua iwi and hapu (local tribes and sub-tribes), and the wider hapori (community) has not been sought to assist with the design and development of the VPS curriculum. As right holders, hapu, iwi and the hapori are entitled to have a say as to whether VPS programmes are actually in line with collective aspirations for their tamariki (children) and whanau (families).
The main structure of a wharenui (Maori meeting house) was used to consider the main components of VPS, including the school-wide principles represented as Pou (pillars), and to provide an outline towards the building of a potential model for the organisation, namely a ‘Wharenui Model’. The sequence these Pou are encountered matches the sequence of events that unfold during the powhiri rituals of encounter, and this is deliberate given that the Wharenui Model for VPS aims at achieving whanaungatanga (connections, reciprocal relationships) just as a powhiri does.
Firstly, the Kotahitanga Pou representing the unique VPS identity where members of the community feel they belong to a respectful, inclusive whanau whanui. The next Pou encountered is Ekea te taumata i te Ako, which includes student achievement – a major concern since it is currently well below national standards. This Pou also supports the heke (rafters of the wharenui), representing Maori and English Mediums.
The Pou of Kaitiakitanga indicates VPS is not only responsible for being mindful of reciprocal relationships within VPS, but must also consider how actions affect the mana of other people and ecosystems as an interconnected whole. While many learning opportunities are provided to children that focus on local content, and specific initiatives focus on conservation and care of the natural environment, evidence of power-sharing and productive partnerships with the six mana whenua iwi is currently lacking. The remaining Pou, being Rangatiratanga (leadership, governance, management), Manaakitanga (hospitality, respect, caring, support), and Whanaungatanga (connections, reciprocal relationships) represent the remaining Pou/principles in the Wharenui Model for VPS. The VPS maxim is then placed as the floor of the Wharenui Model in recognition of the assertion by VPS that everybody matters.
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The very foundation of the Wharenui Model for VPS is Te Tiriti o Waitangi. With a continual focus on Te Tiriti throughout this thesis, the intention for VPS was to help increase equitable access to education, and improve cultural competencies. Having Te Tiriti as the VPS foundation will assist with creating the basis for power-sharing and productive partnerships with whanau, hapu, mana whenua iwi and the wider hapori. This will ultimately serve to raise achievements of students and teachers, and provide a solid platform for success in life.
The identified core values of VPS, being Wairua, Aroha, Mouri and Mana (Spirit, Caring, Vitality, and Respect), align with, and provide the missing part of the VPS Wharenui Model; collectively representing the mouri stone (kaitiaki/guardian) of the Wharenui and all it stands for. The VPS Wharenui Model and its associated values and principles could be considered for adoption by the BoT of VPS, in conjunction with its community. All learners, whanau, iwi, educators, and leaders have skills, knowledge and resources that can contribute to strengthening VPS. Raising student achievement is everybody’s business.
This research project has been innovative in its design and has included the development of a unique organisational model as part of the findings, i.e. the Wharenui Model. The Author believes the Wharenui Model also has the potential to be adapted for other organisations in New Zealand wishing to operate in alignment with core whanau values and principles. Additionally, its adaptability may not be restricted to the New Zealand context. It could also be capable of being adapted to suit values and principles of other cultures and countries, meaning it has international relevance. The Author intends to continue exploring these possibilities through further research as part of her study towards achieving a Doctorate of Philosophy (Maori Studies). The findings in this Master’s thesis provide a sound theoretical base from which to launch this plan.