Tairāwhiti Unconference: Past and Present
Updated: Mar 1
To acknowledge Matariki, the Data Party crew based in Tāiki e! organised Tairāwhiti’s first Unconference. Over 40 people from across the Tairāwhiti community participated in 24 sessions covering topics from waste, to whānau engagement in education, the future of work, video production, NFTs, and male birth control. We had our fly-on-the-wall notetakers lovingly document every session so that we can share the diversity and depth of conversations. This is the first blog post in a two-part series documenting what was explored during Unconference Tairāwhiti: Past, Present, Future 2022. It offers summaries of all of the conversations with topics of the past and present.
Māra Kai, Health, and being Self-Sustaining
This session brought a diverse group together that passionately discussed what it takes for us to grow more healthy food as a community. “How do we create a workforce for community gardens?”, asked one participant. Another noted that many people don’t have the capacity to be growing kai, as they are always working. The potential is there in our region because of the climate and soils. Having more events in garden spaces could help because of the social aspect of kai and health. It was agreed that collaboration is needed across organisations and that projects work best when they are done by the community, not for the community.
Heal our Trauma
This passionate discussion courageously unpacked thoughts and feelings about intergenerational trauma. Some of the key points raised were around emotional wellbeing and not dealing with things from the past, not being able to express emotions as children and how this can lead to chronic and mental illness that continues to be passed down through generations. Participants shared about the importance of role modelling and creating safe and healing dialogue, knowing that we’re all carrying something. One person raised the view that most of us are in reactive mode because we are surviving. At the same time it was clear that: “If we don’t start doing something, it’s only going to get worse”. The session ended with the question: “How do we prepare people to handle the ever changing world?”
“How do we prepare people to handle the ever changing world?”
Male Birth Control
This session was attended mostly by men who brought their courage and authenticity to the room. It started with a round of which birth control methods people know that are available to them. For men, this was limited to a vasectomy or condoms. Men knew little about options available for women. Then the group discussed research done in the past around creating more options for men. The men shared some opinions on challenges to male birth control: “Would you seriously trust us to take something every day?” asked one participant. Another notes: “We’re males, we just want to spread our seed.” The men were very uncomfortable with the idea of taking hormones and the resulting side effects.
Waka and Wai
This group dove into the topic of connection to the moana, especially for kids. We have a lot of kids in the region who can’t swim, and many rangatahi who are Māori but don’t know their whakapapa. Some participants suggested that water skills development should be compulsory. Another raised the point that swimming in pools is not the same as swimming in the ocean. The group discussed opportunities to reconnect, including waka ama, sailing, surf life saving, fishing, diving, and the blue economy. Connecting to cultural identities and tipuna through being on the water was a strong theme: “There are powerful connections from going to the source of your own kai,” said one person. Another shared: “I had the biggest conversation with my tupuna through that whole race”.
“There are powerful connections from going to the source of your own kai.”
Hosts: Flavio and Ernest
This session was full to the brim of valuable insights and knowledge about our port and the issues surrounding it. Participants discussed the history attached to the port, penguins dying, money flows, damage created, and challenges with information accessibility for the community. There was an awareness of the complexity of the issue and the need to find middle ground. “You have to look at both sides of the coin”. Participants raised different viewpoints, asking: “Has there been iwi consultation?”, and “What is the plan going forward?”. One thing was clear: “It’s going to take a whole body of people to solve this”.
In this informative session participants strongly engaged and learnt about the options available for deathcare, with a strong focus on natural deathcare. This included the three things you are legally required to do when someone passes. Among natural death care options, Annie introduced Manaaki Mats, a resource to care for babies when they pass on and keep them cool so whānau can take their baby home and spend more time together. People thought of their various spheres of influence they could use to help support advocacy for more natural death care options and to lower the cost of cremation in our region.
Video Production Skills
Host: Lightshift team
This session was all around how we tell our stories, using video as a format. People recognised the need to create spaces where people can share their story, and that it can be seriously challenging for people to share. “How can we tell our stories in our own way?” asked one of the participants. “Rangatahi are natural digital storytellers”, noted another. “Video can help to tell stories that don’t necessarily get captured anywhere else”, shared yet another. There were some thoughts around how to collectivise sharing stories and modelling to each other.
