A new member-led conference, Poipoia te Manawa Māui, offers Māori public servants a space for ‘real talk’ about the challenges and opportunities they face in the workplace.
The conference was initially organised by PSA member Kara Nepe-Apatu as a one-off event, but when more than 100 attendees turned up unexpected, Kara began to wonder if the need for Poipoia was greater than she’d thought.
Kara, who works at NZ Treasury, says the inspiration behind Poipoia came while attending an international conference for public sector workers.
“I was at a talk about how public servants can better engage with indigenous communities,” Kara explains.
“There were iwi representatives and amazing Aboriginal leaders there. But the facilitation just wasn’t on point.
“The moderator cut one of the speakers off to ask them: what is a tribe? What does it mean to you? It didn’t hit right. I knew I could do better.”
A BETTER WAY FORWARD
Kara posted about her idea for a new conference – organised by Māori for Māori – on social media.
The response was overwhelming.
She called a meeting with a network of wāhine Māori public sector workers to discuss taking the idea
“Our aim was to bring the gnarly topics to the fore,” Kara explains.
They came up with an event that addressed issues relevant to Māori in the modern workplace; from
the appropriate application of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga to the urgent need for whānau-centred approaches in the public sector.
Speakers included Atawhai Tibble, board member at Te Pūnaha Matatini, Lil Anderson, Tumu
Whakarae of Māori-Crown relations, and renowned Māori educator Dr Kathie Irwin.
BRINGING OUT THE HEART OF MĀUI
Kara says the name Poipoia te Manawa Māui was chosen to inspire Māori public servants to bring out their authentic selves.
“The name means to nurture the heart of Māui. It’s about teasing out our authentic selves and taking advantage of those intrinsic qualities that serve as our superpowers.”
Kara describes the honesty that came out of the first event as “beautiful.”
“It was shocking how many people felt they weren’t valued as Māori in the public sector,” Kara says.
“They felt like the Māori rather than a Māori. I work with many of these people, but I’d never heard them say that before.”
A CALL TO ACTION
Kara describes the feedback she has received since the event as “touching.”
“Poipoia made people feel valued and validated as Māori. Some said it felt like a call to action.”
The next event will take place in September to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Māori Language
petition. However, Kara says she’ll continue running Poipoia as long as it’s needed.
“It certainly seems like the need is there!”