Dr Miriama Postlethwaite (Tūhoe), Senior Lecturer at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi shares her whakaaro on the need to centre the concept of mana in the Government’s Mana in Mahi – Strength in Work programme.
The Government’s Mana in Mahi – Strength in Work initiative aims to provide a pathway to meaningful work and valuable skills for young people by providing subsidies to employers who take on apprentices. With wellbeing a central focus, the Government has boosted funding to the programme through Budget 2019, extending the places available from 150 to almost 2,000, and progresses towards their goal of 4,000 places.
While it may be too early to gauge the success of this initiative, its objectives are both honourable and necessary. While the overall rate of young people aged 15-24 that are not in employment, education or training (NEET) was 13.2 percent as of March 2018, this figure was considerably higher at 21.3 percent for Māori.
It’s clear from these figures that more needs to be done to support rangatahi Māori in their path toward meaningful work, but the support we provide for our rangatahi should not stop there.
The title of the initiative itself, Mana in Mahi, hints at a shared understanding of the fact that work is not just about labour, and not just about showing up. It’s about dignity and it’s a part of our humanity. It’s about mana, wellbeing and being valued. From a Māori perspective, mana is the root word of manaakitanga, of hospitality, kindness, generosity, support - the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others.
If we care for one another, we should be supporting one another along the educational pathway into work, but also in the workplace.
If Māori approaches and tikanga are considered, it’s about doing what is right, the right way – tika, the right way to proceed. An approach that centres mana is never demeaning and always upholds respect and digity.
If you believe in being respectful of people, if that is part of the practices and procedures of our tertiary institutions, of education and of work, then we need to ensure that peoples’ mana stays in tact and is upheld. How that is done, particularly through policy and initiatives directly impacting Māori, needs to be done through meaningful and genuine engagement with Māori.
Our tikanga Māori can be used as a guide. There are some amazing values and concepts that are in Māori tradition that we could apply acoss all our tertiary institutions, and a Māori understanding of mana is a great example of this.
The Mana and Mahi initiative has potential to make a positive impact in the lives of not only rangatahi Māori, but also all New Zealanders. Drawing on Māori concepts and practices, such as mana, can benefit us all. We all believe in treating each other well, and Māori processs and concepts can give a word to what we aspire to and how we treat one another in all aspects of life.