Hāpai Te Hauora are working within the natural world, with atua Māori as a way of restoring, reconnecting and fostering wellbeing. Connection with atua Māori is enabled through various traditional practices which enable reconnection to whakapapa, the source from which whānau and hapū draw strength. Improved mental health and wellbeing can be a positive outcome of these practices which will run during Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) from the 8-14 October. The week seeks to support community-led initiatives in collaboration with local leaders with the objective of bringing communities together through atua Māori.

Understanding the roles of Māori deities or atua Māori is essential to understanding a functional and flourishing Māori world. Each story around atua lends insight to the world around us and strengthens our understanding of who we are as Māori within the world.

"If we really want to strengthen mental health, we need to look beyond it. Wellbeing requires re-remembering and relearning the connection we have always had with our natural world, with Papatūānuku, with Ranginui to strengthen overall wellbeing", says Janell Dymus-Kurei, Regional Māori Public Health Manager.

The community workshops include waka ama, māra kai, Māori movement and more. Several other events for Māori communities are also being held in Kaikohe, Tauranga, Kawakawa and Kaitaia throughout the week.

All activities seek to shift the emphasis on creating wellbeing that may not be available from the current health care system, and empower whānau within their own spaces. "It’s about whānau being the system of health, which is what it always has been. We understand that for specific health interventions we encourage our communities to access this from a clinic, a hospital, and medication however, there are initiatives like Whenua Warrior that teach whānau practices of food sovereignty which disrupt this narrative", says Selah Hart, Chief Operations Officer. 

"One thing we need to get in the habit of is healing via Papatūānuku. Having a practice that gives you a continued purpose outside, in the soil, with your whānau in the māra kai is the beginner’s way of achieving that. We need to create a space for whānau to be with our whenua and seek the healing they need - in a non-artificial way" says Kelly Francis, founder of Whenua Warrior.

We understand that many tāngata whenua do not have access to knowledge about atua Māori, but the aspiration for MHAW is to demonstrate that access should be available to everyone and that there are unrecognised leaders currently paving the way in leading their communities to improved wellbeing. They are connected with their communities and people on the ground working to support the collective wellbeing of those around them "If we are given the ability return to what it means to be Māori; in how we eat, in how we move, in how we relate with ourselves, with others and with the environment then there is great potential in how we could better determine our collective wellbeing", says Hinerangi Rhind-Wiri, Research and Communications Coordinator.