On 7 May 2018, we gathered at Umupuia Marae to celebrate the launch of Breakthrough, a brand new initiative created by The Salvation Army and Parenting Place, and generously funded by The Warehouse Group and their suppliers. Breakthrough is designed for fathers who have a history of, or who are at risk of violence with their families, and who have already begun to initiate the change they know is needed. This day marked the official launch and training wānanga. Here, Hannah Chapman, Building Awesome Whānau National Kaihautū, reflects on the day.
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On the shoreline of the eastern fringe of Auckland, Ngai Tai and Ngati Tai have maintained uninterrupted occupation of their marae for generations. Te Irirangi was the paramount chief at the time when European settlers arrived. He was renowned for his hospitality and generosity of spirit. Te Irirangi understood whanaungatanga (interconnected relationships that are inherently reciprocal), and sought to make it a reality in the territories he had influence in.
I paused for a moment to consider this history in light of the group that had gathered on the beach in front of the marae. They were laughing, making introductions, reuniting with friends and colleagues, and sharing stories as we awaited the beginning of the pōwhiri which would mark the official launch of Breakthrough.
It was a diverse group. There were people from different backgrounds, countries and ethnicities with different types of education, employment and socioeconomic status. For some, it was their first time on a marae. For others, to be on a marae was to be at home. Yet, in our coming together and sharing of ourselves, we witnessed something of the power and beauty of whanaungatanga.
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When we go onto a marae and participate in a pōwhiri, we choose to enter into the unknown together. Some of us will be the ones willing to risk looking like we don’t have it all together. Some of us will be the ones who fear causing offence. Then there are those who do know, who are familiar and who choose to care for and guide those who are confronting risk, fear and discomfort and uphold their mana through the process.
When we’re willing to break through the unknown and reach across the spaces that divide us, we encounter our common humanity. And alongside that, something of the wonder of the sacredness that comes when we step into relationship with each other and the places where we gather.
Perhaps, while the waves lapped the shore and while we shared stories and purpose with one another in the whare and celebrated our differences on the marae, Te Irirangi’s legacy, this mystery of whanaungatanga, was in some small way being realised.
Written by Hannah Chapman
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