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How are we considering te ao Māori and tikanga Māori?

We are considering tikanga Māori and Māori concepts that might be particularly relevant to adult decision-making.  

The idea of ‘decision-making capacity’ in our current law might be said to reflect a ‘Western’ perspective focused on individual autonomy. Māori understandings of decision-making may place more emphasis on collective considerations. 

At a wānanga we held, six tikanga principles were identified that may be particularly relevant to affected decision-making in te ao Māori: 

  • Whanaungatanga. This can be described as the reality of whakapapa-based relationships in te ao Māori. Whanaungatanga recognises that personal decisions are made in a collective context and so may involve whānau, hapū and iwi. 
  • Aroha. Aroha can broadly be described as love, compassion, sympathy, empathy and concern for others.
  • Mana. Mana involves concepts of spiritual force and vitality, and recognised authority, influence and prestige. Mana derives from the collective, and so carries with it an obligation to exercise it for collective wellbeing. 
  • Tiaki. Tiaki can be defined as to care for or support. It is concerned with providing care for and preserving taonga or precious things.
  • Wairua. This can be defined as the inherent spiritual essence of a person. A related concept is ‘mauri’ or the life force of a person or object.
  • Rongo. In this context we refer to rongo as a state of internal balance or peace. A person’s decision-making might be affected by their spiritual and mental balance. Rongo might be considered to emphasise the importance of restoring that balance.

Three key concepts were also identified that may be particularly relevant to affected decision-making in te ao Māori. These are sometimes used as translations for Western concepts of the mind, but have broader meanings which contain emotional and spiritual ideas: 

  • Hinengaro. This is sometimes translated as ‘mind’ but can be thought of more broadly as how a person communicates, thinks and feels.
  • Wairangi. This has been explained as describing someone who is confused or troubled such that their decision-making is affected.
  • Pōrangi. This can refer to someone who is permanently in a state of deep unrest, and who therefore cannot make decisions for themselves or their whānau.

We understand that, while some Māori may primarily live according to tikanga Māori, this is not the case for all Māori. Some may feel different degrees of connection to te ao Māori, or there may be things that prevent them from living in accordance with tikanga Māori on a daily basis. Some might find that it is hard to act consistently with tikanga Māori given the current law. 

We are interested in how relevant tikanga Māori is to Māori today in relation to decision-making and, in particular, when someone’s decision-making is affected. We are also interested in how the current law affects the ability to live in accordance with tikanga Māori, and how the law could be changed to address this. 

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