In May several staff members of Catholic Social Services attended Professor Sir Mason Durie’s seminar entitled ‘Māori Concepts of Wellbeing’.
Mason Durie is from Rangitane, Ngati Kauwhata and Ngati Raukawa and holds the position of Professor of Māori Research and Development at Massey University.
The participants were challenged to consider whether there is a distinctive Māori psychology particularly around the historical and current concepts of tapu and noa. In today’s world, tapu and noa relate in broad terms to a code of survival incorporating the continuation of future generations by:
• Adapting to the environment and
• Developing a guide for social interaction ie
• tapu – What to be wary of
• noa – What is safe to approach
• rāhui – What is off limits (imposed to minimise danger)
Another area of psychology
Professor Durie discussed was concerned with marae encounters. This is where interaction, protocols and communication patterns are primarily influenced by Maori values. Contexts are tested, purpose is announced, the mind is focused, the case is stated and risk assessed and then supported, relationships explored, bonds cemented, contacts made and meals shared.
We learnt many aspects of the use of time and space, distinctions between groups, patterns of thinking (centrifugal; outwards – understanding one’s place in the world, and centripetal; looking inside ourselves for answers), different ways of reaching conclusions and their implications.
If you ever have the opportunity to meet Professor Sir Mason Durie, you may take away with you a kete of down-to-earth ideas, unsurpassed empathy for others, a mountain of understanding of how our environment affects us, an understanding of the importance of significant others in our lives and, finally, a heightened awareness of what has gone before us and the meaning we make of that individually and collectively.
A Christmas story
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