Leanne Tamaki

When thinking of Leanne's contribution to our tuakana series I came up with the awesome portmanteau of 'Tūhoekana' as she continues my work tradition of working with Tuhoe big sisters who know the pull of home, what keeps us in the cities and crucially, have my back. Though I worked at MCH with Leanne for over a year, it was only in the last few months that I really got a chance to work more closely with her. And it was awesome. She was supportive, fun, funny and always up for a good rant. More importantly, Leanne is thoughtful and empathetic and knows the power of a good de-brief over kai. I miss working with her immensely but hopefully we can stir up some good cross-sector mahi. Byeeee Felicia!

Leanne's pa and maunga in Waimana

Leanne's pa and maunga in Waimana

In five words, describe your role in the sector. 

Facilitator. Peace/War. Researcher. Maori. History.

What is it about the sector that you love?

History, art, culture, and people – what’s not to love? But seriously, the opportunities we have through the work we do to inspire, to educate and elicit a deeper and better understanding of ourselves as a people. To quote Manulani Aluli Meyer - “If knowledge is power, then understanding is liberation.”

What have been some challenges in your career?

Getting full-time well-paid permanent positions. Parity.

Working where there are few Maori and we are spread so thinly across the organisation. We can be called upon for our cultural knowledge which is sometimes outside of our JDs. *subtext – not valued.

It can also be quite lonely and I want to be in a work environment where my culture is cherished. I want to be with people where my cultural values sync and resonate, where I can safely wax-lyrical about the state of our hapu and iwi nations... 

What challenges can you see moving forward?

I don’t think what I have to say is new or unique, but here goes:

  • Broadening perspectives and questioning the dominant notions of culture and heritage (and all of its parts like history). But particularly in Wellington where, to be frank, we live in a very middle-class and Pakeha vacuum. Can we ask simple questions such as, whose culture and heritage are we advocating for, representing and presenting?
  • Prioritising the importance of Maori culture and heritage so that it is a given. Moving recognition beyond box ticking, compartmentalization or a ‘nice-to-have’. Helping us along the pathway to where we compassionately and easily embrace, celebrate and integrate things Maori. Also recognising that the benefits in doing this are many. It’s not privileging one over another; it is but another window through which to see. It is an opportunity for growth and it should be taken.
  • Creating space for diverse narratives, specific to my current situation, historical ones. And for more people to facilitate the telling of these narratives, but particularly in a sector with dwindling budgets and competing priorities.
  • Celebrating diversity and seeing it as an opportunity to strengthen ourselves. Not fearing the acceptance and incorporation of other cultural perspectives from beyond the walls of our own cultural and epistemological caverns.

As I said, nothing new, but I have great hope that we can drop those fears people!

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?

New and interesting insights. Different and enlivened perspectives. Energy! Knowledge. 

What is your spirit animal?

Wolf-Whale-Dragon-Tipuna; it’s spirit, there are no bounds.