GCED – a Māori perspective

We commissioned Sonja Macfarlane, Practice and Implementation Adviser (Māori focus), former Associate Professor, University of Canterbury, to write a discussion paper about Global Citizenship Education (GCED) from a Māori perspective. She will discuss her ideas at our upcoming GCED panel discussion on 12 August at the National Library in Wellington.

Discussion Paper presented to the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO on Global Citizenship Education

He raraunga o te ao – Global citizenship: A Māori perspective

Sonja Macfarlane

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is UNESCO’s response to the impact of global warming, poverty, inequality and human rights violations which threaten peace and sustainability worldwide. The goal of GCED is to empower learners of all ages to appreciate that these are serious issues and to actively advocate – both locally and globally – for more wholesome, inclusive, safe, accepting and sustainable societies. It is argued in this discussion paper however, that before exploring the ‘how’ of GCED, it is necessary to define what global citizenship might mean more broadly, from a uniquely indigenous Māori position.  In order to do that, it is important to consider the following questions: What does global citizenship mean for Māori as the tangata whenua (first nations people) of Aotearoa? Are ‘tangata whenuatanga’ (first nations status) and ‘global citizenship’ compatible notions?  What are some of the key parameters that GCED needs to take into account in order to be responsive to the rights and responsibilities of first national people globally?

As the tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori have always expressed kinship with nature through whakapapa (genealogy) and pepeha (narratives) which connect them to their tūrangawaewe (the place where one has the right of residence and the right to stand through whakapapa within one’s own tribal boundary). Through creation stories outlining how the world came to be, tūpuna (ancestors) have ventured in metaphor and thought beyond Aotearoa by talking about te ao (the world) and in doing so, have acknowledged Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father) for many hundreds of years. Whakatauki (proverbs) have continued to accentuate the importance of respecting te tāngata (people) and to paying homage to te taiao (the natural world).

For the former (te tāngata), cultural constructs like tika (being just and fair), pono (being genuine and sincere) and aroha (being kind and compassionate) are deemed central to guiding interactions with and between people so as to achieve an inclusive and accepting society. A traditional approach to responding to conflict, known as hui whakatika (a meeting to put things right) continues to provide supportive and culturally-grounded spaces for reaching consensus, reconciliation, resolution and ultimately restoring harmony (Hooper, Winslade, Drewery, Monk & Macfarlane, 1999). For the latter (te taiao), creating a safe and sustainable environment that nourishes te tāngata is manifested by way of kinship ties through whakapapa to tūrangawaewae, and the cultural obligations of taking care of awa (rivers), moana (ocean), ngāhere (forests), and whenua (land). Te reo Māori (the Māori language) acknowledges kinship with nature even further through the use of the word ‘whenua’, which – as well as meaning ‘land’ – also translates as ‘placenta’, both of which are sources of nourishment for sustaining life for all living things. Other cultural concepts like tapu (unsafe; restricted) and noa (safe; unrestricted) serve to protect both people and environments in times of discord and anxiety, when ceremony is required to restore balance and status.

As indigenous people, Māori will be both the tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand and manuhiri (a visitor) whenever travelling, working or living in another location globally. Similarly, Māori are also able to be both tangata whenua and manuhiri within Aotearoa, whenever they step beyond their own tribal location. It is therefore argued in this paper, that Māori – and indeed all indigenous peoples globally – are able to adopt a distinctive position in terms of rationalising both their first nations status (tangata whenuatanga) and their rights and obligations as global citizens, as these concepts are dually dependent on their connectedness to the particular global location where they are standing at the time, and their jurisdiction rights over and within that place. Global citizenship is a shared and universal responsibility, however it must come with caveats.

So what does all of this mean for GCED? Is it appropriate to seek solutions to the impact of climate change, poverty, inequality and human rights violations which threaten peace and sustainability worldwide, solely from a Western approach? Or are there lessons to be learned from indigenous perspectives of ‘place’ and ‘authority’? In 2001, Sir Mason Durie espoused three goals for the educational advancement of Māori: to live as Māori; to actively participate as citizens of the world; to enjoy good health and a high standard of living. As Durie rightfully points out in the second goal, it is clear that we are all ‘citizens of the globe’, however in order to be responsive ‘global citizens’, we must adhere to particular protocols specific to ‘belonging to place’. As manuhiri in another global place – much like being a visitor in someone else’s home – we must never assume that we can move in, take over and start rearranging their furniture. Being a responsive global citizen should not infer unfettered access to, and authority over, others’ global locations, but instead requires people to acknowledge the guardianship and jurisdiction rights of the indigenous first nations people of that place. GCED must therefore draw from the above imperatives in order to ensure that the notion of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) pervades for all indigenous people within their own global locations (Jackson, 1992; Mikaere, 2004; Durie, 1995). To that end, Macfarlane’s (2004) Educultural Wheel – one that promotes culturally responsive pedagogy for educators working with learners of all ages in Aotearoa New Zealand – has been adapted and offered as a framework for informing and enhancing GCED (refer Figure 1 below). Four core Māori worldview values work together to promote a healthy and sustainable outcome at the centre. These values are:

·       Manaakitanga: the ethic of hosting/care;

·       Whanaungatanga: building and maintaining of relationships

·       Rangatiratanga: self-determination and authority

·       Kotahitanga: working collaboratively

The outcome; Mauri ora – which literally translates to ‘flourishing’ – sits at the heart of what GCED must strive to achieve.

Figure 1: Mauri ora: A guiding framework for GCED


Durie, E. T. (1995). Will the Settlers Settle? Otago Law Review, 8(3).

Durie, M. (2001). A framework for considering Māori educational advancement. Paper presented at the Hui Taumata (1), Turangi and Taupo, New Zealand.

Hooper, S., Winslade, J., Drewery, W., Monk, G., & Macfarlane, A.  (1999, July). School and family group conferences: Te Hui Whakatika (a time for making amends). Paper presented at Keeping Young People in School Summit Conference on Truancy, Suspensions and Effective Alternatives, Auckland.

Jackson, M. (1992). The Treaty and the world: The colonisation of Māori philosophy. In G. Oddie, & R. Perett (Eds.), Justice, Ethics and New Zealand Society, (pp. 1-10), Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.

Macfarlane, A. (2004). Kia hiwa rā!  Listen to culture: Māori students’ plea to educators. Wellington, NZ: NZCER Press.

Mikaere, A. (2004). Are we all New Zealanders now? A Māori response to the Pākehā quest for indigeneity. Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture.