New Zealand is a land of diverse cultures and histories, where the indigenous Māori and Pacific Island populations play a vital role in shaping the nation's identity. In a rapidly evolving society, effective cross-cultural communication and engagement with these communities are of paramount importance. The CulturePRO Two-Day Masterclass event held by Iulia Leilua at Orākei Marae in Auckland in 2017 brought together a diverse group of speakers who shared their insights on the significance of Māori and Pacific cultural communications. In this blog post, we will explore the key takeaways from the event and emphasise why understanding and embracing these cultures are essential for the future of New Zealand.
Jennifer Ward-Leiland: Normalising Te Reo Māori
Jennifer, of European heritage, embarked on a remarkable journey towards becoming a fluent Te Reo Māori speaker. She stressed the importance of incorporating Tikanga Māori (Māori customs and practices) into the arts and theatre. Jennifer advocated for the normalisation of Te Reo Māori for all New Zealanders, emphasising that language is a gateway to understanding culture and building bridges of empathy and respect.
Rangimarie Hunia: Understanding Unique Characteristics
Rangimarie Hunia highlighted the importance of understanding the unique characteristics of Māori and Tangata Whenua (people of the land) entities. This understanding extends to genealogical history and cultural practices. Rangimarie emphasised the significance of recognising power dynamics and how worldviews influence engagement practices. By appreciating these differences, we can foster more meaningful connections.
Business Engagement with Māori
In the realm of commercial engagement, it was made clear that Māori seek to incorporate their worldview into business practices with the aim of being "global rock stars" while simultaneously improving the well-being of their people. This requires a genuine commitment, vulnerability, and a deep understanding of Māori culture. Effective engagement in the commercial sector goes beyond transactions; it's about building relationships rooted in respect.
Government Engagement with Māori
Government engagement with Māori should be conducted on a leader-to-leader basis, respecting the significance of the Crown as a treaty partner. Creating practices that people can engage with, removing fixation on process, and understanding historical contexts are crucial steps. Māori view themselves as treaty partners, not mere contractors, and this perspective must be respected and integrated into engagement practices.
Pauline Winter emphasised the need to coach public servants in cultural intelligence when engaging with Pacific communities. She underscored the importance of recognising differences among Pacific communities and adapting to the evolving power dynamics in New Zealand. Building relationships with Pacific communities requires an awareness of their unique "way of being," built on openness, willingness, and etiquette.
Effective Communication in Contemporary Society
Andrew Melville, a non-Māori New Zealander with ancestral ties to the country, stressed the importance of effective communication in today's rapidly changing society. He highlighted the need to tailor communication to the audience, especially in the era of "disposable relationships." Andrew's journey into Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) began with an interview with Māori expert Māori Marsden, which introduced him to the Māori worldview. Understanding and integrating this worldview into personal identities and interactions were central themes of his talk.
The Power of Cultural Understanding
Fiona Cassidy, a former army officer, shared her experiences of the New Zealand army's role as peacemakers in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. She emphasised the transformative power of cultural understanding and the role of "haka and guitars" in resolving conflicts. Fiona stressed that successful businesses tell their stories effectively and build relationships at the heart of their organisations. She advocated for eliminating unconscious bias and ensuring that internal engagement plans align with the question, "Why would Māori want to work with us?"
Diversity and Inclusion
Kirsten Wao, the Diversity Inclusion Lead for Vodafone New Zealand, highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion within organisations. She emphasised the significance of "upholding the human rights of all" and the need to remove unconscious biases. Kirsten shared Vodafone's approach to diversity and inclusion, emphasising alignment with the company's vision, purpose, and strategy. She also highlighted the role of diverse internal groups in driving change within the organisation.
The Power of Data
Maui Hudson, a data specialist, discussed the power of data in storytelling. He emphasised that data can both reinforce stereotypes and challenge them. Maui advocated for Māori involvement in data usage, especially concerning Māori data. He proposed the development of a Māori Data Ecosystem guided by principles like power, protection, peoples, and prosperity. Maui also highlighted the influence of data on decision-making and the importance of Māori input in this process.
The Treaty of Waitangi and Health
Atene Andrews, the Māori Advisor for PHARMAC, focused on the Treaty of Waitangi and its impact on health and medical distribution in New Zealand. He highlighted the importance of values in shaping attitudes, behaviours, and skills within organisations. Atene emphasised the need for internal relationships to enhance understanding and influence engagement practices. He also stressed the importance of reciprocity and visibility in the community.
Pacific Identity and Partnerships
Jan Taouma, with experience in teaching bilingually at Kohanga Reo and Pacific kindergartens, emphasised the importance of language and culture in shaping identity. She highlighted the significance of Pacific identity, rooted in values such as tautua (service and responsibility), alofa (love and commitment), fa’aaloaalo (respect), and aiga (family). With the Pacific population projected to grow, Jan stressed the need for strong partnerships to facilitate effective engagement.
Addressing Economic Disparities
Shamubeel Eaqub, an economist, discussed the economic disparities between different cultural groups in New Zealand. He pointed out housing and education as key areas contributing to the growing gap. Shamubeel advocated for businesses to take a proactive role in addressing diversity and inclusion, emphasising that diversity in the workplace fosters innovation. He called for businesses to move beyond profit-focused objectives and engage in activism to bridge the gap.
Leadership and Love
Sina Moore, CEO of Leadership New Zealand, explored the concept of leadership, emphasising the importance of love in leadership roles. She highlighted the challenges faced by Māori and Pacific individuals in corporate settings and discussed the need for disruptive thinking to create effective leadership structures. Sina urged organisations to build cultural intelligence and adapt their structures to engage and empower diverse employees effectively.
Cultural Appropriateness in the Workplace
Saveatama Eroni Clarke, the cultural and relationship manager for Le Va, stressed the significance of cultural appropriateness in the workplace. He discussed the need for organisations to recognise and accommodate cultural differences to create a safe and inclusive environment. Eroni encouraged businesses to support cultural diversity through scholarships, mentoring programs, and diversity in leadership.
Fostering Hope for Future Generations
Damon Salesa, an associate professor and head of Pacific studies at the University of Auckland, discussed the impact of colonisation on Māori and Pacific populations. He highlighted the entrepreneurial mindset within these communities and the potential for growth in technology and ocean-based industries. Damon called for addressing youth concerns and fostering hope for future generations through education and empowerment.
Attracting Diverse Talent
Rhys Faleafa, CEO of Tupu Toa, introduced the corporate internship program aimed at attracting Māori and Pacific graduates into corporate careers. He emphasised the importance of authenticity, relationships, and support in engaging and retaining diverse talent. Rhys outlined the Tupu Toa program's success and its potential to address diversity concerns in New Zealand's corporate sector.
A Tapestry of Cultures
The diverse range of speakers highlighted the growing importance of understanding and embracing Māori and Pacific cultures. By prioritising cultural communication and engagement, New Zealand can continue to thrive as a nation that values and respects its rich tapestry of cultures. These insights from the event serve as a roadmap for building bridges of empathy, respect, and collaboration in an increasingly interconnected world.
The Culture and Design Lab empowers workplace leaders to create social cohesion at work. We use indigenous knowledge, design, and strategy to foster inclusion and belonging in the workplace.
Digital Nudge Learning
Indigenous Graphic Design
Design Thinking & PolyUX Tools
Taumarunui and Auckland
Call us: +64 21 378 63
© 2023, Culture & Design Lab