The Visible and the Invisible : The power of Voice


In Tina Makareti’s novel, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings, the character, Lula experiences a sense of belonging and reconciliation at the whare at Kopinga Marae, Rēkohu, where Moriori ancestors are carved into the building and names are recorded.

“The veil between the seen and unseen was thinner in this place, the sounds echoing beyond her hearing. She stood in the centre and looked through the windows, turning and seeing Rēkohu in every direction. Turning and being embraced on all sides by the world outside. The house did not separate her from the land. They were in her then. The ancestors whose memory was etched in the posts of the house. She saw as they did. The house embodied the living and the dead at the same time. The present and the absent. The visible and invisible”.

This last week, two of our team have been at Wharekauri, Rēkohu, Chatham Islands, soaking in the spirit of the land, attuned to the present and the absent, being embraced on all sides.

It is a remarkable place; where the sense of strength and resilience permeates through the community.


Isolation, by geography and distance, is both a challenge and an opportunity.   A challenge in the massive restrictions around resourcing and access to basic services; an opportunity for the brilliance of the people to radiate.

And so, it was, last weekend, that the first ever hui of this sort for solely men to attend a gathering without alcohol but where they felt safe enough to pose some serious and even some personal health questions took place on the island.   There was concern about mental health service provision on the island which led to excellent discussion. During the evaluation every single one of the feedbacks included encouragement and a desire to hold similar events. Congratulations to Te Ha o te Ora o Wharekauri - history in the making. 

We were on the island to check out the progress in the recruitment and appointment of a full time Whānau Ora Navigator, hosted by Te Ha o Te Ora o Wharekauri; as well as discuss the initiatives we are funding on the island around health literacy – looking after our health and wellbeing.


Fifty men from the island turned up to the men’s dinner where they heard three guest speakers - Pana Ryan - health and fitness expert, Dr Mark Fry - local GP and Huata Arahanga - Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu Contracts advisor. 

Following the dinner, the next morning forty or so men – male leaders, mentors, fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, sons – turned up for the blue-ribbon ride.

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Our contracts advisor, Edwardene Tanaki, with one of her whanaunga, a staunch member of the motorbike club on the island.

Whakawhanaungatanga in Te Tau Ihu

Gathering our whānau initiatives that have a common theme together across Whakatū/Motueka to support each other is amazing to witness.   With initiatives from Wave six to current Wave nines – the intent was for like minded whānau centred initiatives to come together to create a supportive and nurturing eco system, within themselves.


It was humbling to see the appreciation of these incredible whānau entrepreneurs to invest directly into whānau.   To believe, without doubt, that whānau are the architects of their own transformation; that the courage and commitment they demonstrate, enables them to stand tall, to grow and flourishing.

We were so grateful that to assist with our gathering, Arewa / Rezource was on board: Sacha and Chan helping to prepare our space, and to organise our hui.  We were also pleased that Susan Piket (Barbican Training) was able to attend. 


There were some awesome reflections in the sharing:

“if we take society’s approach of success as putea we are lost. If we take koha in our approach, then we are always plentiful”

“Doing what we are good at, and love doing it”

“Sharing knowledge, contributions to kaupapa, learning from others”

“This has built confidence in my whānau”

The investment is all around building and encouraging generational impact. 

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou!

Ascend whānau services 

Waka Abel Tasman

Kiwi Kai – (also provided our amazing catering)

Native Arts Aotearoa


Krafty Aotearoa

Taonga by Timoti


National Family and Sexual Violence – Te Wharewaka o Pōneke (Wellington)

In He Ara Oranga, the report into mental health and addiction, participants in the review had praised Whānau Ora providers for valuing the role of family and whānau in keeping people well and supporting their recovery.  They called for the wider provision of navigator services, such as Whānau Ora, to assist in connecting with multiple agencies. They also called for the expansion of regional commissioning of the Whānau Ora model.

In He Waka Roimata, many hui participants stressed that tikanga-based solutions must be considered as a priority.   They also said Māori need to exercise rangatiratanga over funding and that partnerships must be properly resourced.   They concluded “We shouldn’t be talking about a justice system; we should be talking about strengthening families.”


At the national sexual and domestic violence specialist services conference at Te Wharewaka o Pōneke this week, I was invited to speak about the relationship between the violence sector and Whānau Ora.   My key point was – all of the reviews and reports – all of the research into family violence – supports a view that the best problem-solvers; the best champions of change – can occur within the context of whānau.   We want to be part of the solution; moving forward together.

You can read my speech here.  


I was fascinated with the use of the terminology around optimum.

Optimum can be defined as “best, most favourable, most advantageous, most appropriate, ideal, perfect, prime, optimal, model”.

Well in my mind – isn’t that what every whānau want for every service, every approach, every model.

Launch of Māui me te Ao Hou.

It was an honour to be invited to speak at a book launch at the University of Canterbury, recognizing the talents and commitment of Unaiki Melrose (author) and Jo Petrie (illustrator); who were successful in receiving Whānau Ora investment from Wave 8.

Unaiki is driven by a belief that books that tell our stories are a way to enlarge our world.   Having the stories published in both English and te reo rangatira gives all of us opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the narratives without a language barrier.

But this is no ordinary book.

By using a combination of street art and natural Aotearoa landscapes; Unaiki and illustrator Jo Petrie, have swept us all into their unique art.

The book is for everyone: adults who are just starting their reo journeys as well as parents and teachers who want to teach our tamariki; mokopuna learning anew about kaupapa Maori and positive wāhine and tāne role models working cohesively; are all part of this unique experience.

I really loved some of the feedback from the ten whānau who had a preview of the early draft.  

  • “Maui is my favourite character because he is tenacious”

  • “My favourite is Māui because of what he represents innovation, defiance, anti-establishment”

  • Hine-Nui-Te-Pō, because she transcended her earlier experiences to become one of the most powerful figures in our oral traditions.

Luke EganComment