Ā mātou mahi | Our work
Kaupapa oranga hapori
Projects for community wellbeing and social justice
Te Rākau has a long history of working with community members who experience harm, systematic challenges, or other barriers to wellbeing and justice.
As a kaupapa Māori organisation working at the interface of toi and hauora, we are uniquely positioned to offer creative, healing experiences for communities that most need it.
On this page, you'll find information about:
This Theatre Marae project seeks to unravel the shame and hurt that clouds and distorts the subjects of ngau whiore (sexual abuse) and whakamomori (suicide).
'The Swing is a powerful and profound call for meaningful action; haunting and healing. See it. Spread the word. Help with the healing.'
-lynda chanwai-earle for theatreview
Writer Helen Pearse-Otene (PhD) is a registered and practising psychologist and Jim Moriarty MNZM is a registered psychiatric nurse.
For the past 20 years Jim and Helen have been working with survivors, perpetrators and family members affected by trauma as a programme facilitators, group therapists, researchers and registered mental health professionals.
As part of a kaupapa Māori community research project hosted by Massey University and Kōkiri Marae, Jim and Helen worked with a group of men, women and whānau members who were sexually harmed by family members, in response-based practices, to explore ways of moving forward.
Jim and Helen have brought this work to the rehearsal room floor as directors with Te Rākau Theatre. The Swing is the creative outcome of the group's work together.
Through the story of one whānau dealing with incest and suicide, mirrored by the the pūrakau of Tāne Mahuta and Hine Nui Te Po, The Swing takes a detailed, researched and caring account of one family’s attempt to manage ngau whiore and navigate a process of restoration.
For most Māori drawn to group settings Jim and Helen have worked in, experiences of 1:1 talk therapies are reported as negative, retraumatising, judgmental and culturally irrelevant.
Kaupapa Māori group based therapies and holistic services that are provided in Māori communities – such as Iwi social services – are effective but underfunded (or not funded at all), and do not meet the standards for ACC sensitive claims services.
More recent studies in what works best in trauma therapies complements traditional Māori practices that invoke body-oriented and group-based approaches to healing.
This has informed our current research on applying the healing and educational potential of pūrākau in the context of the whare tapere (traditional house of entertainment).
The initial development of The Swing attracted positive feedback about the value and necessity of such a project.
Te Rākau has worked with the original participants and additional communities to present The Swing:
As a play it weaves the pūrākau of Tānemahuta and Hinetītama to portray a whānau struggling to recover from the shadow of ngau whiore and whakamomori.
As a community based rangahau project it brings community members together to process their lived experiences and research the resonance of the pūrākau through a Māori performance practice.
As an event it opens a public space for communities to connect with the wider community, organisations, policy makers and experts tasked with addressing incest, child abuse, family violence and suicide in Aotearoa-NZ.
As a development experience it strengthens participants' understanding of complex issues in our community, creating a safe and enriching space to grow cultural capability and responsiveness.
Work with us
We would like to work with communities who need this kōrero brought into the light – prisons, marae, social services, hauora providers, Government agencies and training institutions, mental health hui and regional festivals to name a few.
We believe there is an urgent need for strategies, resources, and hands-on engagement to address these issues. Get in touch with us now to discuss how The Swing can help open a conversation for your community.
If you and your community would like to work with us to design a community wellbeing and social justice project, please let us know.
In the past, we've worked on community projects that align with our values, such as healing for gambling harm and meth addiction.
Get in touch using the form below, or find out more about related work such as our Kaupapa rangahau | Research projects.