top of page

Puanga signals the growing demand for alternative and holistic approaches to managing health...

Photo credit: Geoffrey Hipango Kaitiaki o Te Ao Hou Marae (Te Oranganui kaimahi and whānau gathered for parakuihi after Hautapu at Te Ao Hou Marae)

Puanga signals the growing demand for alternative and holistic approaches to managing health and wellbeing.

“Ko Puanga te kairūri i te tau tawhito, ko Matariki te kaihuaki i te tau hou”

Puanga draws the line to end one year. Matariki opens the door to the new year.

While most of the country celebrate Matariki (Pleiades) as the sign of the Māori new year, the people of Taranaki and Whanganui celebrate Puanga (Rigel) instead. Puanga is a time for, reflection, celebration, preparation and learning. Whilst there is only one national day acknowledging the dawn of this special occasion, Puanga for many local hapū, iwi and hapori have celebrated this season over many days, weeks to a month, all within the months of June-July. Through these celebrations we have witnessed the resurgence or unearthing of mātauranga Māori practices and philosophies and the gathering of whānau around hautapu and kai as well as stepping into new roles within these ceremonies. These roles have ranged from engaging with marae and whānau, coordinating events, to learning karakia, karanga and hītori. Within our rohe, there were many opportunities for our whānau to gather and celebrate Puanga, these were conducted differently across the rohe, from the serene reflections along Te Awa Tupua, to karanga and the blowing of the pūtātara against a burning fire at Te Ao Hou Marae.

The celebration of Puanga is not only an event but an opportunity to return to Māori systems, to mobilise existing mātauranga Māori that already exists in Māori communities for health prevention. Furthermore, our intention at Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu is to grow a body of work utilising, experimenting with, and learning how mātauranga Māori [knowledge and practices], are health prevention solutions.

Maramataka Patterns for Mental Health & Addiction and Family Harm

Meretini Bennett-Huxtable presenting the patterns to kaimahi at Te Oranganui

In alignment with Puanga Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu Rautaki Māori and Maramataka practitioner, Meretini Bennett-Huxtable and Lead Systems Innovator for the Collaborative Re-design of Mental Health & Addictions Service Delivery, Cheyenne Potaka-Osborne have been exploring the use of Maramataka, an indigenous organising system, for analysing mental health crisis data. This has included collating and mapping 5 years of admissions to the acute psychiatric inpatient unit, seclusion, police family harm incidents, and suicides. 

When identifying the regional priorities for improved service delivery in mental health & addictions the research highlighted the importance of a Te Ao Māori perspective for shaping systems change. 

The Whanganui mental health & addictions sector agreed a Te Ao Māori worldview would provide a much deeper and inclusive frame for shifting the system from a clinically-led model to a human and eco-centric continuum of care.

The Collaborative Design of Mental Health and Addiction Service Delivery is an initiative that sits within the Growing Collective Wellbeing Regional Suicide Prevention Traction Plan.

Some key insights from our communities were:

“Māori have their own understanding of intergenerational wellbeing that draws on cultural values, beliefs, social norms and indigenous knowledge” - Practitioner

“As Māori, we want to be able to make decisions relating to our health and wellbeing. And we want the option of having Mātauranga Māori practices including mirimiri, whakawhiti kōrero and rongoā alongside mainstream services” - Whānau member

The mapping of crisis data against the Maramataka phases has revealed two significant patterns:

  1. Crisis occurs in three particular phases of the Maramataka

  2. The indigenous narrative about these phases provides considerably more information about the human mindset and environmental energies than the clinical / medical perspective has to date.

A total of 14,728 first response to crisis over the last five years was collated then mapped, based on dates, to the Maramataka phases. The total cost of these moments in time is $380 million.

Clinicians and practitioners working in mental health & addictions have confirmed they have never before found consistent patterns when analysing the region’s data. 

By identifying these patterns we are now able to determine where earlier intervention and prevention can occur, supporting sector partners to design and prototype potential solutions.

To date we have had over 162 stakeholders visit the Maramataka patterns walk-through, including iwi, Māori researchers, central government, matauranga Māori knowledge holders, mental health experts, and health clinicians. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with many stakeholders excited at what the findings could mean for disrupting the mental health crisis trajectory.

Our Design Challenge Statement

  • Applying a Te Ao Māori system and perspective to mental distress and wellness can reveal new insight and understanding for determining when earlier interventions and prevention might occur.

Call to action: to learn more, or become a critical friend then contact:

Chy Potaka-Osborne, Lead Systems Innovator


bottom of page