Bringing Cultural Confidence: He mana tō te kupu

We had the privilege of talking to Tūraukawa Bartlett, director of MANAvation, who provides online module learning and group sessions to help bring bi-cultural confidence into New Zealand workplaces. His involvement in the recruitment industry focusses on practically and authentically weaving te reo Māori into corporate comms and day to day engagements.


Tūraukawa shares his inspiring story that led him to launch MANAvation and opportunities for cultural growth he sees in the recruitment industry.


Tūraukawa, can you tell us a bit about your background, your inspiring life story, and what brought you to pursue your current career?

My journey started as a child of whāngai; being adopted out to my grandmother when my mother told her that I was an unwanted pregnancy. Fortunately, my grandmother surrounded me with a connection to our culture, our language and a sense of identity that was my source of wellbeing right from birth; I literally believed I could achieve anything I dreamed of.


Whilst that was the most amazing start to life, she struggled to raise me in her later years and age 9 I found myself back with my biological mother and a new world of disconnection. My name was suddenly changed from Tūraukawa to ‘Michael’, told to forget about ‘all that Māori stuff’ and to start learning Japanese because that’s where the future was.


This led to a 10 year journey of trying to find myself again and a sense of connection at the end of a bottle with other broken young boys who eventually grew up to be broken young men.


It wasn’t until my partner and I fell pregnant and my son Varden was born that things started to change. I stared to feel a connection again that reminded me of my bond with my grandmother.


However, at around 18 months we started noticing Varden starting to change. He didn’t say ‘Mummy and Daddy’ anymore, he became withdrawn and wouldn’t make eye contact with us; it was like someone had taken my son away and left an empty shell. After a long process of specialist appointments, sleepless nights asking a lot of questions, Varden was eventually diagnosed with severe autism and had regressed to functioning as a 3-month-old.


Following his diagnosis, the sense of connection I had started to feel again wasn’t there anymore, and automatically I felt a familiar sense of hurt and pain that would manifest in internal conversations like “Your mother didn’t want you , and now even your own son doesn’t want you”


This was the catalyst for MANAVATION. For me this became a way that I could bring life to the feeling of identity, connection and purpose through my culture and language that my grandmother had once instilled in me; an opportunity to save my son, just as my grandmother had saved me.


Eight years of re-learning, re-connecting and healing later, we now live and work in this space of sharing our supporting others to fell this connection, and more importantly Varden is now 11 and living the most amazing life he possibly can knowing that he belongs and is connected as a whānau, whatever happens in life.

Can you tell us a little bit about your organisation, MANAvation, and the ways in which you currently engage with the recruitment industry?

MANAVATION is a simple on-line tool of engagement that enables anyone and everyone, anywhere in the world to find an authentic personal connection to the Māori language and worldview as a way of building their professional cultural confidence.

It allows us to blend both on-line module learning and group sessions so that anyone in the recruitment field can safely engage in understanding how they can practically and authentically weave te reo Māori and more importantly the understanding behind it within all their day to day engagements.

What can you see are some of the opportunities currently in the recruitment industry?

A Māori view is quite simple a ‘people and relational worldview’, and when it comes to recruitment, it all starts with connection between people. So, when we understand that it’s all about the process rather than the content - building relational connections before the task, we can already see the potential of weaving the values of this worldview when engaging with anyone, regardless of their culture or beliefs.

When we bring this approach to life, we start to build a foundation of connection where anyone engaging in that shared space can feel safe, respected, valued and confident to be their authentic selves through the journey. How can that not be the best way to start the recruitment journey together?

Those in the NextGen cohort place a strong value on cultural intelligence and engaging and emotional work. How can we focus on these things better for that generation and to what result?

We’ve always worked through a values-based approach with a strong focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ i.e. as you journey through the learning, you begin a process of self-discovery where you start to ask yourself what is actually important to me, why do I actually get up in the morning and what change can I be part of? Eventually, it starts to become a subconscious guiding lens for anything you do and to be honest, it’s a pretty powerful moment to witness when it starts with simple words like ‘Kia ora’ of ‘Kei te pēhea koe – how are you?’

So, by us consciously knowing that a greater focus on EQ and its connection to cultural intelligence is actually happening right now across the world, recruitment organisations have to ask themselves the hard question- ‘Do we engage and grow with this change with the next generation or risk being left behind?’ I suppose it comes down to what is truly important to the organisation and the people it supports i.e. is the focus on the ‘why’ or the ‘what?’

With an increasing number of employers using Te Reo Māori in their advertising, and demonstrating how they incorporate Te Ao Māori in their ways of working, why do you believe the use of Te Reo Māori is so important for the recruitment, talent acquisition and staffing sector?

Te reo Māori is the gateway to the Maori worldview. When you understand a language, you understand the values that inform it. The special thing about it is that you don’t need to be Māori to experience or role-model it; you simply need to have an open mind, heart and most importantly be okay with not having to be perfect as long as we learn from our mistakes. This is all part of the journey.

When cultural confidence is role-modelled through an authentic understanding of the language, anyone externally witnessing this automatically feels a little more confident and comfortable engaging in what can be an uncomfortable space for many. You start to engage an audience who may not have ever felt comfortable engaging before and all of a sudden, and equitable lens is brought to life. The new way of doing things is already here.

What advice could you give to our members dealing with local government and who are looking to build strategy for Policy & Advocacy?

Good intentions can often be the fastest route to bad situations. What I mean is that without an authentic understanding of the language and the worldview acting as a solid foundation to inform the intention, organisations and members may find themselves perceived as simply ‘ticking a box’.

So, whatever you do, take the time to build a connection, understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ and let that guide your actions. You’re never going to know what the future holds within a relationship or project. However, you can control the lens that guides how you engage in and react to situations and therefore have every opportunity to bring your cultural confidence to life as the key protective factor in your journey. Think of it as your very own ‘super power’.

Tell us about your online session for RCSA members, Cultural Confidence, coming up on 4 June? What topics will you be covering?

Quite simply, we’re going to have some fun! There are definitely going to be a few ‘penny drop moments’, but more importantly we’re going to build an authentic connection together to a Māori worldview through a practical and relevant approach to te reo Māori. This is going to be a journey where we can all come together in a space where we can make mistakes, learn from them, ask those tricky questions that we might not usually ask and above all, leave with a stronger more genuine sense of confidence of a worldview that anyone can find a personal connection with to bring to life in their professional roles.

My Grandmother would simply put it like this. “If the Māori language was a house, then it would be one for us all. Regardless of who you are, where you call home, or even the experiences you may have gained on your journey, the doors are always open to you if you are indeed someone who seeks to enter”

To register for Tūraukawa Bartlett’s session on Friday 4 June click here

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