Matariki brings Hauora focus to NorthTec

June 27, 2024
June 27, 2024

With Matariki ready to rise and grace our morning skies, the Kahikatea Mental Health and Wellbeing team at NorthTec has created a hauora initiative to help uplift and support the wellbeing of ākonga and kaiako alike.

“It’s been a hard year for a lot of people,” explains Huria Bruce-Ira, Manager of Student Services at NorthTec. “We have counselling and nursing services available at NorthTec, but that’s not for everyone. We wanted to offer a range of indigenous practices to help support ākonga and kaimahi hoa in a way that feels right for them.”

Over the week leading up to the Matariki public holiday, the team has organised a range of wellbeing wānanga sessions and seminars to take place on their Raumanga campus, free for both ākonga and kaimahi hoa to attend. They have also spaces for people to engage with traditional Matariki practices while on campus.

Led by local community practitioners, the sessions and seminars allow everyone the chance to drop by and engage in a range of healing practices. Practitioners share their journey and demonstrate their practices.

Monday saw Vera Rapana lead a Mirimiri session. The traditional Māori practice consists of gentle massage combined with Rongoa (Māori medicine) to help alleviate health issues.

On Tuesday Dana Kaukau, a Rongoa practitioner led a seminar on the uses and benefits of Rongoa (Māori medicine), explaining simple ways someone can incorporate it into life, gave tips for the safe and regenerative harvesting of Rongoa, and more.

“I grew up with Rongoa,” says Dana. “My grandmother was a Rongoa practitioner, so I was around it my whole life. I’ve been a Rongoa practitioner myself for 26 years and my children also practice now too.”

Dana brought a range of creams and balms for people to try as well as some sample leaves from different rongoa plants.

“Growing up we never went to the doctors, we just used rongoa. It can help with a wide range of issues and many people find it more accessible and far more natural than modern medicine,” Dana explains. “Rongoa can work with doctors and modern medicine to provide an all-around approach to health.

Wednesday diverted away from traditional Māori practices and into Reiki, which originated in Japan and is a form of energy healing using gentle “hands-on” technique.

“I have clients come to me for many reasons,” says Marie Downer. “Some have trauma, anxiety, or depression they need to work through. Others have physical health issues. I’ve also worked in end-of-life care. I believe that from every negative experience, there is a positive to be gained and Reiki can help you to work through your experiences and find the positive aspect.”

Marie guided attendees through a meditation session to help them connect with themselves and provided them with small techniques people can use in their everyday lives to help with mental and physical health.

To round out the week, Vera returned on Thursday to lead a session on healing through Taonga Puoro (traditional māori instruments) and waiata (singing).

Outside the sessions, spaces were set up in the student hub area giving people a place to connect with multiple aspects or matariki.

A wishing well was in place for people to write down their hopes and dreams for the future under the purview of Hiwa-i-te-rangi, the youngest star in the Matariki cluster that is connected to dreams and aspirations.

A quiet corner with lights and candles has been set aside for those to recognise and remember people who have passed on in the last year under the guidance of Pōhutukawa, the star that connects us to the deceased. Karakia was also offered up in this space, allowing people to speak the name of those passed on in safety and with support.

Another area has been set up with kai on offer, allowing those to take what they need from the areas of both Tipuānuku and Tipuārangi, the stars that align with food grown below and above the ground respectively. Ākonga and kaimahi hoa can take what they need or bring in extras to share with others.

It is the hope of the Kahikatea team that this will be able to become, at the least a yearly occurrence.

“We would like to offer a wide range of support for ākonga year-round,” says Huria. “This is a first step in seeing what people need and how that can be incorporated into our current health and wellbeing support offerings.”

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