Kōkiri 31 – E tū whānau

Published in Kōkiri 31, Huitanguru 2015

E Tū Whānau is a movement dedicated to addressing the severe impact of violence within whānau, hapū and iwi. It is designed and led by Māori with support from government.

E Tū Whānau encourages whānau to consciously live their lives in a way that upholds aroha, tikanga, whakapapa, mana, manaaki, whānaungatanga and kōrero awhi. These are the values and behaviours that once made us strong and will make us strong again.

Kōkiri profiles a local kuia in Ōtautahi who has embraced the principles of E Tū Whānau, and was awarded with one of the first Māori awards in recognition of her dedication to supporting and strengthening whānau. Aroha in action

“Keep tight to that love,” says Kiwa Hutchen nee Stirling (Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, and Ngāi Tahu), the ngākau of her whānau.

“We’re a big whānau and like all families we’ve had our challenges, heaps of challenges. At times there are so many challenges you think you’re going mad, but the important thing is to care for one another, work hard together and keep talking to each other. Never close the door.”

That, says Mrs Hutchen is a recipe for a resilient family, one that faces and survives its challenges so that whānau nurture and support the next generation and help other families facing similar issues. Traditional values

She and husband Peter have five daughters and one son. They raised their eldest grandson as their own. Today she is 'Nana' to 41 mokopuna and great-grandchildren. A step-daughter completes the immediate family. In addition to their own children, Kiwa and Peter brought up five whāngai.

Her own childhood was steeped in traditional tikanga of whānau and she has always held fast to that knowledge, sharing her memories of bringing up children whenever she could.

Rituals surrounding childbirth and raising children centred primarily on mother and child, but men were always expected to not only provide, but to nurture and protect their children in their own way. Whānau looked after each others' children and each other. Mana restored

Kiwa was brought up in a safe world, but not a perfect one. Abuse wasn’t widespread, and she never experienced it, but it did happen. When it was discovered however, it was tackled openly and any perpetrators were expected and made to take responsibility for their actions.

“If it was sexual abuse, the elders would sit with the affected family and the whānau were involved in deciding the outcome. It wasn’t punishment for its own sake. It was about restoring the mana of those violated. No matter how hard things were,” she said.

They would always address issues kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face).

Stand together, support each other

The message from this kuia is that whānau build resilience by standing together and supporting each other, no matter what has happened.

“No family is perfect." Even when our whānau sink to the depths of despair, we must keep moving forward together. That’s how we build resilience and heal and by example can help other whānau in turn.

“Keep talking and caring about one another and no matter what happens, no matter how ugly it gets, aroha, aroha, aroha. In the end, aroha always wins.” To read the full story of Kiwa and her whānau or for more information about E Tū W hānau check out: www.etuwhanau.org

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