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Te Kauae Raro, a Māori Accountability Council, launches

Aaryn Niuapu, Te Pou Lived Experience Project Lead, reflects on the launch of Te Kauae Raro, a Māori Accountability Council with a focused mandate on the Consumer, Peer Support and Lived Experience (CPSLE) Workforce Development Action Plan 2020-2025.

Taura nui, taura roa,

taura kaha, taura toa,

taura here i a Tamanuiterā,

whakamaua, kia mau, kia ita!

The virtual whakatau for the initial Te Kauae Raro council members marked a historic moment for Te Pou, and the Mental Health & Addiction sector more widely. As New Zealand transitions into a new health system, with both governance & operational infrastructure to better reflect a Tiriti o Waitangi philosophy, Te Kauae Raro is a manifestation of the current trajectory of the nation.

The initial members of the Te Kauae Raro are:

  • Adrienne Rangimokai Fruean (Chair)
  • Aaryn Niuapu (Te Pou Liaison & Deputy Chair)
  • Guy Baker
  • Leilani Maraku
  • Jason Haitana
  • Joanne Henare
  • Karl Wairama
  • Rose Heta Minhinnick
  • Wi Te Tau Huata.

The council members were welcomed on Monday 18 October by Rae Lamb, Kahurangi Fergusson-Tibble, Will Ward, Caro Swanson, Rhonda Robertson, Amanda Luckman, and Aaryn Niuapu. The whakatau, despite being virtual due to the current lockdown environment, created a space in which the attendees could still encounter the wairua and mauri of the historic moment. Authenticity, connection, rangatiratanga and a sense of legacy appeared to be key themes woven throughout the kōrero as well as the engagement during the whanaungatanga process. The mahi and dreams of past Māori CPSLE leaders in the sector were acknowledged as well as the challenge to continue building the two interdependent whare echoed throughout the past two centuries of our nation. There was both a genuineness from the Te Pou staff in wanting to be purposeful allies as well as a strong perspective from Te Kauae Raro that they would grasp the space to hold that genuineness accountable. It was a beautiful moment, one of many, in which one of the council members stated that they felt they could be “unapologetically Māori.”

After the process of the whakatau, Te Kauae Raro hit the ground running with a wānanga on the core tenants of the council’s key priorities over the next 12 months. There was a strong consensus that the foundation to any success would come from always maintaining the right perspective – to honour Tiriti o Waitangi & He Whakapūtanga in practice and deed. The desire to not be a tick box mechanism or to not be another forum whose voice is watered down was evident. Te Kauae Raro from the start were clear on bringing a volume of rangatiratanga that at times has been muzzled in the sector. It was a beautiful space to witness, the first line in the sand and the first of many examples that the initial council members were ready to get straight into the mahi. It was amazing to see the council embody their name so early into their term.

Like many kupu (Māori words), Te Kauae Raro (terrestrial knowledge) has a deep and multi-layered meaning. In whare wānanga (ancestral places of learning) it refers to the ‘lower jawbone’ which corresponds to ‘earthly knowledge’, whereas celestial knowledge connects to te kauae runga (the upper jawbone). Muriranga-whenua gave her lower jawbone to her grandson, Māui, who then went on to fashion it into a matau (hook) to fish up a new world, Te Ika a Māui (the North Island). He also used the jawbone as a patu (club), when Māui and his whānau battled Tamanuiterā (the Sun) in order to make the socio-political landscape more equitable.

Te Kauae Raro, a Māori Accountability Council with a focused mandate on the CPSLE Workforce Development Action Plan, will hopefully be the first of many Tiriti inspired governance structures that become the norm in the landscape of our new health system.

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