EPISODE SUMMARY: On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we speak to two visionary young practitioners about the role of Māori women in shaping our physical environments, and the issue of diversity within our professions.
GUESTS: Te Warihi Hetaraka, Elisapeta Heta, Haley Hooper
Modern Māori Quartet (Māreikura): Mā te wāhine, mā te whenua, ka ora ai te tangata. Wāhine. Māreikura.
Te Warihi Hetaraka: At the root, at the core I think, of that understanding of it, is the understanding of mana wāhine. Mana wāhine under the korowai of Māreikura. Cause I think with colonisation, we've gone away from that understanding. And when our wāhine suffer, then we all suffer. and it's simply because we've gone away from that understanding, of the mana that our wāhine carry. We've gone completely away from that. And that's one of the tracks, that's one of the pathways that we need to establish first. Begin respecting the nurturers of our future. The first teachers, of our future, of our children. That has to be re-established, that understanding needs to be established, before we can even look at anything else. We come back again to the wahine. When the child is born, it's one of the most sacred moments of this planet. The birth of the child is the assurance of our future. Right here. And yet we've torn ourselves and our umbilical cord is sliced, is cut. The pito connects with Rangi and mother earth. So we've got to get back to that imagery. The moment you stop suckling from the breast of our mother, you suckle at the breast of Papatūānuku. So we've got to get back into that psychology.
JK v/o: That was tohunga whakairo Te Warihi Hetaraka, nō Ngāti Wai. As Māori, we hold clear beliefs about the status and sanctity of women.
Te Warihi’s whakaaro led me to reflect - how might our cultural attitudes towards women inform and direct the relationships that we have - with our environment? And what then, might be the role of wāhine Māori in shaping those environments?
Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode 24.
I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.
On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we examine the role of Māori women in shaping our physical environments. We speak with two young wahine Māori practitioners - Elisapeta Heta, an architectural graduate from Ngāti Wai, and Haley Hooper, an urban designer from Ngāti Hau - about the thorny question of diversity within our professions. Both Elisapeta and Haley have featured on previous episodes on this season of Indigenous Urbanism, so do check those out.
My first guest for this episode is Elisapeta Heta. Elisapeta is previous Co-Chair of Architecture Women, and the current Ngā Aho representative to the NZIA board, a role that was established through the Kawenata. There are very few Māori women in architecture, and even fewer Māori women who are registered architects. I asked Elisapeta - Why are the numbers so low? Why is it important to increase diversity across our industry? and How do we get there?
Elisapeta Heta: From a representational point of view, which is something you touched on slightly, yeah, wow. I don't know that I have an easy answer around why there aren't many Māori in the profession. I can hazard a guess. And it's kind of partly based on, I suppose, anecdotal evidence, partly based on what I can see and observe myself, and partly through university as well, like the sorts of conversations I was having while I was a tuakana mentor at the University of Auckland. So, it seems like, and you can see this in some of the Pacific communities, the arts is, or hasn't necessarily historically been seen as a viable place to go. If you're going for higher education, you wanted to get thrown into law, and business, and medicine, and all the things that are seen as quite tangibly good careers. Architecture's a bit of an unknown. It's sort of seen as a little bit creative, some can see it as having links to engineering, but I think it's a little bit of an anomoly to our communities to some degree. But also I think it's something we just do inherently, all as humans, not just Māori and Pasifika, but all as humans, having housing housing is so fundamental to our ability to live. So, it baffles me as well. To some degree it's like, it's not necessarily seen as a career path, but it's so important to our sovereignty.
JK: So part of it might be just the way the profession is communicated, so that it can be understand and be seen as relevant, which it obviously is.
