Go Back Up



The pūrākau of Mataora, tells the story of an ariki (high chief) who had believed he was not accountable to anybody. However, guided by the love he had for his wife, Niwareka, Mataora became a kaitiaki for changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviour; firstly his own and then actively influencing changes in those around him. The knowledge embedded in the pūrākau of Mataora underpins a uniquely transformative Indigenous approach to addressing inequity for Māori in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Drawing on interdisciplinary knowledge bases, including Kaupapa Māori critical theory and systems change theory, this chapter explores how Mahi a Atua (a philosophy guided by ancestral knowledge) deliberately prioritises the reinstatement and embedding of Indigenous knowledge systems as the foundation for an Indigenous consciousness-based approach to system transformation. Underpinned by three key principles, Mahi a Atua is deliberately positioned as a ‘way of being’ across personal and professional lives. Movements to critical consciousness; that is, transformed mental models on which new actions can be based, are facilitated via an ongoing process of critical self-reflection and assessment; and examining structural variables such as power, social justice and equity, as well as one’s own privilege and bias. System healing is integrated within our Indigenous systems change paradigm, with it becoming increasingly clear that individual, intergenerational and collective injuries exist as powerful forces across our systems today. Intentionally sitting within a wider Indigenous liberation movement, our approach focuses not only on what is required to shift the conditions sustaining institutional racism, but also on growing a collective leadership of Mataora (change agents) who are imagining and co-creating innovative Indigenous futures.