Guidance on how we can develop respectful, mutually beneficial relationships with mana whenua.

Hongi, 2017. Photo by Mark Coote. Te Papa (107052)

Throughout this resource there are references to connecting with whānau Māori and mana whenua. Take time to consider how this might happen best. The values that underpin our relationships are often far more important than the outcomes that we may be seeking.

Things to remember

If there are discussions happening at your school about things that are Māori, make sure that there is not only Māori representation within those discussions, but that these discussions prioritise the importance of that Māori voice.

If you ask whānau of ākonga Māori to be involved in planning your Matariki celebrations, honour their time with a monetary koha.

It is important to develop a relationship before you seek something from it. If your school or context does not yet have an active relationship with mana whenua, it is more appropriate to think about how you can build this in advance of next years’ Matariki celebrations than to expect something this year.

Do the work before the work. Take time to build your knowledge and do your own research first. Many iwi and mana whenua are already providing resources which share their stories. Seek these out first to reduce demands on mana whenua.

Make sure the school understands the importance of both He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi in confirming the pre-existing rights of mana whenua to tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake.

Find out what established relationships already exist and go through these connections. Try to begin without a fixed understanding of what you need – let it unfold, and importantly, listen to what a reciprocal relationship that would work for mana whenua looks like.

Remember to acknowledge any engagement with mana whenua, and show manaakitanga. Host with food and give koha for any time. This can look different in different contexts.

“Establishing collaborative, authentic working relationships with whānau, iwi and community requires support for whānau, iwi and communities to engage and exercise authority.

It also requires a shift in the critical consciousness of education practitioners and providers in relation to power and privilege...

These relationships offer the opportunity for whānau and iwi to support curriculum design and delivery so that the educational experiences of ākonga Māori can reflect their identity, language and culture.”

Te Hurihanganui, Ministry of Education, 2020

Design principles

The six design principles of Te Hurihanganui are critical for equitable education. These principles inform the types of practices schools and teachers need to orientate towards for effective learning relationships with whānau, hapū, and iwi.

Te ao Māori

Rich and legitimate knowledge is located within a Māori worldview. Under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the education system must create and hold safe spaces for this knowledge to thrive, supporting Māori to live and learn as Māori.

Tino rangatiratanga

Māori exercise authority and agency over their mātauranga, tikanga, and taonga. In order to access this knowledge, Māori leadership is essential. Through decolonisation of the education system Māori potential will be realised.


Whānau relationships are an exemplar for authentic, meaningful, and transformative relationships in education. These relationships are based on mutual trust and respect from which shared understandings and reciprocal benefits can arise.

Te Ira Tangata

Every person is a taonga: born of greatness and full of inner potential. This brings with it the responsibility to be critically aware of ourselves, our world, and each other.

Mana Ōrite

Te Tiriti o Waitangi provides the foundation for equal, reciprocal, respectful, and interdependent relationships between Māori and non-Māori.

Te Hāngaitanga

We must take collective responsibility for ensuring Māori can enjoy and achieve educational success as Māori.

  • Present each of the headings above to your school leaders, governance, and other teachers at your school and discuss what they mean.

  • Read through the Things to remember section again. What design principles are each of these actions demonstrating?

  • Brainstorm together other ideas for what each of these design principles might look like, feel like, and sound like in practice at your school.

  • If someone was unable to read these principles, and you had to describe them to someone else, what other words would you use?

  • Share ideas collectively and together develop a set of practices and guidelines for your context for engaging with whānau Māori and mana whenua this Matariki.