Hūhana Wātene (Ngāti Porou), TEU Te Tumu Araki, Māori vice-president and Lecturer and Academic Leader at Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka, Unitec Institute of Technology shares her experiences for the positive ways Mātauranga Māori can be brought into our everyday teaching and learning environment.

An incident between a tauira and a kaimahi gave me pause recently to reflect on the value of engaging with and embedding Mātauranga Māori in processes around dealing with disputes in tertiary education.

A kaimahi, involved in a dispute with a tauira, approached me as they wanted to resolve the dispute in our campus wharenui at the Unitec marae. The kaimahi’s reasoning was simple enough. They felt attempts to resolve the issue had become increasingly difficult, with both parties seemingly unable to consider the other’s point of view.

It seemed as though neither were actively listening to the other, and there was no real engagement around how they were going to solve the dispute - hohou i te rongo. To make matters worse, management had begun to use the term ‘hearing’ in describing a likely path forward. A ‘hearing’ would need to be held in order to rectify the issue, and both parties were reluctant to enter into a formal process with legalistic and slightly punitive overtones.

Kupu matter and are packed with meaning. Some have implications attached to them that can be uninviting, or not indicative of the desired tone of possible ways forward, or the severity of the infraction.

Instead, the ‘hearing’ became a hui on the campus marae, Te Noho Kotahitanga.

Both parties liked the whakaaro of a process in which each person had the opportunity to stand and talk, without being interrupted, and where both felt empowered and respected in their own right.

What came out of the hui was that each party actually listened to what the other had to say, rather than talking over each other. They both listened and realised the issue from the other’s perspective.

Each party had time to stop and whakarongo, and often this time spent listening and reflecting is enough to diffuse a situation. It allows time to think and to process and to lessen some of the heat that they may be feeling.

Respect and mana of the individuals were upheld. They were able to agree on some points and agree to disagree on others. They shook hands. The tauira returned to class and the kaimahi member returned to work without the matter going any further.

People appreciate the rightful process of tika and pono, the right way of doing things with integrity and aroha. Out of those concepts comes mārama and empathy. Mārama is found, and often all it takes to understand is to be given the opportunity to kōrero and be listened to.

Matariki has traditionally been a time for listening, and for gaining a greater understanding of the ancestral knowledge that has been passed down to us, for tika, and for the reasons why these things were done.

There is a whakapapa behind all of the processes within Mātauranga Māori. But we can also use this opportunity to empower non-Māori tauira and kaimahi to engage with Mātauranga Māori, with te reo Māori, with mana and with alternative forms of conflict resolution.