Gemma Sides

Whakaaroaro: Preparing for Our Whakatau

Several months ago a wero was laid for some of our New Zealand leadership team to learn a whaikorero or karanga in preparation for our upcoming noho marae.

Our leaders had the opportunity to practice at Whakatau which were held in Auckland and Wellington before our visit.

These articles are personal reflections of their experience.


Te Whanganui-a-Tara: Our first Whakatau  

Today at mahi we did something exceptional, something that will sit with me for a very long time, something that makes me swell with feelings now as I reflect on it hours later.   

Since becoming a māmā, my ‘why’ for learning more about te ao Māori has grown. I’m driven to make Aotearoa New Zealand a better place for my mokopuna and be the ancestor Rangatira thought they were signing Te Tiriti with.  

Having the opportunity to be the Kaiwhakatere at Inspire Group and lead our Decolonising Ohu Inspire mahi has brought so much pride, respect, and learning from everyone in our whānau.  

In the last year, our journey has moved quickly, our waka going at full speed at times and us all finding comfort and confidence and the ‘why’ behind our part in the journey.  

When the wero was laid to have a whakatau in our tari. It filled me with nerves, uncertainty, and pride. It was a way for us to acknowledge the journey we’re on and bring our learning together.  

On the day, I stood tall as Kaikaranga for Ohu Inspire as we welcomed our guests. Mereana Beconcini, our former Marketing Manager and the wahine who helped form the kaupapa of Decolonising Inspire Group, answered my call.   

It took a lot for me to come to terms with doing the Kaikaranga.  

It didn’t feel right. I’m pākehā.  

It was a kōrero with my friend that helped me feel comfortable. 

"If not you, then who?" they said.  

The question gave me the push I needed. I accepted the wero, wrapped myself in honour, and the awhi given to me by our pouako, Dion Whaira-Crouch, and dove into the learning.   

I am the Kaiwhakatere at Ohu Inspire, and together we’re on a journey, navigating weaving te ao Māori into our everyday, our mahi, and our whānau.   

I have immense pride for the Ohu Inspire whānau. I'm proud of everyone finding their spot on the waka, paddling us along. It’s like nothing I’ve felt before.  

Everyone here has helped me grow into who I am. I feel the change in all of us as we decolonise our thinking and ways and become whānau.   


Tāmaki Makaurau: Our Second Whakatau  

After the whakatau in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, another wero was laid down to our Tāmaki Makaurau tīma to follow suit and hold a mihi whakatau of their own.  

The wero was accepted. Everyone stepped up. It was unreal.   

A small group from the Wellington tari, including my kōtiro, were invited to the Auckland office as manuhiri. We hadn't realised that was also a wero for us as well. Some of us had to learn to stand confidently in a different role, representing ourselves as visitors rather than hosts.  

In the lead-up to the whakatau, it was an honour to pass the rākau of the tangata whenua Karanga to my colleague Leanne.  

We supported each other to learn our calls. It was such a warming experience to have someone to tautoko and practice with. That was us, every day at 8 am, practicing our reo, connecting, and standing strong in our journey together.  

When it came to the day of the mihi whakatau, I was more nervous for those stepping up for the first time. I wasn't thinking about my own nerves.  

As soon as the Karanga began I felt overcome. The emotion, the feels, and the mauri swept over me.

It was unreal.  


Kei te poho kererū, I am as proud as a kererū of everyone at Ohu Inspire, stepping up, building their mātauranga, and finding their own space within our te ao Māori journey. 

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