This story is one in a series profiling the eleven finalists in the inaugural E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award 2022 which recognises and celebrates inspirational community leadership.
E Tū Whānau kahukura are those people who support, encourage and strengthen whānau by modelling values, behaviours and actions that are positive ‘footprints’ that can be followed.
Operating in both Petone and Wainuiomata, Kōkiri Marae is an institution treasured locally for its generous and welcoming support of whānau from many different backgrounds over decades.
Its whare tūpuna and marae facilities in Seaview are open to all – ngā hau o whā. The community hub hosted by Kōkiri Marae supports a range of health and social services which are accessed by thousands throughout the greater Wellington region. Its foodbank delivers kai to pākehā, Pacific and refugee and migrant families, as well as to its own Māori whānau.
Kōkiri Marae is an exemplar of community-led action, designed and delivered locally to meet whānau needs, and whanaungatanga is fundamental to the success of this big-hearted grassroots organisation.
It was founded in the 1970s by community-minded whānau in families who had migrated from rural areas to the city for work. Inspired by the vision and leadership of their tūpuna, current generations of those same families are among those who bring equal measures of passion and commitment to their mahi today.
On any given day or evening, the marae is buzzing with people. They may be part of programmes to build work skills, to address anger issues or to quit smoking. Others are there for programmes promoting tāne ora and wāhine ora, sexual health, immunisation, diabetes care, community nursing service and kaumātua wellbeing.
Kōkiri Marae – whanaungatanga and manaakitanga for whānau
Local tamariki attend the kōhanga reo attached to Kōkiri – one of the first established in the country. Kaumātua drop in for a cuppa and a chat, while others come for a decent midday meal and some company. Often whānau gather for a tangi at Kōkiri Marae knowing that, no matter what their iwi or community affiliations, they are welcomed, respected, and given the space to grieve in their own way and in their own time.
Kōkiri’s innovative youth programme, Tihei Rangatahi, is run offsite in the Wainuiomata Community Centre. Supported by E Tū Whānau, this initiative delivers quality programmes that enhance tamariki and rangatahi well-being while also promoting the six E Tū Whānau values. All young people who come through their doors are fed, cared for and offered personal and academic support. Over the years, Tihei Rangatahi has also seen tamariki and rangatahi celebrate Matariki with their own Wearable Arts Show, become empowered by living independent lives through zero-waste living, run a local radio station, take dance classes and learn to cook.
Innovative in structure
Kōkiri Marae whānau are justifiably proud of their groundbreaking organisational structure which has allowed this variety of services to co-exist and flourish. Many service-providers are too small to manage on their own, lacking funds for infrastructure and the kind of cultural support Kōkiri can provide. The managers of each service form the Kōkiri Marae management team and work together as equals taking collective responsibility and sharing decision making.
A passage on the Kōkiri Marae website explains it this way:
“It is whanaungatanga and will always be an integral ingredient of Māori culture. It allows the opportunity of a shared body of knowledge, values, ideas, customs, behaviour and language, which enhances the culture.”
Kōkiri Marae is kahukuratanga in action.