Former refugees invite tangata whenua to ‘our place’
8th May 2018
Organisations supporting refugee background comunitites in the Wellington region, the Red Cross, MCLaSS, and Changemakers Refugee Forum have recently held a joint Tikanga project, intended to bring to life the existing Te Reo and Te Ao policies of the three organisations within the context of their work and by empowering their staff. This project will culminate on 24th May with Wellington region iwi being welcomed to a refugee background community space.
The three organisations had a desire to assist all refugee background recent arrivals to have an appreciation of and respect for tikanga Māori and to build closer links with tangata whenua. The staff also wanted to feel confident to facilitate this journey by supporting the former refugees we work with to learn about the history, traditions and values of the iwi in Wellington where former refugees were settling and putting down roots.
Over a period of a year the organisations reached out to iwi and marae at the three places where former refugees have settled in the Wellington area: Porirua, Hutt City and Wellington city. In all three places refugee background communities received a warm welcome and were invited to the local marae – to experience a pōwhiri, to learn iwi history on the land where the former refugees now make their home and to appreciate the importance of having a good relationship with tangata whenua.
A final hui is upcoming on the 24th May, for which local iwi have been invited back to ‘our place’ – 39 Webb Street, a hub for refugee background services including MCLaSS and the Red Cross. The organisations were motivated to hold this hui because of the very warm and positive response from adult ESOL learners to their introduction to tikanga Māori. “This hui is our community’s way of saying thank you to the local iwi from Porirua, Hutt City and Wellington, to say we are grateful for all we have learned and to show them hospitality at our place in return for theirs.”
Professional development of the staff was provided by Te Wharewaka o Pōneke and a strong bond has been created between the three organisations and the cultural and liaison manager, Matiu Julian.
We were fortunate to succeed in our funding application for this year-long joint project and we would like to acknowledge our funders here: Aotearoa Community Education (ACE) Aotearoa and recently the Wellington Community Trust to assist with the additional cost of participation as we had more people involved than originally expected. Because of these funds were able to visit iwi in all three locations and to also have workshops in professional development for staff and our board and council members.