How Rangatahi Lead Positive Social Change in
Identifying their Hauora Issues.
Justina Webster, Te Rina Warren, Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata, Dylan Kiriona
with Rangatahi Researchers
te Hauora o ngä Rangatahi Research Unit, Te Rünanga o Raukawa Inc.
paper examines how rangatahi have contributed towards positive social change
within a research project that considers their hauora. Hapü and Mäori
providers nominated rangatahi who they believed had leadership potential to be
trained and to lead participatory action research into the health and wellbeing
of Mäori rangatahi. The rangatahi played an integral role in developing the
research including the methodologies utilised and in the process have become
role models for the rangatahi that are the participants in the research. A
noticeable change of attitude is now apparent from these young people as they
realise the positive potential of research as means of ensuring their voices are
being heard around social issues that are important to them.
in common with other indigenous peoples face considerable problems with their
youth. While there have been many attempts to address these issues, there
has been limited involvement from Mäori youth and their communities.
While there is substantial literature on youth in New Zealand as well as many
statements that Mäori youth make up a considerable portion of the major issues
and negative statistics in our country, there still appears to be minimal
information which directly addresses the issues relevant to rangatahi Mäori,
and even less from a rangatahi Mäori perspective. Given the opportunity young people will reveal that they are
in their life projects, actively engaged in social relationships of all kinds,
keen commentators on their own, full of suggestions for improving them, willing
to participate in the institutions of everyday life, but very aware of the
limitations placed on their ability to do so” (Prout, 2001:199).
2002 Te Rünanga o Raukawa Inc. were successful in securing funding from the
Health Research Council (HRC) in conjunction with the Foundation for Research
Science and Technology (FoRST), to undertake a three year research project in
the area of Youth Health and Well being. The Request for Proposal (RFP)
indicated that the project needed to be overseen by an Iwi/Mäori organisation
providing an opportunity for an iwi to become a lead organisation. Te Rünanga o
Raukawa Incorporated was chosen to umbrella the project for a number of reasons.
As an iwi organisation Te Rünanga o Raukawa already had a strong presence
throughout the Manawatu - Horowhenua area, had established health and social
services and were interested in expanding into research and development.
particular strength of this project was the collaborative relationships that
were established with a number of organisational stakeholders who would play a
vital on-going interest in the project and would nominate members for an
advisory committee that would oversee the project. These organisations
included, research units at Te Putahi-a-Toi (Massey University), the School of
Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work (Massey University), Te Mana Tuku Iho,
Highbury Whanau Centre, Wesley Community Action, Te Wänanga o Raukawa, and the
Academic Vice Chancellor Mäori at Massey University. As highly recognised
exponents in the iwi and research terrain specific advice was sought from
Professor Mason Durie and Professor Whatarangi Winiata who in turn nominated
their representatives for the advisory committee.
project would be undertaken within the boundaries of Ngäti Raukawa, but would
include rangatahi Mäori of any iwi. The research was being conducted
under the auspices of Te Rünanga o Raukawa which also suggested the potential
of a strong whanau, hapü and iwi being presented.
and Mäori groups have been the participants of many research projects with many
having negative experiences of the process. Irwin (1994: 38) states that
“researchers and academics generally have a poor reputation in the Mäori
community and are viewed with suspicion at best, contempt in the main”. Iwi
and Mäori have aspired for a long time to be in control of their own research,
believing that they could rectify this negative imagery, however most research
has been conducted via research institutions or universities. Until
recently, Mäori status was regularly described using deficit theories and Päkehä
solutions were offered to the “Mäori Problem” (Walsh-Tapiata, 1997: 136).
Rather than focussing on the negative aspects often associated with young people
and Mäori this research offered the opportunity for rangatahi themselves
to identify and highlight what they saw as their hauora issues as well as
offering some possible solutions to these issues. As rangatahi are the
sole focus of this research this allowed rangatahi the opportunity to consider
rangatahi Mäori solutions.
workers involved in the project were strong advocates for the need to ensure
that the youth voice be heard throughout the research project as well as to
monitor the project from their perspective. Ensuring that the youth voice
was heard was a key principle as “youth have insightful views and analyses of
our society, have solutions to offer and would be willing to voice those if
invited” (Tuhiwai-Smith, Smith, Boler, Kempton, Ormond, Cheuh & Waetford,
2002:170). This research project endeavours to listen to the voice
of rangatahi Mäori, allow them to mould the shape of the research, not just in
terms of the information collected, but also in terms of developing appropriate
research methods, and to involve rangatahi Mäori in a research process that is
driven by them. Through participatory action research we set out to
“create new forms of knowledge through a creative synthesis of the different
understandings and experiences of those who take part” (Rice and Ezzy,
1999:173). Therefore, participatory action research allows rangatahi Mäori
as researchers and participants the opportunity to convey their own experiences
in a manner that may enhance their own health and wellbeing.
of Rangatahi Researchers and Participants
the start of the research project we approached a range of iwi, Mäori and youth
organisations to see if they were interested in the project. We asked them
whether they had any youth who might be interested in being involved.
