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I read with interest the reading from Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai. RAW was privileged enough to have Sarah-Jane apply to join the inaugural RAW board in 2015. At the time I was unaware of her field of study, however, I was certainly honored to have her as part of our governance cohort, largely because she was Māori and academic. Sarah-Jane was with us for the four years of her board term. And, as I reflect now, I was marginally challenged by her irregular attendance, that on a small board (as we were), often gave us quorum challenges. Rather than focusing on the capability and mana she contributed, just by agreeing to be part of our governance mahi, once again, it was all too easy to focus on the negative.

Therefore, this reading was my opportunity to re-acquaint myself with Sarah-Jane’s mahi and enlighten myself as to the respected value she delivers in the kaupapa Māori research space.Sarah-Jane’s struggle to ascertain that she would deliver value to her research participants, the university, and the tribe, resonated with me. As daily, I endeavor to navigate the punitive and unsustainable correctional and justice frameworks, by endeavoring to have the voice of the incarcerated wāhine privileged, to achieve the transformational change the academics write to. The mahi that I am advancing inside the prison: Haea te Ata: A Day Done Differently’, has been enriched and enabled by the adoption of kaupapa Māori practice. The logic behind the RAW proposal has come from the RAW wāhine themselves, where I have collaborated with them to advance their pūkākau, to ensure their voices are privileged and included in the ongoing transformational change that Corrections and Justice talk to, that to date fails to activate and deliver for wāhine inside the prison. Sarah-Jane’s writing has assisted me with this process, and whilst I acknowledge my position as an outsider in this mahi, I also acknowledge the privileged and unique relationship I have with the RAW wāhine, who are trusting me to activate this conversation in the correctional space, to advance a culturally purposeful and restorative opportunity.
To do this, I have used counter narratives that move away from the research techniques of the dominant construction, enabling the RAW wāhine voice to be valued and heard. I am constantly reviewing the proximity of power relationships, given my Western privileged positionality. I also acknowledge the challenges that I present to the wāhine with my outsider status, and therefore continue to endeavor to shift the power back to them. Noting that I don’t have the whakawhanaungatanga, through tribal affiliation, but I do have it through my RAW journey, where in many cases this has been the first time that someone has seen, listened and valued the incarcerated wāhine pūkākau.

I also refer to the alternative Indigenous paradigm that Sarah-Jane’s research talks to, in her summary:

Tribal position or construct, developed from tribal histories, knowledge, and philosophies, based on the notions of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination), drawing from notions of education for freedom, education a as liberatory and a transformative practice, and a way of reclaiming traditional knowledge, as a way of seeking liberation and transformation.

A construct that is the platform of Haea te Ata: A Day Done Differently.
Education for freedom, education as a liberatory and transformative practice, and a way of reclaiming traditional knowledge, to sustain a purposeful life.

Listening to the wāhine voices, and making space of these voices is important, if we are ever going to enable restorative educational change for our most marginalised.

This is the response from a RAW wāhine after reading a scholarly article by Tracey McIntosh and Stan Coster.
To read it from an academic perspective and another view, (outside looking in) is quite overwhelming, and that it still exists today with the prison population overcrowded by the youth of today. Something has gone severely wrong. However, I still believe it is never too late for change, no matter what form this takes, be it great or small, it is change nonetheless. I think what you are proposing is setting that change in motion and that’s such an amazing achievement on its own. What you have is feasible, realistic, reasonable, and doable, with the right people. And with this the possibilities for a major shift can happen for all who are involved, creating the ripple effect into the society they return to. RAW wāhine.

References

Tiakiwai, S. (2015). Understanding and Doing Research: A Māori Position. Kaupapa Rangahau. A Reader.

McIntosh, T. & Coster, S. (2017). Indigenous Insider Knowledge and Prison Identity. Counterfutures, 3(1),69-98. DOI:10.26686/cf.v310.6418

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