Hoki whakamuri, kia anga whakamua Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua
Look to the past to help forge the future I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past
Like many public sector organisations, my own is just about to do the “Wall Walk”. Not a dance move, but an interactive half-day workshop designed to raise collective awareness of key events in Aotearoa New Zealand’s bicultural history. The brainchild of Dr Simone Bull (Ngāti Porou) at the encouragement of her then boss Viv Rickard back in 2017, the Wall Walk is described as part theatre, part study, part kōrero. All participants need to commit to doing a little preparatory research, and each attendee plays a small role in the walk. Fast forward to January 2021, and more than 6,000 people from around 50 organisations across the public and private sectors have “done the Wall Walk”. I have met many – Māori and Pākehā – who say it has opened their eyes and changed their lives.
But why? Because our past shapes our present, and the decisions we make in the present shape our future. Because if we do not know and understand our past, we cannot make sense of our present or the necessary steps to achieve better outcomes. Because we take our past with us into who we become. Ka muri ka mua – by walking backwards into the future, we can learn from who and what has gone before us as we forge new paths.
This is as true of nations as it is of individuals. For Aotearoa New Zealand, understanding our shared past and the generational impacts of key events on Māori, Pasifika, and vulnerable groups is critical to charting a new future. The Waitangi Tribunal reports provide key insights into our past from the lens of Māori – the three critical cases outlined in the article “Rangatiratanga and the Crown” in this journal are a case in point.
Walking backwards into the future takes courage, humility, skill, care, and a willingness to take risks. All will be needed if the public sector is to make good on its responsibilities under the Public Service Act 2020 to support the Crown in its relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Ka tika a muri ka ora a mua – if the right support is given from the back, the work of those at the front will be successful.