Rather than placing advertisements in the paper we attended hui, asked adults or
directly approached rangatahi. Te Rünanga Whaiti (the executive committee
of Te Rünanga o Raukawa) was approached to recommend young leaders from their
hapü and a number of Mäori groups were also invited to recommend rangatahi for
the project. Rangatahi were then contacted and informed about an initial
hui. Rangatahi attended these hui for a number of reasons, some were
already involved in youth leadership programmes or youth councils, others
were nominated because of their leadership roles in the various communities that
they lived in, while a number had little idea initially as to why they were here
but simply came “because koro said”.
dozen rangatahi became a part of the research team with two adults working
alongside them. Two of the older rangatahi had to leave the project
because of permanent employment opportunities. Initially we thought we
would have a group of rangatahi between 19-24 years, however, the rangatahi
between 15-19 years have been more consistently available.
established the group of rangatahi researchers we identified possible rangatahi
groups to approach about the project and to see if they would be interested in
participating in the project. A matrix of a range of rangatahi variables
such as high–low risk rangatahi, rural–urban based rangatahi, and
educational settings was designed and from this six groups were selected to
participate. We also visited some of these groups to meet up with their
rangatahi and see if they thought the project was worthwhile and if they were
interested in participating. The groups that have participated included a
small rural town youth programme, a school, an iwi education programme, a
leadership programme and two alternative education programmes, one based at a
marae and the other based in a city.
we set out to “privilege” the youth voice through the design of the
methodology and the organisation of the research (Weis and Fine, 1993) the
research project is strongly influenced by participatory action research and has
utilised qualitative research methods. The Youth Development Strategy
Aotearoa (Ministry of Youth Affairs, 2002) also emphasises the importance of the
youth voice in any youth developments. We used a combination of open ended
focus group interviews, in-depth individual interviews as well as youth based
activities, in addition to the analysis of relevant literature. The use of
these qualitative research methods allowed us to explore the stories and
experiences of the young people. These methodologies enabled youth
researchers, participants and adult researchers to identify and create “safe
spaces” to “hear it like it is” (Tuhiwai Smith et al, 2002).
Reinharz (1988, 15-16) states, “…if you want to hear it, you have to go hear
it, in their space, or in a safe space…In other words, if you want someone to
tell it like it is, you have to hear it like it is”. We conducted
focus group interviews in the first phase and in-depth individual interviews in
(1996) believes that it is important to find methods that are appropriate
to Mäori, with the critical factors being Mäori participation in the design of
the project, the incorporation of Mäori world views and a reflection of
the diversity of Mäori . In order for us to ensure that the interview
schedule was youth focused and youth driven all phases were piloted first with
and by the youth researchers and adapted accordingly. Using a semi-structured
interview schedule allowed participants the opportunity to tell their story in
their own words. These methods and exercises provided rangatahi
participants with information which was youth friendly and non-threatening and
also enabled them to feel positive and empowered about their involvement in this
research project and research in general.
opportunity was used to discuss the various phases of the project with our
rangatahi researchers and to assess whether our research methods matched our
research objective. Analysis of the literature on youth, Mäori youth and
participatory action research methods supported the approaches that we used.
Yet, in order to contextualise this alongside the current developments in
Aotearoa it became apparent that we should maximise our opportunities to create
unique approaches to research with Mäori and particularly rangatahi Mäori.
Some of the methods used were developed as we progressed on our research
journey. These methods were influenced by both rangatahi and adults in the
research team as well as by the advisory committee where a number of them came
from backgrounds such as social work, community work, youth work and Mäori
research. With ideas starting to emerge meetings were held with our
rangatahi researchers where these methods were trialled for their
appropriateness. In developing the interview schedule questions we felt
that it was important for the rangatahi to have input to ensure that the
questions were contextualised within their experience and informed by
their knowledge of what factors would work or not work when researching young Mäori.
