My strongest impression of the recent NZAC/IAC Conference in Auckland (June 2002) was a 3 part workshop with Kuia Tuti Aranui. I was drawn to this workshop to experience a Maori perspective within a counselling framework. Even though it took up 3 of 4 possible workshop slots and meant that I would miss out on a number of interesting options, at no stage of this workshop did I regret my decision.
The workshop started with a karakia and ended with a waiata, which provided the framework to explore “personal, whanau and community development” *. Tuti created a warm and caring atmosphere with her exquisite accepting stance that was married with superb clarity and precise instructions. We created whanau by forming small groups. Mine consisted of 4 individuals who were born in 4 different continents. As we connected and shared our stories with each other, we discovered communalities despite our different origins.
On the second day, four different situations that reflect Maori concepts were presented. This was not only educational in terms of communicating Maori concepts, but also provided an opportunity for participants to relate to the themes presented. In the safety of being held by our whanau, we could enter the archetypes and symbols provided for our own personal discovery. For me it meant the opportunity to understand more fully and resolve much further a personal issue, an old wound, that I was carrying. No individual or group therapy that I had experienced in the past had reached that deep.
The third day provided the completion of a healing experience where the connection between individual and communal well-being was paramount. Emanating Aroha and respect for the feelings that had been evoked, Tuti created the space for significant experience to happen, in uncomplicated and unobtrusive profoundness.
Again, this NZAC conference was a very special conference, as confirmed by several overseas speakers. It had a unique New Zealand flavour, which I believe is greatly supported by the inclusion of Maori protocol like Powhiri and Poroporoaki. They carry the wairua that touches people irrespective of their origin.
I believe, it is important to recognise this and to extend our understanding of bi-culturalism to a readiness to learn from each other on more than a superficial, tokenism, politically correct level. A Maori perspective to counselling can provide a wealth of profound knowledge and skill (way of being) that not only benefits Maori people but all of us.
It is my sincere wish that Te Whariki Tautoko will embrace the challenge to offer a conference for NZAC counsellors on a Marae, that will deepen the general knowledge and appreciation of what is unique for Aotearoa/New Zealand, counselling which is “culturally grounded and contains principles and value systems reflected in the oral traditions” *. I do believe that this is not only for the benefit of Maori people but for people in general.
Maybe now the time is right to not only look for treasures from afar but to recognise and appreciate the gem of wisdom and skill that has lived in this land for many centuries. We are so fortunate that it is still possible to experience the spirit of an unbroken chain of orally transmitted wisdom.
Thank you Tuti for your generosity in sharing this precious Tohunga.
* Tuti Aranui, in Conference Manual
Rudolf Jarosewitsch was born in Germany and has been living in New Zealand for the last 19 years. He is a Gestalt therapist, trainer and educator with a particular interest in conscious partnership and mutuality. Rudolf is treasurer of the Canterbury NZAC branch.
Copyright © 9/2002 by Rumijabu | Originally published in NZAC Newsletter, Vol.23 No2, September 2002