“How can we tell our stories in our own way?”
Seaweed, mangroves, not pine.
The group in this session tackled a complex problem with optimism and a willingness to think outside the box. They asked the big question of how we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The conversation touched on the problems of meat production, the potential of mangroves for carbon sequestration, the destruction of soils and understanding climate change. There was strong support for pursuing ecosystem resilience through increasing biodiversity. “The whole ecosystem is going to change drastically in the next decade,” commented one participant, while another added: “Education is key, but we need to change how it’s done”.
Community integration of schools
This session invited participants to brainstorm on how to create more connection between schools and the neighbourhoods they are in. Schools used to be civic areas of community, how do we get engagement again? How do we get collaboration between schools? People explored the current situation noting that kids don’t necessarily go to school close to where they live, the convenience of drop offs and proximity to parent’s mahi play a bigger role. Participants offered ideas like rotating sports days and social events between schools and outreach programs to connect schools to their geographic communities. It was also noted that communities might not be geographic. There was a sense of responsibility: “We have left our schools out to dry, as communities we need to hold them up”.
Activate social media
In this session, participants engaged in learning about how to use social media to generate income as a small business. There was a discussion around authenticity, harmful algorithms and safety risks for tamariki and rangatahi. Some commented on how Facebook has largely replaced face to face interaction and conversations. For business owners, Alice shared some tips such as having multiple strategies and tactics, rather than just relying on ads. “Education or entertainment will appeal more than advertising or promotion.”
Community art project: letter to a neighbour
Participants unpacked what it means to live in a neighbourhood in this diverse and supportive session. Sarah of Gizzy Local raised the question: “How can we go more micro than the community?”. The idea was to focus on enabling connections on the level of the neighbourhood as the neighbourhood is more magnified and shows problems more clearly. “How can we help enable neighbourhoods with the stuff they need to connect?”, she asked. People brought in their ideas: writing letters, communicating through art, and swapping kai. The topic was unpacked further asking questions like: “Are you a victim of assumption?”, “What tensions are there?”, and “How do we knit cultures together?”. There was a strong focus on using artwork to empower community: “Everything has a creative lens to it”.
“Everything has a creative lens to it.”
Cannabis growing skills
In this session the group looked into changes happening in the cannabis industry and asked how a cannabis growing business could work and be used to turn around what's happening up the coast. Someone suggested using a lean canvas as a tool to think further about the purpose of the business and possibly to focus more on educating than growing as an income stream. There was some further discussion on the narrative around cannabis, medicinal use, recreational use and cultivation techniques. The discussion was engaging and supportive.
A big thanks to everyone who helped out, hosted sessions, and opened up for courageous conversations. Keep an eye out for our next post: Tairāwhiti Unconference: Future.
About Unconference Tairāwhiti: Past, Present, Future
For the first time in Aotearoa, Matariki was officially celebrated as a public holiday on 24 June, 2022. Matariki is a time for remembrance, celebrating the present and looking to the future.
Tāiki e! brought together Tairāwhiti’s first unconference focussed on creating space for dynamic conversations that are led by the people of Tairāwhiti.
What is an unconference?
An unconference is driven by the participants that show up on the day. No topics are predetermined, no keynote speakers have been invited, no panels have been arranged. Instead, the people that show up decide what topics will be discussed and they convene the breakout sessions.
In other words, an unconference has no agenda until the participants create it. Tairāwhiti…past, present, future unconference is an open opportunity for our community to kōrero about key topics relating to Tairāwhiti from past, present and future perspectives.
Why join the unconference?
So, why join? We want to share and learn from each other, share new thinking and resources and build connections and interactions that last beyond the event. In short, we don’t just want a lot of talking. We want to inspire action and build community to achieve that.
This unconference is also a playground for holding different types of engagement and conversations. We only have one rule, no boring powerpoints.
About Tāiki e!
Tāiki e! helps to inspire, connect and empower others to shine in their own leadership and aroha. We support others who have a shared vision for a prosperous, regenerative and caring community.