Reflections on Waka Oranga Hui-a-tau 2011

A New Understanding of Privilege

Burke Hunter

I am writing about privilege and, in fact, being privileged in attending Waka Oranga’s second Hui-a-tau. I am struck by multiple meanings of the word privilege. One synonym for privilege is ‘fortunate, having experienced good fortune.’ This is the first meaning of being privileged that I write about. It felt such a great fortune that I could be part of this hui. Waka Oraanga created the space where we were nurtured on all fronts, our bodies, our emotions, our minds and especially our spirits.

The first presentation was by master mariner, captain of the waka Te Aurere, Stan Conrad. This great waka was built in 1992, using traditional methods, carved from two great Kauri trees. His presentation was ‘Navigation and Waka Traditions’. He presented the journey that proved that Polynesians have travelled the vast ocean for centuries and for thousands of years indigenous people have held the stories of star navigation. He spoke of the skills that the navigator of the journey must hold, to read the waka position from the sun, moon, stars wave motion, birds, cloud formations, sea life and what floats on the sea. The navigator connects with it all.

The navigator is the centre of the waka and he represents the father. The mother is the vast sea that holds the waka. Those that travel on the waka are their children. The navigator and the waka become the centre of the vast world at sea. Stan said that he must know where he has come from, where he’s heading, and the speed at which he travelling. This sounded to me like a beautiful and rich metaphor for our work as psychotherapists.

What a privilege to have the opportunity to hear this gifted captain speak. I was stunned at the end of his presentation and felt the great fortune of privilege to be part of this hui and what had been so richly gathered to nurture us. ‘The voyaging motto Te Mana o Te Moana is the spirit of the sea and it speaks that the roots of our spirit are anchored in the depths of the sea, allowing us to travel freely and safely sail onward.’ Isn’t that similar for us as psychotherapists that by honouring the depths of the unconscious, we too may learn to travel freely and safely.

Margaret Poutu Morice facilitated a session on cultural competency and cultural supervision. Margaret led an active session where participants enacted a Maori world view of nine principles of relationship that enable people to be healthy and vitally alive. Matewawe said, after Margaret’s presentation, ‘How beautiful this taonga is for all people.’

Hera Johns spoke of her creation of pottery that emerges from the creative life breath of her Maori heritage. She took us on a journey of working with clay, working with Papatuanuku, to create personal vessels and let our spirits play together.

After the Hakaari/Dinner, Hinewirangi shared with us the musical ‘people’ of her life. She shared with us her sacred collection of instument, her ‘people’ that filled four tables in the wharenui. They produced the most wonderful sounds, from the trill of a bird to the deep communal calling from the conch shells. Hinewirangi says they are like people and each one has a unique voice. She then invited us to come up and to touch them, to hold them, to get to know them and then to discover how their voices spoke to us. What generosity Hinewirangi possesses to share this precious taonga with us. Again, what a privilege.

Sunday, the AGM

This was a transition point for me in relation to the meaning of privilege. I now began to understand the other meaning of privlege, ‘immunity’, ‘benefits enjoyed by a person beyond the advantages of most’, ‘enjoying special rights.’

At the WakaOranga AGM there were about 15 people present outside of the Waka Oranga Rununga. Waka Oranga spoke of their makeup of rununga members, the kaumatua Haare Williams and Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan. When they came to the number of associate members I was struck by the fact that there were 26 only of us Associate Members of Waka Oranga, Pakeha/ Tau Iwi, like myself who when Waka Oranga went to the council table in Christchurch applauded them and cried with them. Yet, to the date of this AGM there were 26 Associate Members in total. Suddenly, the other face of privilege crashed in on me, the Pakeha/ Tau Iwi privilege.

I am part of a ‘privileged’ group. I can decide if I support our Maori/Treaty partners in NZAP or not. As I sat at the AGM I felt I was in the engine room. We were asked by Waka Oranga to help them reach their destination. I looked around and saw 15 other Pakeha/Tau Iwi members of the total of the 26 Associate Members.

Waka Oranga called to us and asked for our support. We have the privilege to decide how we may either choose to be involved in hearing this call by supporting Waka Oranga in their journey or to not be involved.

The message of Waka Oranga to us is that they don’t have that luxury or choice available to them. They must be involved for their own sake, for their whenua, hapu and iwi, for their Maori clients, and for the Maori population that suffers because of the ‘privileged’ in Aotearoa. They said that they were tired and needed our help.

So after this great hui reached its final destination a small group of us cleaned up. I’ve known that to know the heart of the marae it is important to get out into the kitchen, to be involved in the preparation and to be involved in the clean up.

I have a vision:

  • That each region will encourage their members to become Associate Members of Waka oranga, so that next year, at the 2012 AGM of Waka Oranga, there will be far more Associate Members than 26.
  • That we will have Pakeha/Tau Iwi practical support for Waka Oranga hui as they work on the Maori pathway to membership. We then can take care of them by nurturing them and to help clean up.
  • That we realise the great blessing and true privilege of living in Aotearoa with the taonga/treasures being shared with us, right here in our midst in NZAP.
    That is my most immediate vision for us in this association, that we understand, first hand, deep inside, the different meanings of privilege. Let us feel blessed to be able to partake in a great vision rather than ‘ we the privileged’ choosing to opt out.

Stan says that the navigator must not fall deeply into dream sleep or the waka could be lost. So let us not go to sleep. Let’s make it different next year at the Hui-a-tau to show up, to work together to reach our destination.