Unpacking a lifetime of knowledge and understanding

November 20, 2020

Larnee Wallace works for Sport Taranaki, supporting Māori whānau to get involved in physical activity and recreation.

Larnee, pictured above left, with her Skills Active learning support advisor Angie Gooch, recently completed the New Zealand Certificate in Tikanga. We caught up with her to discuss tikanga, triathlons and much more.

What do you do at Sport Taranaki?

My role, which is part of the He Oranga Poutama strategy, is to increase participation and leadership for Māori, and get Māori into physical activity and recreation in any which way we can. So I am working alongside people and finding out what it is they like to do, and how we can make that work for them. An example of this is in-school delivery of Taonga Taakaro, traditional Māori games.

How did you get into this role, and what do you love about it?

I’m part of a triathlon roopu called Taranaki Toa. We are an entry-level triathlon group that aims to get our whānau moving and uses triathlon as a vehicle for a healthier lifestyle. Through that work I was asked to apply for the position at Sport Taranaki.

Working with our Māori people, that’s my highlight. The people you meet, the opportunities to make a difference with the people you work with, and all the learning that comes with it. There is always something going on and it’s never the same working day, which I like!

I work alongside some amazing people and when we join forces, we can really make an impact for our people, and that’s the best feeling. I’ve banded together with two ladies from Tui Ora, a Māori health organisation – Leanne and Carmen; as well as two from the Māori Women’s Welfare League in Waitara, Stacey and Zanita.

We call ourselves The CoLab, and we run an eight-week empowering woman programme called Mana Wahine. Our participants to date have come a long way; we have some in employment, running a catering business, others have gone back to study, or completed their studies. The best part is that we all keep in regular contact through the MOMs box-fit class at Box Office New Plymouth.

Another thing that I do is consider applications for funding Māori sport and recreation projects through the Tū Manawa fund.  All funding applications need to fit the Te Whetu Rehua principles, so those applications come across my desk.

[Te Whetua Rehua is a Sport NZ framework for making sure that sport and recreation activities are culturally responsive to the needs of Māori.]

Was tikanga a new area for you?

I was pretty lucky to spend a lot of time on our marae growing up. My grandmother taught me our tikanga from a young age. Then at intermediate, I was in the first bilingual class at that school. We had the marae next to our school and we were immersed in te reo and immersed around our kaumatua. We didn’t use books to learn from or write in – everything was hands-on.

Why did you sign up for the New Zealand Certificate in Tikanga?

It was a test of my own knowledge and understanding, and it also helped to solidify what I did know. When tikanga is part of your way of life, you don’t really see it, you just do it! This was an opportunity to reflect back on things.

The online learning platform was easy to navigate, and I really enjoyed unpacking that prior knowledge and putting it into context.

The big challenge was time. Once I start something I like to get finished. In this programme you’ve got 10 months to complete it, but you can go faster than that if you want. I got through it quite fast; I was trying to spread it out, but once I got started it was just natural to get it finished.

What would you say to others who would like to grow their confidence in tikanga?

Go for it! I believe that everyone should have knowledge around tikanga, especially when working alongside Māori. It’s better to know and have an understanding. Understanding others is more than just sensing their feelings and emotions. It also means taking a genuine interest in them and who they are.

A whakataukī (proverb) chosen by Larnee:

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini.

I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents and strengths of my family, tribe and ancestors.