Piwi Gywneth Beard believes a knowledge and understanding of tikanga is the key to interrupting the cycle of family violence in Māori families, so tikanga is at the heart of Tū Pono: Mana Tangata, the organisation she established in Christchurch in 2018 in the hope of doing just that.
“So often, whānau come to us feeling disconnected from their roots but when I see them growing as they go through our programme and then they come back to work for us, it makes me feel that there is an answer. And that answer is tikanga. And it’s right there and it’s easy to access,” she says.
Piwi (Ngāti Porou) says giving whānau the opportunity to feel grounded in who they truly are and to feel pride in being Māori, shifts and changes them and she feels privileged and empowered watching people learn new ways of understanding everyone’s value in Te Ao Māori.
Tū Pono: Mana Tangata is a kaupapa that operates through wānanga and programmes developed to provide advocacy and to raise awareness of domestic violence, suicide and sexual abuse.
Wānanga deliver tikanga and the ability to discover whakapapa, kapa haka, learning pepeha, hauora and manaakitanga, while other programmes deliver life skills, mana-enhancing self-confidence and opportunities for whanaungatanga. The kaupapa ultimately exists to break the cycle of Māori feeling disadvantaged economically, socially, emotionally and mentally.
Born out of Tū Pono: Te Mana Kaha o Te Whanau, an anti-family violence programme initiated by Tā Mark Solomon, then Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu in 2016, Tū Pono: Mana Tangata has a special significance for Piwi.
She lost her own daughter, Talla, then 25, in 2011, which strengthened her desire to stand up against family violence.
“Talla and her three sons were victims of family violence and I have raised my mokopuna since their mother’s death. Her sons, especially the twins, Tane and Aka, 15, now advocate against domestic violence, sharing their stories through singing and speaking at community events, and at a Ministry of Justice summit last year.
“We were all involved in the Tū Pono: Te Mana Kaha o Te Whanau hīkoi around marae between 2016-2018 talking about family violence and sexual abuse, and when I see my mokopuna take the stage against family violence – not just for our organisation but for White Ribbon NZ and Women’s Refuge, I feel very proud.”
Organising and running the Tū Pono wānanga takes a lot of work and Piwi says receiving Wave funding from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has made a huge difference to the organisation’s ability to deliver solid, regular programmes.
“We run four wānanga a year in addition to our advocacy work and Wave funding has made the biggest difference to us. We were operating out of my house previously but funding has enabled us to secure a community centre base and our wānanga dates can be set ahead. Previously we would have been scrambling around trying to fund-raise and that can distract from our purpose.”
“Funding has been a big blessing and the ongoing support and communication we receive from Te Pūtahitanga has been amazing. If you’re passionate about what you do, their support can open doors for you and enable you to make connections and networks you’d never be able to make on your own.”
Piwi has spent twenty years involved in community and youth work and she is convinced that reconnecting whānau to their roots, to their sense of identity as Māori is a key to turning lives around for the better.
“When I see whānau walk in with their heads held high, it shows me the programmes we run are working. It gives me a great feeling to know that my work, and the hard and valued work by all my talented, volunteer kaimahi, has the ability to change lives and put whanau in the right place for autonomy. For whanau and led by whanau is what it’s all about for me.”