There’s a growing practice of recounting Māori indigenous stories or pūrākau as therapy and it is making meaningful change in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Health and social practitioners, and educators are increasingly seeking ways to incorporate pūrākau, whakapapa kōrero (history) and pakiwaitara (legends and stories) in their practice.
This a focus for Wintec Centre for Health and Social Practice academics Allanah Ashwell (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Pūkeko and Kāti Mamoe) and Andre McLachlan (Ngāti Apa and Muaūpoko) who are exploring the applications of pūrākau within the hauora (Māori philosophy of health and wellbeing) space at Wintec.
In November last year, more than 50 Māori health and social service practitioners and educators working within the Waikato attended a Wintec forum, Ngā Matapihi Ōhākī - Traditional Stories as Windows to the Legacies Left from our Ancestors. The forum explored the use of pūrākau within therapeutic spaces. Speakers included Lisa Cherrington (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi), and Moko Tauariki (Waikato).
The workshop was a success and Andre McLachlan says it inspired participants to create a Waikato-based group of Māori health and social practitioners and educators interested in learning and applying pūrākau in their practice.
“Pūrākau is grounded in narratives (stories) handed down through whānau to transmit traditional values and strategies for maintaining wellbeing and managing change,” says Andre.
Last month a group of 27 participants continued their learning, attending a wānanga with Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Kahungunu, and Ngāti Kahu) at Te Kōpū Mānia o Kirikiriroa marae on the Wintec campus. This wānanga explored the use of pūrākau, whakapapa kōrero and pakiwaitara (stories of whānau history, identity and connections) for the wellbeing of practitioners and its role in their practice with whānau (family/community).
Next month, Dr Diana Kopua (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Hauiti) and Mark Kopua (Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Porou) will host a workshop for Māori health and social service practitioners at Wintec. Dr Diana and Mark Kopua have extensive knowledge and experience of applying pūrākau in practice, in what they have called ‘Mahi a Atua’.
They have developed Te Kuwatawata, a ‘single point of entry’ mental health service in Tairawhiti, which uses Mahi a Atua as a pathway to engagement, learning and healing. They will deliver a full day workshop, Mahi a Atua Wānanga, on Saturday 3 August at Te Kōpū Mānia o Kirikiriroa marae at Wintec.
“Our wānanga are about growing spaces for ‘communities of practice’ (those who share a passion in a particular kaupapa) where we learn to appreciate critical thinking. Mataora (change agents specialising in Mahi a Atua) learn to respect kōrerorero (discussion) and we value spaces and conditions where this dialogue can happen," say Doctor Diana and Mark Kopua.
“Mahi a Atua is a way of being, where Mataora (pūrākau practitioners) learn creation and customary pūrākau from our ancestors which support us in indigenising the spaces we occupy and liberating ourselves to thrive in the communities we live in.”
Weaving together Māori creation stories and contextualising them in our contemporary environment is the focus of the wānanga.
Find out more about the Mahi a Atua Wānanga, on Saturday 3 August at Wintec.