Building whānau connections from the ground up

09 January 2023

Taonga can mean many different things to many different people, for Tia Paea it's a way to connect to treasured memories of her childhood.

A golden brooch, a cigarette tin and an old, rusty chisel are just a few of the items Tia Paea holds close to her heart.

For her, they are . Each item sparks a treasured memory from her childhood.

"The brooch takes me back to when I was young and my nannies – normally at a tangihanga – would be adorned with these beautiful brooches and earrings. Even just looking at it brings back the smell of that time," says Tia.

About once a month, Tia helps facilitate the Hikoi Mahara in south Tāmaki Makaurau on behalf of Brainwave Trust. The aim of the session is to provide an informal space where whānau raising tamariki can meet.

As a kaihāpai, her role is to build relationships with whānau, and the items serve as useful tools to kickstart an important kōrero.

Everyone takes a taonga, they sit on it for a couple of minutes and have a whakaaro, and then everybody shares their story.

Through telling stories, they're able to explore a range of topics, including traditional, pre-colonial parenting practices.

"It’s heavy mahi," says Tia.

"We've had tears that have been shed. For some, it’s the first time they’ve thought of that memory, and the aroha from around the table is amazing."

A grassroots approach

Recent support through a partnership with Tākai has enabled Brainwave Trust to create a number of openings for kaihāpai across the motu.

Until recently, the trust focused solely on educating whānau by sharing scientific knowledge about early brain development, but now – with the appointment of kaihāpai across the motu – it's working on a more collaborative approach.

"By building relationships with whānau Māori first, we’re better able to work together to share what we have," says chief executive Huia Hanlen.

Brainwave Trust chief executive Huia Hanlen says it’s about working with whānau Māori in a way that’s appropriate for Māori.

"We work better when people work with us... when there’s a relationship of trust."

Huia Hanlen
Huia Hanlen

We're all in this together

Huia says while the mahi is only just starting, she can already see the impact Tia and other kaihāpai are making.

"It gives people a sense of being in something together, and that's even more important when they're in an urban environment where there aren’t necessarily whakapapa or genealogical ties."

For Tia, becoming a kaihāpai has been life-changing. Learning about traditional Māori parenting approaches has opened her eyes to an entirely new way of thinking.

"It’s a beautiful way of living, rather than what I’ve been brought up with and what I know. Just knowing that our children are tapu is so important and so special, because if children are tapu, the adult is too."

Learn more about Brainwave Trust Aotearoa(external link)