Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia

An in-depth look at how Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia looked after their team of 5,500 hapū members during lockdown earlier this year.

Kia Manawaroa would like to acknowledge this taonga given to us by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia. We would also like to mihi to the whānau Povey for their time and their story. Kāore e ārikarika ngā mihi ki a koutou katoa.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia

Sitting in her house on Kupe Street in Ōrākei, Tāmaki Makaurau, mother of seven, Mereana Povey (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi), recalls the nervousness she felt as the country went into COVID-19 alert level 4. “I had great concerns about my children's education for the fact that I didn't know how long they were going to be out of school. So education-wise, I thought about how they are going to do the learning, being at home,...And for us as parents, myself and my husband, how are we going to provide that education that I know that they really need”.

The Povey whānau is made up of primary school, immediate school and secondary school children, all living under the same roof when lockdown was enforced. The secondary school-aged students had digital devices for learning but when the primary school also shifted to online learning, the whānau found that two devices just weren’t enough. “All the children needed to go on them at certain times of the day. They had their own class learning sessions, they had their own assignments or activities that they had to do. And they were online with their teacher at different times of the day. So that was hard, trying to work around it”, says Mereana.

An email arrived in Mereana’s inbox from her hapū, asking her to complete a survey about the number of children in her household, their level of schooling and number of digital devices. As a result of filling in this survey her whānau was gifted two brand new Chromebooks.  “I was overwhelmed”, recalls Mereana, “I was so thankful and grateful, especially in that period, in that lockdown period. I was just so happy and so thankful for the iwi taking that initiative and helping whānau... helping us out”.
 Malachi Povey and Dantē Davis navigating the Chromebook

This initiative was just one small part of the COVID-19 response of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in reaching out to it’s 5,500 hapū members across Aotearoa and around the world. “Our response was a hapū effort” explains Rangimarie Hunia, CEO of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia, “It means that we all figured out how we were going to support our families during one of the most unprecedented times of our generation”.

Following a Treaty of Waitangi settlement in 1991 and subsequent settlement in 2011, the structure of the hapū emerged. Under the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, two entities have been created -  a tribal development entity (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia) as well as a commercial entity (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Rawa), and at the heart of the hapū is Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei marae.

The response plan developed by the hapū drew on all of its resources including existing health and housing services, and its biggest asset - it’s people. “Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei took the approach that if anybody's going to do it, it's going to be ourselves for ourselves...we won't wait for the government. Although we acknowledge the efforts and the work that they put in to drive this approach for a team of 5 million, I think we all recognise that Māori needed to be able to stand up and to be able to drive this in a speed and a way that made sense for us, not only Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, but across the motu”, says Rangimarie.

Like other hapū, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei focused on reaching out to whānau through health services and through online and social media platforms. Outreach teams were mobilised to provide care to people who were isolated in their homes. Each week over two and a half thousand meals were delivered to kaumātua from as far south as Papakura and west to the Kaipara. Podcasts, webinars and chat groups were created on zoom and the website to connect whānau to each other.

Finding out through an online survey that over 50% of whānau did not have ready access to a digital device confirmed that whānau were struggling to access educational resources. “This made us a lot more determined to address not only health inequities but also educational inequities. We can't talk about great educational outcomes for Māori when half of our whānau can’t participate in online learning”, says Rangimarie.

The response to this was quick and practical. “Our solution was to distribute over 400 chromebooks into homes to ensure that all of our tamariki and rangatahi could be active participants over that lockdown period”, explains Shazeaa Salim, Kaiarahi Mātauranga Matua with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia. Through online tutorials and chat forums, whānau were taught how to use and care for their devices.

In addition to this, over 1100 whānau in Aotearoa and Australia received education packs that included stationery items such as rulers, pens, rubbers, felts and pencils, and also learning booklets with activities related to English, Maths, Sports and Art.

The Povey whānau feel they are lucky to have received two devices and an education pack. Twelve year old Malachi remembers the Zoom calls with his teacher and the excitement of seeing his classmates online.  Although he is back in the classroom he still uses the chromeback to download and upload his homework, and to access online resources like a Māori language dictionary.

 Te Rau Ō Riwa Povey and Kayisha Davis looking through the contents of the Education Pack

It’s stories like this that assures Rangimarie that the investment has been worthwhile. “I think the key learning here is that the inequity for Māori education outcomes has been polarised through COVID-19. And it takes determination, leadership and investment from Māori, from hapū, from iwi and whānau to invest in our future generations”, says Rangimarie.

For Rangimarie and her team, the responsibility of looking after the health and wellbeing of a team of five thousand continues. For all of the highs and lows the COVID-19 environment is presenting, the hapū remains committed to its mandate to serve its people, no matter where they are. 

“This isn't going away. The social and economic recovery is only just beginning. We need to be invested over the next couple of years to make sure that we're not only saving lives but reviving livelihoods out of something that our kids, our parents and our grandparents could never ever have anticipated or planned for”, concludes Rangimarie. 

Mereana Povey watches over her son and his friend using the Chromebook

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