EH: Yes. And to not speak on behalf of anybody else but myself, it wasn't until I started university that I saw how much the profession looked nothing like me. And in no way represented my life, where I came from, and where I - quite naively at the time but probably ambitiously - thought I was heading. And that was always to be more helpful to my community. But, I suppose on first glance the profession has never presented itself as that. I realised it just took me having to carve that out for myself, so that's a little bit of blood, sweat and tears kind of thing. So we do have low numbers, and then the same, a lot of the similar issues around access, inclusivity, visibility, unconscious bias, all of those kinds of things, can be barriers towards long careers of Māori and Pasifika peoples in the industry. We already know when you look at stats around wāhine staying in the profession, for architecture we're really lucky, we have a good 50/50 kind of output of men and women, more or less. But we're still not necessarily retaining them in the ten years on position, and that's when the wage gap tends to appear. I haven't come across necessarily any good statistics that talk about the wage gap in relation to Māori within architecture. Partly because the numbers are probably so low that it would be fairly pointed I suppose, study, that would look at a very direct group of people. So you'd almost find out exactly what we were all earning, which may or may not be useful. It's looking at stats in different ways, and there's all sorts of ways you can slice it, but if you look at the general trajectory of average wage gaps or pay gaps amongst Māori and Pacific, and men and women, which are traditionally actually Pākehā men and Pākehā women in New Zealand as a whole, we already know that Māori women earn much less than Pākehā women, and Pasifika women earn less again. So, maybe we can extrapolate those numbers, I don't know.
JK: I think you touched on the fact that we maybe don't have a complete picture of the problem, but we do have a pretty reasonable idea. So, my question would be, what can we do about that, knowing how complex it is, but what are some ways we can move forward?
EH: Yeah. I think about that a lot. I think there a couple of potentially, deceptively - simple's not really fair - but, there are a couple of things we can do. As Māori, let's just think about Māori Pasifika, and I just talk about that I guess because for myself I am Māori and Pasifika. So, not trying to lump them all in as one, if anybody's listening to this and kind of going, what the? So, not lumping us into one, but this is my personal experience. I think we need to put our hands up more for being involved. What I mean by that, is getting on Boards, or speaking up in meetings, it can be that simple. Actually getting involved in your community. Kind of putting yourself out there to maybe be a judge on something, or to organise social events in your office, or speak on particular topics or issues. And I guess what I mean by that is, create visibility of yourself and of other Māori Pacific practitioners. And why that's important is that it helps maybe the practitioners that are standing beside them or around them to recognise the value of them, to recognise the value that Māori and Pacific points of views have, and also really critically important is for generations coming through. To actually be able to look to somebody and that is really crucial. And I suppose I have benefited from that through being involved in Architecture Women, where our entire sort of philosophy has been built on the idea of visibility and inclusivity. And the visibility part is literally just kind of social media, and newsletters and all those things that kind of go hey, these are people doing good things. But that could only really happen because those good people doing good things are putting their hands up to do stuff. Not saying be a chronic overachiever, cough cough, myself and yourself. But there are ways of speaking up slightly beyond what maybe comfortable, to just push a little bit. Because I think, in order for true change to happen we all need to pushing a little bit further. I think there needs to be a serious, very serious recognition of unconscious bias and what that does. Both from the wāhine tane perspective, so we get instances in which say, men don't realise that they have an unconscious bias to ask the male in the room a question over the female in the room. That's not necessarily something that they're doing out of malice, but it's actually something that they're doing unconsciously because it's a bias they have internally. That exists, that's one of those big barriers we see for women in a practice, that exists again as another layer for Māori Pacific. So everybody needs to get better at understanding what their unconscious biases are, pushing their practices - I think - to get more savvy around that. And I really think that people who are running businesses, who are directors, who are principals, actually need to just front up and be honest with themselves about what it is they are and are not doing as practices. And I'm seeing that with some practices, they are definitely making changes, and you can see the difference between those who are being truly honest and self-aware, and those who are not.