So while rangatahi were leading the development of the interview schedule they
were also being educated and trained about research and how to be youth
researchers. Given many of their previous negative experiences of
research, despite their young age, it was vitally important to give them a
different impression about how positive social change could occur through
research (Munford and Walsh-Tapiata, 2001).
Exercises and Activities
following are some of the training exercises and activities that we have used
within this project. One of the initial exercises used to encourage this
group of rangatahi Mäori about the importance of research was a textbook
exercise. A range of literature on youth was presented to the rangatahi
researchers. All were asked to choose one of the reports, books or
articles we had on youth health and to see what, if anything, was stated
specific to rangatahi Mäori. Only a small amount of information was found
specific to rangatahi Mäori which was an effective mechanism of allowing the
rangatahi to conclude not only the importance of this research project but also
why of their involvement was critical.
activity included simply asking the rangatahi researchers “what is
research?” In this workshop rangatahi were broken into two groups and
were asked to brainstorm/mind map what they thought “research” was.
After a slow beginning and some uncertainty about what they were expected
to do, a flow of ideas produced not only some creative ideas but also allowed
further discussion around the different types of research (qualitative versus
quantitative), information gathering as well as analysis of data, specific
research skills required and rangatahi appropriate research. Some of the ideas
that rangatahi had about “what is research” included breaking down the word into:
= as in re-doing something more than once
= finding or looking for
rangatahi themselves led the discussion but also identified further areas that
they would like more information on in order become good researchers. They
were gaining confidence in the subject area as well as the ability to suggest
processes and procedures within the research project that needed to be
considered from a rangatahi perspective.
was also vitally important for the rangatahi researchers to realise that they
were key decision makers in the entire research process and the on-going success
of research is particularly because of the valuable contribution that they make.
Being guided by our rangatahi researchers also meant that the adults had to be
aware of the attention span of rangatahi and we were mindful to break the
interviews up with youth based activities or by asking questions that allowed
experiences and stories from the rangatahi to be expressed in several contexts.
In addition the use of drama, song and story telling techniques were also used
to ensure that the individuals felt comfortable in focus groups and interview
settings while still contributing to the research. All of these
techniques proved to be effective and generated rich data about the nature of
wellbeing (Munford and Sanders: 2003). We began each focus group interview
with warm up exercises that allowed whakawhanaungatanga processes to occur
within the group. These whakawhanaungatanga based activities allowed
rangatahi to interact and engage with each other. These activities were
also designed to create an interactive environment and break down some of the
initial barriers, particularly when rangatahi did not know each other. An
example of this was a human bingo exercise where all participants had to ask
other rangatahi simple questions about themselves.
exercises of brainstorming or mind mapping addressed broad interpretations of
hauora which then led to more specific brainstorming questions relevant to
particular areas of hauora. The use of large A1 post it stickers and
coloured vivids offered visual aids for further discussions and encouraged
dialogical learning (Freire, 1970). While the use of brainstorming
promoted peer interaction and conversation it also allowed rangatahi to track
what topics had been spoken about and provided the quiet individual with the
opportunity to simply write their own thoughts on one corner of the paper.
This exercise catered well for both the collective and the individual.
we delved deeper into the interpretations of hauora and experiences of these an
individual exercise called the ‘secret box’ (Punch, 2002) offered the
participants an opportunity to comment about a health issue that they may have
felt reluctant to discuss in front of their peers. This issue could be a
positive or negative experience, however, most presented negative experiences
ranging from abuse, drugs and racism. This particular exercise gave the
project some insight into some of the deeper issues that rangatahi are faced
focus groups interviews looked at uncovering the broad interpretation of hauora,
the individual interview schedule looked at services, people and programmes
available to youth in their community and the appropriateness of these services
from their perspective. As the research process progressed we believed a true
partnership had been created where rangatahi felt that their voice was truly
being heard and listened to. Every focus group was undertaken jointly by
both rangatahi and adults and it was here that the leadership roles in
facilitating the interviews started to obviously change. As the rangatahi
researchers became more confident in both the research and in their role in it,
they began taking on a more frontline position where they developed the
facilitation skills that they had learned. Slowly the rangatahi moved from
handing out pens and paper, to fully facilitating the sessions. In some
instances they themselves were able to decide in certain contexts that they may
not have been the right person in the interview. An example of this
occurred when one focus group turned out to be all female participants and the
rangatahi researcher was male. This male felt uncomfortable and sensed
that the group was also feeling this way so in a discussion it was decided that
he no longer co-facilitate but proceed to undertake other tasks not directly
associated with the interview such as preparing the kai. This aligns with
the notion of ko te amorangi ki mua ko te hapai o ki muri.
