9 March 2023

Guiding Māori values at Ara Poutama Aotearoa - Hinemoa, Cultural Capability Adviser

Teaching Māori values to Corrections staff is what drives Hinemoa.

The Cultural Capability Adviser and mum-of-two is helping to deliver a programme within Ara Poutama Aotearoa called E Toru Nga Mea, which can be loosely translated as ‘three important things’.

Hinemoa has been in the position since June 2022 and says the 18-session programme involves working with managers to help them understand the Te Ao Māori world view.

“We want them to see how that's incorporated in their day-to-day work or role within Ara Poutama Aotearoa. So, basically giving them a deeper understanding of our organisational values.”

Manukau Community Corrections Senior Practitioner Hinemoa Brown with a display she created for Matariki celebrations


She says the biggest lesson she has learned along her journey with Corrections is having a good support network around you.

“If you have the right people in your corner, you're always going to walk into work feeling good about yourself and the work that you do. And also, those people pushing you to your potential is probably a really good one. I've had some really good managers, some really great colleagues who have guided me here, to this role. They've probably played the biggest part in this. Without them I wouldn't understand my culture at all.”

She says that, growing up, she had always been exposed to tikanga Māori, especially by her aunties and her Nan.

“I had this little thought the other day where I said to myself, "If I had met 13-year-old myself today, and told her what she'd be doing for work in 2022, would you believe it?" And I said to myself, "No, not in a million years would I see myself sitting in a role in a Crown agency, guiding upper management through Te Ao Māori." Because when I was growing up, it wasn't cool to be Māori, and we were kind of embarrassed, or a little bit ashamed to be Māori because of the stereotype that was around then in the 1990s, early 2000s. Now I'm absolutely proud.”


Ara Poutama Aotearoa’s five values are kaitiaki, whānau, rangatira, wairua, and manaaki.

“Kaitiaki in its generic translation means guardianship,” she says. “The department's understanding of whānau is relationships. The next one is rangatira, which is leadership, wairua is spirituality and the last one is manaaki, which is to nurture or to care.

“The whole idea around it is getting people to a deeper understanding and build a connection with those values, and how they sit within, not just their work role specifically, but also them as an individual. And then again, for their collective group, So, those are the three important things from E Toru Nga Mea.

The way they do that is, the specific themes that they've highlighted, they create a narrative or a statement about how they embody or envisage themselves as a group to live and breathe that value. What their commitment is to be able to bring that value off paper and into action, so that eventually our values stop just being words on paper and become living, breathing parts of the things they do daily.”


“When I tell people my story, I say I accidentally fell here.”

Hinemoa had been doing a bicultural degree in social services through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

“My initial passion was youth. I wanted to be a youth mentor - that was the aspiration prior to studying. I went in there with the thoughts that I was going to get my degree and start working with youth, probably as a youth aid police officer. Then, when I got to my third year of my degree, we had to do a placement.”

However, Hinemoa was away sick when the students all put in their options for placements and when she returned to study, she had been given Corrections.

“I knew nothing of Corrections, I think if I did have any understanding of it, it was just that maybe one or two of my cousins had been in prison before. I knew absolutely nothing about the criminal justice sector.

“It's definitely opened my eyes to the impacts of our social economy, poverty, education, or the lack thereof, and the necessity of social supports - just basically where it can lead people , and the struggles that they go through. And some of the ways that our justice system can let them down at times. And thinking about, as a tangata Māori or wahine Māori in Department of Corrections, the things I can do to support people who have found themselves on that pathway.”

“Prior to this, I was working in the probation space as a Senior Practitioner, which involved writing pre-sentence reports for people under our management. And so, I’d interview them, interview their family, interview their employers, and basically write reports based on their interview and make recommendations to judges on available sentence options.”

“Then I just grew a love for working with the people, especially in the community because in that space you actually get to sit and connect with them and hear some stories about who they are, and what makes them tick, and how they ended up on community work. So, I really made a good connection with the people, and that's what kept me here, and wanting to move forward and do as much as I could in terms of Te Ao Māori. Because I found a lot of the people I was talking to were Māori.”


Hinemoa says that in her current role, she has the opportunity to further develop that passion for Te Ao Maori.

“It's given me a massive appreciation for my culture, and having the opportunity and ability to work within a Crown agency at this level, guiding people through tikanga Māori, kaupapa Māori, and  Te Ao Māori in general.

She says she feels honoured, privileged to be working on something so new in the Corrections space.

“And a little bit of pressure, because to do a good job is something that is always in the back of my mind, to do justice to the role.

“I’m hoping to change the culture of Corrections and hopefully that might spill over and fill into other government agencies. If anything, I'd like some of our tikanga and practices to become natural, or business as usual. Something that people just instinctively do.

“Prior to our new strategy Hōkai Rangi coming out, we were focused on the individual, whereas this shift has moved us to focus on the collective to support the individual, which, in Te Ao Māori, is how we normally work. We're not an individual culture, we're a collective or communal culture. And by taking care of the iwi, we instinctively take care of the whānau, which instinctively takes care of the tangata, or the person.

Knowing that the mahi we do within Corrections is hopefully going to impress, or build the world that my children will grow up in and take over one day, that’s something good I'd like to leave them.”

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