New voices for Māori in the workplace

Last year was an active time for Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina, the collective for Māori members of the PSA, and 2016 is shaping up to be just as busy.

At Sector Hui last year, several new members joined Te Kōmiti O Te Rūnanga, the coordinating body of the group.

Working Life caught up with convenor Marcia Puru and some of the new Kōmiti members, to find out a bit about them and discuss Te Rūnanga’s most significant project this year, Ngā Kaupapa, and its impact on Māori members.

Marcia is excited about the Ngā Kaupapa paper, which she describes as “a set of principles to help educate, develop and demonstrate key principles for Māori in the workplace”. She adds that “Ngā Kaupapa is important to the PSA’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, by allowing further participation of Māori members within the union.”

Susan Mitchell works for South Wairarapa District Council and has links to Ngāti Tama and Te Atiawa. She says she got talked into standing for Te Kōmiti after attending the combined sector conference, and is passionate about supporting Māori culture in the workplace.

Susan’s enthusiastic about the potential of Ngā Kaupapa, which she describes as “a huge undertaking that provides a framework for Māori to stand strong at work.”

So what does this mean in practical terms? Another new member to Te Kōmiti, home support worker Pania Love, used the paper to develop a solution with her manager to address the need to wear shoes inside client’s homes, which is considered tapu. She now has a pair of ‘inside shoes’ that she takes with her.

Pania joined Te Kōmiti to help strengthen Māori culture in the workplace and believes Ngā Kaupapa will play an important part in this. “We want to encourage Māori members to stand up and be visible” she says.

Susan agrees, adding that “Māori have had their names and words mispronounced for over 150 years.” Ngā Kaupapa will provide simple guidelines on making workplaces more welcoming to Māori members, who might currently feel side-lined. Even seemingly simple changes like bilingual signs and staff courses on proper pronunciation in Te Reo are important steps.

Sara Tari has been working for Ngāti Porou Hauora for 11 years as a medical receptionist. A member of Ngāi Tūhoe, Sara joined Te Kōmiti O Te Rūnanga as a way to help Māori have better relationships with their employers.

Sara sees Ngā Kaupapa as a rallying point that unites Māori workers, and adds that all members should be guaranteed that their values and beliefs are never second rated by an employer. “It helps us unite as a people and fight as a political force”, she says.koru pattern