training session looked at transcription techniques. As a group we talked
about the various ways in which to record interviews. We talked about the
range of equipment available as well as the equipment we would use. One
rangatahi spoke of her experience of transcribing and how she found the task
long, boring and tiring. She did note however that it was good to re-hear the
interviews. Although transcribing itself can be a monotonous job, we
attempted to maintain a reasonable amount of interest while demonstrating the
activity. As a practical exercise the rangatahi researchers were separated
into groups of five and each group provided with a dictaphone with their first
task being to “tutu” with them. The next task was for them to record a
two minute conversation in their group. They then had to pass their
dictaphone to the other group who where to transcribe the first minute of the
conversation. Initially the rangatahi thought the exercise would be easy
but as they struggled to make sense of the conversation replaying the tape many
times with much heated debate about what they thought they had heard they became
aware of the importance of accurate transcribing and its relevance to research.
As an additional exercise, the rangatahi still in their groups attempted to
transcribe a song from a well known hip hop band. Rangatahi said that this
was fun but that it still offered the same difficulties especially with regard
to the different interpretations and the running together of some of the lyrics.
discussions around transcribing centred on the difficulties and ways in which we
could minimise these as well as some strategies that are useful to remember.
Some of the difficulties included not having been present at the interview and
therefore it would be harder to interpret what was being said and the difficulty
of focus group interviews where you have a number of speakers let alone some
that speak really quietly The possible strategies included having someone who
was at the interview to transcribe the interview as they generally knew what the
conversations were about. Patton (2002) also suggests that transcribing
your own interviews provide an opportunity to get immersed in the data.
Patton also highlights the importance of having good equipment and that
extensive notes should also be made immediately after an interview. We
also discussed the possibility of returning the transcripts to the participants
to ensure the transcripts were correct. This exercise was orchestrated to
demonstrate some of the issues that surround transcription.
te Hauora o ngä Rangatahi” is based on participatory action research.
This means that rangatahi who participate in the research are agents of change.
Having established an honest and open relationship between all of the parties
involved in the project, the rangatahi themselves are giving voice to their
ideas and are each showing leadership potential. Each training exercise
and activity provides an opportunity for learning as well as an expression of
opinion for these rangatahi. There ability to vocalise their thoughts and
to show a true interest in youth activities as well as whanau, hapü, iwi and Mäori
issues is indicative of the number of them that have been nominated to be at
this conference by their hapü . Within the research project, there are
many instances when adult researchers glimpse underlying talents and hidden
leadership qualities in these rangatahi and these are harnessed as a part of the
research project. Again a good example of this is our tohu and our up and coming
artist. We think that the research project is offering an exciting insight
into rangatahi potential. As the project progresses rangatahi are
revealing of their personal traits to both the adult researchers and their peers
and we are seeing artists, singers, kapa haka components, tuakana-teina roles
and responsibilities, analysts, youth leaders, and researchers to name a few .
The saying, these are the leaders of tomorrow, is a heavy burden to carry
especially with the knowledge of the myriad of issues that rangatahi face in
contemporary societies. But it is an even heavier burden if we as pakeke
have no understanding of these issues and do not equip our rangatahi with the
necessary skills to do deal with those issues. Who would of ever have
thought that establishing a youth driven research project would be a ground for
developing Young Mäori leaders. Young Mäori leaders who are agents of
social change themselves in their various communities. Not only have they
encountered change in terms of their views of research, or change in rangatahi
attitudes by providing rangatahi faces to the ancient art of research reserved
only for fossils and dinosaurs, by they have collated and provided information
about their own experiences and realities in order to effect change in a way
that adulthood views of rangatahi and their health issues could never do.
We believe that their efforts will effect change much further a field than their
own thinking, their own homes or their own communities. We know that these
rangatahi are already leading a new direction for youth research, for Mäori
research and for health research. Some say that these are our leaders of
tomorrow; we say they are leading us today.
Röpu Whai – Rangatahi researchers include:
Arapere, Hohua Arapere, Sharn Webster, Amokura Tapiata, Mihikore Davis, Istarnia
Peachey, Michael Moses, Areti Metuamate-Tuatini, Te Aniwaniwa Gotty, Kiriona
Pene, Mahinaarangi Baker, Te Hokowhitu Cook, Terewai Rikihana, Te Puawai
Stretch-Logan, Kieran Brown, Rawiri Tapiata, Tiaria Ransfield
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