Whiti Te Rā: A guide to connecting Māori to traditional wellbeing pathways

Andre McLachlan, Waikaremoana Waitoki, Parewahaika Harris, Horiana Jones


Māori health models, introduced in the 1980s, brought needed cultural worldviews to an otherwise monocultural health system. However, minimal changes have occurred. In mainstream practice, deeper cultural understandings and action-orientations of these models can be overlooked, to the detriment of Māori wellbeing. In particular, Māori cultural concepts such as mauri ora (an active state of wellbeing) and a secure cultural identity are notable core wellbeing pathways that need further exploration. Using a systematic narrative literature review, 36 papers identified pathways that used core cultural activities for Māori wellbeing. A thematic analysis produced six themes or pathways towards wellbeing for Māori – te reo Māori: Māori language, taiao: connection with the environment, wairua: Māori spiritual beliefs and practices, mahi-a-toi: Māori expressive art forms, take pū whānau: Māori relational values, and whakapapa: intergen-erational relationships. Forty experienced Māori psychologists analysed the themes and offered expert examples practice pathways for Māori wellbeing. The six themes and feedback is presented in a visual image Whiti Te Rā with instructions for Māori practitioners to guide whai ora Māori (Māori clients) to explore their level of knowledge and comfort, and active engagement with Māori pathways to wellbeing. The model has potential for mental health policy, future research, curriculum development, and synthesising Māori knowledge towards wellbeing pathways.

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