Kaimahi from Hāpai te Hauora recently travelled to Wellington to participate in the Māori Data Futures wānanga, coordinated by the Vision Mātauranga team, Data Iwi Leaders group and Te Whare Wānanga o te Ūpoko o te Ika a Māui. This wānanga sought to provide a space to identify and discuss contemporary issues surrounding Māori data, such as how we ensure appropriate tikanga around digital guardianship, data security and sovereignty. Lizzie Strickett and Hinerangi Rhind- Wiri share their whakaaro and what this means for their work as researchers as they aspire to transform the lives of their communities.

Tino rangatiratanga

Like many important issues for Māori, the real heart of this wānanga stemmed from Article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The idea of tino rangatiratanga is that we have control over our aspirations and resources. It is having “paramount and ultimate power and authority over our lands, our villages and all our treasured possessions” (Mutu, 2010, p. 25). Tino rangitirantanga is a continual practice- not some archaic value only relevant to our tīpuna 200 years ago. When applying this practice to our resources today, we must include Māori data sovereignty. This ensures that our knowledge is protected for the use and ownership of our mokopuna. But one issue that stood out for me in our discussion was who has the right to say who owns the data. Academia and big business are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits in working with Māori. This is an important point to make because central to the exercise of tino rangatiratanga is the importance of fostering economic development for whānau, hapū, and iwi.

However, rather than self-determination when it comes to data, Māori are currently more often subject to state determination, with data used to make decisions about and for them. And what if data collected under the premise of keeping our communities healthy and well-educated are in fact perpetuating inequities? This is a particularly important consideration when there is substantial international evidence with various indigenous groups that highlight the link between strong levels of authority and economic development.

From data providers to data designers

Guest speaker, Dr Kirikowhai Mikaere, posed the poignant question “How can Māori move from being data providers to data designers?”. This is something that caught my attention and made me reflect upon my own work in researching SUDI (Sudden Unexplained Death in Infants). We are reminded every day of Māori being SUDI statistics, but I can’t conceptualise these people as numbers. This question made me consider gathering and reframing this data in ways that are meaningful (like iwi or by whānau) and putting people at the centre of the kōrero so their voices are prioritised and their stories are self- determined.

Data futures

It’s hard to imagine how we could measure and apply our knowledge in ways that aren’t limited by the parameters which currently exist. How can we look beyond SUDI in numbers and risk factors? How can we assess whether our efforts in reducing smoking are working without creating more harm? This hui encouraged me to consider thinking outside the box to systems which don’t exist. I’m no longer interested in only measuring our state of deprivation and depression. I’m interested in using data to measure our aspirations.


-Elizabeth Strickett