Te Ao Māori: Culturally Responsive

Ko Putauaki toku maunga

Ko Rangitaiki toku awa

Ko Mataatua toku waka

Ko Ngāti Awa toku iwi

Ko Moira Loach taku ingoa

Ko hauora me haumaru kaitohutohu mo Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi ki ahau.


Kia ora koutou, my name is Moira Loach. I am the senior health & safety advisor for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, an indigenous tertiary education provider based in Whakatāne, with two satellite sites in Auckland and Whangārei.

I have been in the health and safety area for ten years, both in Australia and New Zealand. 

I have however found my passion working with my own people of Ngāti Awa (in Whakatāne) and among the broader Māori community, establishing and nurturing relationships with Māori businesses, marae, and individuals throughout New Zealand, in order to guide them on health and safety matters. 

I am also a member of Te Rōpu Marutau o Aotearoa (TRMA), an entity established to support, mentor, and grow Māori health and safety practitioners. TRMA operates nationally and has representatives from a range of industries. My involvement with this group helped me consolidate my views on Māori health and safety, and the realisation that we must do more to promote health and safety messages among our people and other high needs populations.

People first

It is well known that Māori are over-represented in workplace accident statistics.  However, we have yet to comprehensively investigate what works well for Māori in the workplace.  While considerable research has been undertaken in the broad area of health and safety, few if any studies have focused on the specific needs of our whānau, hapū, iwi or communities. 

By putting people first, examining what works well for Māori, and backed with a comprehensive research process, it will be possible to develop a health and safety framework that better meets the needs of Māori working within high-risk industries.

To this end, in 2019 Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi successfully received an ACC Workplace Injury Prevention Grant to explore the development and design of a culturally responsive workplace injury prevention framework – Haumaru Tāngata.

Haumaru Tāngata

Haumaru Tāngata is a three-year research project to support initiatives that focus on sustainably improving the health and safety system in New Zealand. The research component of the project is led by Professor Te Kani Kingi (Ngāti Pūkeko, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tai) and Dr James Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Tuhoe, Ngāti Pukeko and Ngaitai tribes) with industry, technical and specialist leadership provided by Vance Walker (Ngāti Porou) and myself.

Haumaru Tāngata is a Māori-centred approach, focused on high-risk sectors, that responds to the over-representation of Māori within workplace injury and mortality statistics. It gives a focused space for Māori workers, businesses and health and safety representatives to design a bespoke framework to reduce workplace injury and fatalities.

The primary objective of this research is to make a measurable contribution to the reduction of Māori workplace injuries and fatalities by:

  • Exploring how mātauranga and tikanga Māori can support the design of more effective, culturally inspired workplace health and safety interventions for Māori.
  • Developing a Kaupapa Māori approach that can create meaningful change to support health and safety for Māori workers. This includes the determination of success factors that would best engage Māori workers and their whānau in health and safety activities or interventions.
  • Developing a culturally responsive model with practical tools that can be applied, extended, and integrated into health and safety initiatives in high-risk workplaces.

Māori-centred approach

Over the past 20 years there has been strong advocacy for Māori to define and undertake research that is of direct relevance to the questions that we consider important to us. For far too long, areas of research have been defined by those who are not connected to our whānau, hapū, iwi or communities. As such, this project comes as a direct result of the assertion that we can, as Māori, be self-determining with respect to research and policy development.

Kaupapa Māori theory and methodology and Māori-centred approaches are grounded within whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori community or organisational needs. As such, they are transformative in intent.

Positioned within a Kaupapa Māori framework, the Haumaru Tāngata research responds to the over-representation of Māori within workplace injury and mortality statistics and seeks to collaboratively design a culturally responsive approach to health and safety in Aotearoa within high-risk sectors.

Ngā Uara o Te Ao Māori

The project is informed by Ngā Uara o Ao Māori – values of Te Ao Maori. These values are embedded within the project to ground the functions, relationships, and activities within a culturally responsive structure.

Informed by mātauranga Māori and associated tikanga, they also provide us with an understanding of expectations and responsibilities, to strive for excellence in a respectful and committed way while prioritising relationships in a meaningful and purposeful manner.

Research Kaupapa

The framework is being designed to assist in reducing injury and fatalities for Māori workers, initially in high-risk sectors. The outcomes we are seeking to achieve include:

Workers return home from their workplace uninjured everyday by:

  • Reduction in workplace injury and mortality statistics.
  • Increased productivity – less time off due to injury/illness.
  • Increased sense of wellbeing and security of whānau members.

Fostering of inclusive workplace environment dynamics by:

  • Workers feel valued, respected, and heard in the workplace.
  • Cohesion of workers and improvement of workplace dynamic – workers are more proactive in caring and safeguarding each other, unsafe behaviour corrected to avoid near misses or actual incidents.
  • Shift from blame/shame-based culture to one of collective responsibility for the wellbeing of self, others, and the workplace.

Safe and responsive mechanisms for reporting, monitoring and accountability by:

  • Improved relationships between workers and management through collaborative reporting and monitoring processes.
  • Workers feel safe and supported to engage in workplace safety processes, leading to an increase in accurate reporting.
  • Physical and mental wellbeing of workers is enhanced through transparent and safe procedural mechanisms.
  • Lead to a reduction in workplace injury and fatalities through proactive and collaborative monitoring and reporting.

The future

Our expectation is that we deliver a Māori-centered model that is meaningful to organisations, businesses, and individuals. A model that is effective, culturally responsive, and capable of reducing and preventing the workplace injuries and fatalities that Māori experience.

Moira Loach is senior health & safety advisor with Te Wananga o Awanuiārangi.


Sir Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model for wellbeing has been widely adopted by H&S people. To what extent would deeper engagement with tikanga Māori and Mātauranga Māori enable the evolution of a more effective approach to health, safety and wellbeing? Write a brief comment here and go in the draw to win a prize!