National | Research

Empowering rangatahi Māori: New research project scores ‘golden’ grant

A new research project is underway that uses the voices of rangatahi from the East Coast to help co-design initiatives to make positive changes during a climate change crisis, and also creating future leaders.

Massey University kaupapa researcher Dr Teah Carlson (Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Waikato-Tainui), created this kaupapa, Hāpai te hauora (Breathing your ancestors into life), which will run for 48 months, and will receive $649,992 of funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Carlson is one of nine Māori and Pacific health researchers to receive a portion of $5.6 million in funding to help researchers become leaders in their field.

She told Te Ao Māori News four years in the research world was a “golden prize”.

“[It’s an] amazing investment in Māori leadership and rangatahi Māori relationships through climate change and resilience, and what can happen over that time is about shifting power back to those who are most affected.

“Although this is rangatahi-focused, this is whānau ora centric and I am excited to see where this travels.”

‘What we do on the marae’

This kaupapa Māori qualitative project aims to deepen the understanding of hāpai te hauora by initiating te tai ao-based, localised co-design projects rooted in Māori principles.

“I’m using co-creative methods, but what that means in a sort of te ao Māori sense, is what we do on the marae, what we do on wānanga, what we do every day in our communities is observe and take measured, calculated and affective responses to change and we do something about it,” she said.

Carlson received the news of her grant on her birthday, which made it a welcome present.

“It was a big surprise for me and my whānau as well. I’m just elated with the news because out there we need more good news stories.

“It was a huge sense of reassurance of what I do and what I’m doing is important and equally reassuring that responsibility back to whenua and back to those people with their hands in the soil and how we can support kaupapa that come out of that.”

Photo: Supplied

Carlson attributed her interest in rangatahi to being a mother of four tama, from a one-year-old to a 17-year-old.

“That was a big part of my thinking around them and their generation and shifting the power that I have as a wahine Māori back to rangatahi.”

She had done other research in Auckland previously, during the Covid-19 pandemic into what urban rangatahi were experiencing over that time.

Carlson had listened to all of the stories young people wanted to share, the good and the bad.

“Listening to their stories and making sure their voices and what they wanted to happen around those times were shifted into policy and organisations and practices and then from that kaupapa in particular, they focused on a real sense of understanding on how the environment was changing.

“Especially around the pandemic, how can we support te taiao and then by supporting te taiao and the environment, we become well and healthy within ourselves and so that was the kupu that sort of hapai te hauora, and that inspired this research approach.”

‘Change from the first hui’

Unlike other research, the outcome is yet to be determined, as it would all depend on what came out of the first hui, she said.

“We’re not going to get to the end and produce something in a package. What we are going to do is we’re gonna effect change from the very first hui right through along that journey.

“What happens in the first hui, which is centred on whanaungatanga with rangatahi is ‘what do you want?’ and ‘what do you need?’ and ‘how can I support you?’ and wrap that around them.”

“That’s the beauty of it, I can’t exactly tell you where it will go but there will be transformational change along the way and then, from that point when we get to that four-year marker, I think what will be really influential is to support those rangatahi that come on this journey with us, where do they want to go and how they want to travel.”