Ngā Pūmanawa ki Pūrehuroa: Māori high-performance symposium


Symposium participants Trevor Shailer, Dr Farah Palmer, Warren Maxwell Heather Skipworth, Stacey Morrison and Yvette McCausland-Durie.


Unprecedented interest in the impact of Māori high-performance has sparked a call for greater understanding of how Māori success can be enhanced, nourished and also protected.

Massey University’s Te Pūtahi a Toi School of Māori Knowledge is hosting a Ngā Pūmanawa ki Pūrehuroa: Māori High-Performance Symposium next month. Head of school Professor Meihana Durie says it heralds an emerging area of exploration for Māori and for Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Māori high-performance is not in itself a new notion,” Professor Durie says. “Māori cultural rituals, or kawa, have always emphasised high-performance outcomes and have sought to maximise human potential. To that extent, we have cultivated an international reputation for the contribution that our indigenous culture makes to the success of our national sporting teams and top sportspeople, many of whom are Māori.

“We also see the same high-performance outcomes for kapa haka and te reo, particularly in competitions such as Te Matatini and Ngā Manu Kōrero, but we need to begin the more challenging conversation of how to transfer that which we know to be effective to other fields of Māori endeavour, performance and participation. This includes education, health, business, media, the environment, the arts and social change.

“The term Ngā Pūmanawa refers to Māori potential and Pūrehuroa, of course, is taken from the name of Massey University and recognises the fact that the pursuit of knowledge knows no boundaries, except for those we ourselves construct.”

Avoiding the commodification of Māori culture

Professor Durie says that while mātauranga Māori provides the core foundation for Māori high-performance and the high-performance culture of many Aotearoa New Zealand sporting teams, businesses and educational organisations, there is always a risk of diminishing the integrity of mātauranga Māori.

“There is a wider discussion to be had about how to protect our indigenous culture from over-commodification, so that the use and application of Māori culture does not risk becoming transactional,” he says.

“That requires meaningful recognition, firstly, of those to whom the culture belongs, in other words, tangata whenua. Despite the iconic profile of Māori culture across the world, we must all ensure that we can protect that which is most important to the mana and mauri of our people – our knowledge systems and our land.” 

Focusing on high performance, not under-performance

He says there is a tendency, often fuelled by negative media coverage, to focus on Māori representation at the bottom of statistical data and we need to get past this “deficit” way of thinking.   

“Quite simply, as a nation, we must give greater attention to Māori high-performance, as opposed to Māori underperformance and deficit-based stop-gap measures. A major focus at Te Pūtahi-a-Toi is on elevating transformative outcomes for Māori and by bringing together Māori high-performers, not only from the world of sport, but also across academia, culture, te reo, media, business, education and health.

“We aim to provide a starting point from which to gain insights into critical success factors that contribute to Māori excelling in their respective fields, be it sports, in the boardroom, on televison or on the paepae.”

Ngā Pūmanawa ki Pūrehuroa – Māori high-performance symposium

Professor Durie says attendees at the symposium will also hear about the nature of mātauranga Māori and its relationship to performance, how this can enhance wellbeing and performance and how coaches, managers, teachers and leaders can work with teams and individuals to better realise potential, or pūmanawa.

“Our programme for the day emphasises Māori high-performance. It will be diverse, dynamic and exciting. We will hear insights from Māori high-performers across a plethora of areas, including athletes, coaches, artists, musicians and broadcasters. The symposium will also concentrate on the pūmanawa of people in their everyday settings to extend beyond flourishing and to further reduce current inequities.”

Symposium organiser and Māori sports and clinical psychologist Luke Rowe believes Ngā Pūmanawa ki Pūrehuroa will open up new opportunities for Māori and the nation.

“We have before us the opportunity to harness Māori high-performance in new and innovative ways that are relevant to the needs of our people,” he says. “This will be in ways that will enable not only Māori sportspeople to flourish, but also communities and organisations that are genuinely committed to pathways that promote Māori knowledge and Māori cultural identity.”

Confirmed speakers so far include: celebrated Māori musician, founder of Trinity Roots and senior lecturer in Massey School of Music and Creative Media Production, Warren Maxwell, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse and Manukura Netball coach Yvette McCausland-Durie, renowned Māori broadcaster and te reo Māori champion Stacey Morrison, Olympic Boxer and Sport Manawatū chief executive Trevor Shailer, Iron Māori founder and Māori health champion Heather Skipworth, Manukura founding principal and Māori educationalist Nathan Durie and former Black Ferns captain, senior lecturer, New Zealand Rugby board member and Māori business champion Dr Farah Palmer.

The findings of the symposium will help inform current research led by Te Pūtahi-a-Toi into Māori potential and contribute to an emerging framework for Māori high-performance, with a new Māori high-performance programme at Te Pūtahi-a-Toi set to be launched at the beginning of 2021. 

Symposium details:

When: October 24, 2019

Where: Te Pūtahi a Toi, Massey University

How much: $100 p/p ($50 for students and unwaged)

 Prior to the symposium, national Māori nutrition and physical activity provider Toi Tangata will host a special Toi Ako Wānanga at Te Pūtahi-a-Toi on October 23, looking at Maori solutions to increase participation in physical activity and sport. Attendees will have the opportunity to examine enablers and barriers to participation and to workshop solutions to increase Māori participation in sport and physical activity from a Te Ao Māori perspective. Iwi-led examples, as well as the role of te reo Māori in sports, will be explored for improving Whānau Ora outcomes.

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