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Weaving Our Tapestries

This Christmas break allowed us time to reflect and hopefully start the New Year refreshed. With Waitangi Day upon us in New Zealand, I’d like to share a theme of my reflection over the last few months, which is the beauty and power of collaboration.

There is so much depth in this whakatauki (proverb) written by Kukupa Tirikatene

E kore e taea e te whenu kotahi ki te raranga i te whariki kia mohio tatou ki a tatou.

Ma te mahi tahi o nga whenu, ma te mahi tahi o nga kairaranga, ka oti tenei whariki.

I te otinga me titiro tatou ki nga mea pai ka puta mai.

A tana wa, me titiro hoki ki nga raranga i makere na te mea, he korero ano kei reira.

The tapestry of understanding cannot be woven by one strand alone.

Only by the working together of strands and the working together of weavers will such a tapestry be completed.

With its completion let us look at the good that comes from it.

In time we should also look at those stitches which have been dropped, because they also have a message.

Whanaungatanga and manaakitanga – two core concepts in te ao Maori (the Maori worldview) – challenge my self-sufficient and proud Pakeha (white New Zealander) mindset but bring so much joy and freedom – once I can let go of my fear.

Whanaungatanga encapsulates the idea that we don’t have to do things on our own but that we have the guidance and support of the wider community.  In te ao Maori, tamariki (children) exist in a world where they are part of an extended line of kinship.  This idea can be found in the following whakatauki: Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – My strength is not mine alone but comes from the many. My successes are not due to my own efforts but are the result of input from many others.  It really goes against the grain of self-accomplishment, self-importance and requires a level of vulnerability.

Manaakitanga involves caring attitudes and a willingness to support all of those that surround us in a holistic sense and who we feel connected to.  There is a culture in which caring for others is both expected and encouraged.  It’s about nurturing, looking after people and caring for one another’s wellbeing in a holistic sense.  It encompasses both words and actions and the demonstration of kindness and feeling embraced.

As mediators we have an opportunity to bring these principles into our mediation practice by opening up the doors for the whanau (the wider family) to support parents in making decisions for their tamariki.  But can we truly do this in our mediation practice if we struggle to live wholeheartedly and embrace these concepts in our personal lives?

Embracing the concepts of kindness, support, and inclusiveness is of great benefit to all involved.  The more we are prepared to incorporate this into our practice, the more we all collectively benefit.

The back of a tapestry is usually a mess of colours and knots.  But turn it over and you have a stunning piece of art.  Usually the journey to weave our future is rocky – especially if we choose to tackle difficult conversations, make brave decisions and live with courage.  But as Kukupa Tirikatene says, “With its completion let us look at the good that comes from it.”


Keri Morris

Keri is the Manager ODR at the Domain Name Commission She has many years of experience in dispute resolution and is passionate about creating opportunities for agreement. Keri is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK and a Fellow of Arbitrators and Mediators Institute NZ. MORE >

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