On 11 October 2016, our Auckland-based Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ) members visited te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi for the very first time. Dr Hinemoa Elder, Māori Strategy Leader at BRNZ, identified the school and marae as a partner for our Centre of Research Excellence based on the community’s dedication to learning and commitment to Māori advancement and wellbeing.
Since then, our scientists and clinicians have been going to the marae at least once a year to sit down with the young students kanohi ki te kanohi, face to face, to hear about their experiences and values. Our members got to experience pōwhiri and manaakitanga – often for the first time. They also had the opportunity to communicate the importance of research and spark an interest in science amongst the young students.
Over the years, we have discussed complex topics about the brain and the way research is conducted, and explored the unique perspectives of our Māori community partners. With every wānanga, each side has become more comfortable with each other. We like to think that we have come a long way together, and our sixth year of working with the tauira (students) and kaiako (teacher) of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi marae has shown just that.
On 10 May 2021, we were once again welcomed to the kura with a pōwhiri. We spent the morning on whakawhanaunga (building and nurturing relationships) and the students taught us to sing “Maiarara”, a waiata used to destress. However, no wānanga would be complete without a bit of stress, and our challenge of the day was to perform the waiata for the school during lunch – luckily, our student teachers did not leave us on our own.
In the afternoon, we discussed the differences between teenage and adult brains. We looked at thought processes, how we deal with challenges, and more, and then prepared skits to demonstrate what we had explored. We were also treated to a wonderful kapa haka performance by the youngest kura pupils, who were practicing for their first big competition.
We ended our wānanga with a talk by BRNZ Co-Director Prof Peter Thorne, who looked back at the past six years and the flourishing relationship we have built with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae. And while this might have been our last wānanga as a Centre of Research Excellence, we hope that the things we have learned from each other will continue to grow and will help us stay connected for the years to come.