Indigenous Wāhine Leadership Wānanga focuses on Wāhine Entrepreneurship

A group of indigenous wāhine leaders from Australia and Aotearoa came together to share in industry excellence and cultural exchange bringing our two countries’ indigenous peoples closer to promote economic, social and cultural advancement.

Published: Monday, 4 March 2024 | Rāhina, 04 Poutūterangi, 2024

Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand governments signed an Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement (ICA) committing our two countries to advancing indigenous peoples through relationship development, improved knowledge sharing, and stronger collaboration.

In 2020 when the ICA was signed, former Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta said “this collaboration represents a partnership between our nations and serves as a framework to co-design activities that help meet the aspirations and needs of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori communities.”

The Indigenous Wāhine Leadership Wānanga held in February gathered around 30 Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Wāhine Māori to focus on Wāhine Entrepreneurship.

The wānanga was jointly led by Te Puni Kōkiri and National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), and held in Rotorua on the day before the Indigenous Women in Industry – Iwi Summit started, of which our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander manuhiri planned to attend.

“It was an opportunity for meaningful indigenous to indigenous dialogue ahead of the summit and share learnings, identify further opportunities for collaboration whether on a business-business basis, or related to government policy,” says Jessica Smith, Te Puni Kōkiri Te Tai Hauāuru Regional Director.

“It was also an important opportunity for the indigenous wāhine to experience tikanga Māori and manaakitanga,” says Rangitamoana Wilson, Te Puni Kōkiri Waikato-Waiariki Regional Director.

Wāhine were welcomed on to Te Kuirau Marae by hau kainga - Ngāti Turipuku / Ngati Te Roro o te rangi, giving the Indigenous Wāhine their first experience of pōwhiri, followed by whakawhānaungatanga.

“As Wāhine stood and introduced themselves, many of the Wāhine manuhiri acknowledged their whakapapa links to multiple Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island mobs (iwi),” says Rangitamoana.

There are over 250 Mobs in Australia and even more Clans (some Mobs have upwards of 7 clans), in Australia there are more than 250 Indigenous languages including 800 dialects. Each language is specific to a particular place and people. Aotearoa has over 100 registered iwi but only one Māori language albeit with a few different dialects.

“We wanted to gain a good understanding of the challenges being experienced by indigenous wāhine leaders in business and then identify possible approaches or solutions that will remove barriers and realise aspirations,” says Sally Page, Te Puni Kōkiri Te Pae Tawhiti Team Leader.

The three focused discussions were Leadership, Cultural Identity, and Impact and Influence.

Some themes were clearly identified such as the influence culture and connection has over commerce, leaving a legacy for their families, opportunities to express freely and meaningfully and the importance of strengthening and building reciprocal relationships to share learnings.

“Our Te Pae Tawhiti team will now collate and analyse what was shared during the wānanga and work with NIAA to see how we can progress the collective aspirations of this group of powerful, intelligent, and motivated indigenous wāhine,” says Sally.