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Union 101

Mōku te Ao

23 Sept 2022

Mōku te Ao is the way NZEI Te Riu Roa drives change in the education system to one based on Rangatiratanga so that it leads to success for tamariki Māori. What is good for Māori is good for everyone.

Mōku te Ao is based around eight Pou and is a Māori-first approach. It is a part of how we empower our members and staff to work towards system change.

Ngā pou - the values that drive our work

Honouring identity, language and whenua to give power and authority to others by maintaining Mana.


Obligations based on relationships linking individuals to generations based on kin and non-kin and built on experience and place which is practice whakawhanaungatanga.


The right to autonomy by controlling your own aspirations and destiny.

Geneology, lineage, descent, kinship and status.

Duty of care to support and uplift others with kindness, generosity and respect.

The spiritual dimensions of thinking, being, doing and connecting through time and space.

A connection between humankind and the natural world which is a role of guardianship.

To follow tikanga is to follow processes that are right and based on rites.

The World is Mine – The Future is Ours

The current education system is racist, and does not work for many New Zealand children as is manifested in the experiences of multiple, marginalised, and minority groups. Under Te Tiriti o Waitangi there are obligations to make an education system that recognises and uplifts the identity of tangata whenua. 

NZEI Te Riu Roa believes that an education system based on Rangatiratanga centres children with rights to control their own aspirations and destiny through values of mutual benefit to society.

After years of the very best efforts from educators and parents to improve achievement levels for mokopuna Māori, the changes have been limited with dire consequences for whānau, hapu and iwi Māori. To turn these achievement statistics around, NZEI Te Riu Roa, through Mōku te Ao, aims to systematically change the perspective of people in Aotearoa so that they view every situation, every policy, every whakaaro from a Mātauranga Māori perspective. 

We ask: 

  • Will “this” work for mokopuna Māori?
  • Is this mahi centred on Rangatiratanga?
  • How will this activity benefit Māori?
  • What is the Mātauranga Māori perspective of this kōrero? 

Using Ngā Pou as the non-negotiables, progress has varied in intensity across all fields but we are now in a place where we must ask difficult questions of ourselves and get more than an ‘I don’t know’ response. 

  • What is your understanding of Mōku te Ao?
  • How is Mōku te Ao working for you? 
  • How is Mōku te Ao working for you, in your workplace? 
  • How is Mōku te Ao working for you, in NZEI Te Riu Roa? 

The Mōku te Ao approach is one of convincing Aotearoa that our nation’s future is dependent on everyone supporting and promoting Māori and mokopuna Māori i te tuatahi. With this whakaaro in mind regular efforts are made across various agencies and organisations to promote the perspective of Mōku te Ao with varying success.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

NZEI Te Riu Roa is a Tiriti-based organisation that provides pathways for member participation through its structures. These structures have been premised on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the tongi:

Kotahi te kōhao o te ngira e kuhuna ai Te miro ma, te miro pango me te miro whero (Potatau Te Wherowhero).
There is but one eye of the needle through which all must pass The white, the black and the red thread.

A Tiriti-based organisation demands that parties work closely together for one purpose based on respect and trust. (Part 2 NZEI Te Riu Roa Rules)

Building understanding and applying a Mōkū te Ao approach

An initial survey about racism in the workplace was conducted in 2021. It examined the extent of racism in the NZEI Te Riu Roa national office, and to understand the extent of this issue for Māori staff. 

At that stage, the organisation had no data or information on the prevalence of racism for Māori staff. This research project provided up to date information for NZEI Te Riu Roa leadership to consider. 

A second survey conducted in May 2022 aimed to evaluate any change since our original survey in 2021. Participants were asked questions such as: what they perceive as racist behaviour, what sort of actions people take when they are victims of racism or when they witness it, and the reasons why people do not take action when they experience or witness racist behaviour. The survey ended with an opportunity for participants to make recommendations to NZEI Te Riu Roa leadership. 

NZEI Te Riu Roa and Te Maramataka

It seems only appropriate and in keeping with Mōku te Ao that the first scheduled event on the NZEI Te Riu Roa calendar is Te Kāhui Whetū (The Assembly of Stars). 

To date our scheduling of events have depended on the Gregorian Calendar, the school holidays, the weekend breaks and the ability of members to be released from worksites. 

What if our selection of times and days for events was dependent on the Maramataka and the days when energy levels are high? How would this decision making process affect our operations as an organisation? Who would need to be in all considerations? Why, why not, and how come? 

This year we have used the Maramataka and ngā pou to plan Te Kāhui Whetū and Hui-ā-Tau.

Te Maramataka and Education Worksites

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Rongomai is the first kura to have officially changed their school year to fit the Maramataka and more recently Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hirangi have advanced a similar proposition. 

However, outside of the auspices of the Ministry of Education, many Early Childhood Education sites in Taitokerau and further south have also organised their curriculum and their work schedule according to the Maramataka but with community and whānau support. 

With education worksites discussing and agreeing to the value of the Maramataka approach for themselves and their mokopuna, it is crucial that NZEI Te Riu Roa shows foresight and future proofing to follow a similar pathway because we as an organisation can only offer suitable advice from a position of ‘knowing, doing and being’. 

Mōku te Ao and Mana Taurite

Framing Mana Taurite claims and Collective Agreement negotiations within a Mōku te Ao lens has meant a complete change in planning steps to ensure that ngā pou are continually promoted alongside the desired direction.