Building the confidence and skills to engage effectively with Māori

It’s an important time for all of us to be thinking about how we are engaging with Māori, and what meaningful and effective engagement looks like. The establishment of Te Arawhiti – The Office for Māori Crown Relations, reinforces the government’s commitment to building strong, ongoing and effective relationships with Māori across all of government.

IPANZ is helping public sector professionals to build their confidence and skills with a refreshed workshop on Engaging Effectively with Māori, and our October workshop proved so popular that it sold out in record time.

Workshop facilitator Katy Te Amo says interest in the workshop highlights a growing awareness in the public sector about the importance of engaging effectively with Māori, and a drive to go beyond the sort of consultation we have traditionally seen to true partnership.

“There is a recognition that we need to re-think traditional approaches to Māori engagement and policy development, and there is an appetite from many public sector professionals to build their skills in this area,” Katy says.

“We had decision-makers who made decisions in the past that marginalised Māori, or who haven’t adequately taken into account the needs of Māori, so in 2019 we find ourselves in a situation where we have a lot of unfavourable statistics, and we have the opportunity to learn from that,” she says.

“It’s time for all policy makers and decision makers to be thinking about what is needed to improve the statistics, and one of the best places to start planning and developing policy is to start by talking to Māori.”

Katy says that although many public sector professionals want to engage effectively with Māori, one of the biggest barriers is a fear of getting it wrong — and that creates “Pakeha Paralysis” (a phrase coined by Alex Hotere Barnes in his insightful Ted Talk:

“Sometimes non-Māori so desperately want to do it properly and they get it so stuck in their heads about not stuffing it up that they get paralysed, but giving into that paralysis means potentially not doing anything at all.”

Katy says that to get out of the paralysis, sometimes we just need to start. And some of her tips for doing that include:

  • Look beyond yourself: think about the potential trade-offs or positives that your engagement could have and what the ripple effect could potentially be.
  • Think about what would help you to feel more comfortable: you could could reach out to someone to help you practice your pronunciation; you could talk with other colleagues who have engaged with Māori groups; you could see if there is any opportunity where you could tag along to engagement hui with people in your networks; join a te reo class or a kapa haka group; go to local Waitangi Day celebrations.
  • Remember that when you boil it down, engagement hui tend to be like-minded people in a room:  “You will find that you have more common goals than uncommon. It might just be that you have different drivers or perspectives but at the end of the day Māori just want to get to the best outcome, so they are often open to sharing what the solutions could be, as well as sharing wider context on the ongoing disparity or hurdles that their people are facing, which is sometimes hard for us public servants in Wellington to understand until we go out and have a chat. Our challenge is turning what we learn through engagement into policies and advice to Ministers which will positively affect not only Maori but all of Aotearoa. ”

There are excellent templates and resources are available to help you, such as: