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In the wake of the 2007 Māori Child Abuse Summit, and with high-profile cases of abuse continuing to make harrowing headlines, Dr Hone Kaa and his nephew Anton Blank decided it was time to forge a solution.
Drawing on their shared background in social services and Māori advocacy, the pair formed Mana Ririki in 2008. This charitable trust set out to create a Māori-led response to the tragically high incidence of maltreatment among Māori children (tamariki, or ririki).
To formulate responses that could help whānau change entrenched patterns of violence, Mana Ririki needed to return to cultural roots. “Mainstream parenting models are not suited to many Māori families, who need a Māori model,” said Anton, Mana Ririki’s Executive Director (Dr Kaa passed away in 2012).
Tikanga Ririki, the core programme, tailors advice to parents in a culturally appropriate way through workshops, free resources and advice. A key element has been the development of a Māori parenting model based on pre-colonial philosophy, in which children were favoured as gifts from the atua (spiritual beings) and tūpuna (ancestors).
Traditional Māori society viewed tamariki as preceding others still unborn, which meant that they were tapu (sacred) and therefore protected by special rules and restrictions. Aroha (loving care) and indulgence were the guiding principles for whānau; violence or punitive discipline were anathema to the tūpuna.
Comments from parents who have completed the programme are eye opening.
Mana Ririki recognises that many Māori families live in poverty and at the edge of society, but there is also mindfulness that those in prominent positions, as well as extended families, can be guilty of complacency. “It’s about keeping Māori communities aware of the high rates of violence towards Māori children, especially Māori boys, largely by the Māori whānau itself,” said Mana Ririki Chair Dr Kuni Jenkins.
The Tindall Foundation has committed funding to Mana Ririki in two stages: $70,000 per annum for three years, and $130,000 per annum for another three years. The donations are to support organisation and management of training workshops, evaluate Tikanga Ririki’s effectiveness and, more recently, restructure programme delivery.
That backing has also helped Mana Ririki execute a strong communications programme. After bringing together leading Māori musicians as the Aotearoa Reggae Allstars, Mana Ririki released a remake of the Herbs’ classic ‘Sensitive to a Smile’ in June 2013—raising awareness of child abuse while also raising funds to tackle the issue.
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