JK: Something I've been thinking about just personally, is that because the numbers of registered Māori architects are so low, and particularly Māori women, I'm like, I've always thought I didn't really have time to do this, there's so many things I need to do, and now I'm like, I don't think I can afford not to. And I'm kind of like, I mean, I think we find ways to be really active in these spaces without being registered architects, but I'm also aware that changing our profession, well, you do have to be in it. So, I don't know, do you have any thoughts on the registration thing?
EH: Yeah. The registration thing. Dun dun dun. At its base, getting registered is not, for me, about the 'congratulations you are an archi-ma-tect, you can architect things.' No. It's not necessarily about that sign off, so much as it is about me knowing for myself, that I have had the experience in architectural practice, to understand the breadth and depth needed to be registered. And what that means is, is that commitment from my employer, and the commitment from myself, to be on projects that allow me to see that whole process through. The reason why that's important, I think, from a Māori community point of view, from an, I suppose, having more architects who are Māori there, present, is that, you know what, it's a really important skillset, and it's a skillset our communities need. We're all, I've noticed a lot of us are all quite good at talking. Cough cough. Again. Me and you. But no, seriously, I don't know if it's just marae life training or something, but we're all quite used to having to talk things through, to narrate a story. I mean, that's the way we grew up. We grow up listening to stories, so we grow up thinking that the way we speak to each other is through stories. So, talking is like just Māori 101. Now, we can talk till we're blue in the face, but, the deeper you get into a project, which is what I'm finding as a, you know, I feel like a baby graduate architect, but never the less, deeper into a project I get, the more I realise that my talking up the front end just gets better, gets clearer. My understanding of how I can speak to our whānau, to our communities, to the Council, to the government, actually, about Māori ideas actually translating into real outcomes, gets better. Because I know that if I'm saying blah blah blah tukutuku panel needs to be cut, needs to show up in this precast panel, I actually now know what it takes to get it on site. Because I've said the words, then I've drawn the drawings, then I've detailed the drawings, then I've looked at how that details does or does not work. And then we've kind of maybe value managed some of that out. Or maybe we haven't. And then we're talking about how we get onsite, rada rada rada. It's literally for me, just seeing that process through, so that I know that when I come back to those stories again at the beginning, I'm not promising the sky and can't give it. And I also think we deserve much better design outcomes. And I think for a long time, due to all the things we know, aka colonisation, that we've just been in a survival mode, and survival mode doesn't look pretty, and I think we deserve better than that.
JK: And our communities deserve better.
EH: Yeah. Way better than that. Our marae can be amazing. Our papakāinga can be beautiful. We don't have to live in sub par housing. Architects are literally trained for that. We're trained for that design problem. We're trained for the pragmatics, for the logistical stuff. We're trained to be the creatives. We have the skillset. So, yeah, our communities need it.
JK: I've reached that point too, where I'm starting to see the boundaries of my current skillset, and my competencies, and I'm like, I just need to be better. My communities deserve better, I need to have that level of skill so that I can serve my communities better.
EH: All I would say is, our impatience, mine and yours, and many others, are legitimate. But also just there because we can see the urgency, is one thing. There is a bubble at the moment, it's this huge wave, that's coming from kind of all directions, and we're responding to it. And what I mean by that is, like, living in Auckland, we've got 19 iwi around the general Auckland region, and 13 in the Tāmaki Collective, who are all putting their foot down and saying, you know, public projects in the City are going to involve us. And so that means that the people on the other side of the table, which is the side of the table the architect sits on, need to know how to communicate that information. So there's another demand. The Council are putting it into their briefs, into their RFPs, into their things. The government are thinking about it. We have a kawenata. Pressures kind of coming from everywhere, and I think we're responding to that. And also, it's exciting. And also, we're ambitious. And we're ambitious because we've been given tools to be ambitious, and finally I think living through the potential that probably our parents had, but didn't necessarily have anybody there or any way, mechanisms in which to break those barriers down. So they just had us - the crazy ones.
JK: My mum, you know, she quit school when she was 15, cause she then had a baby. But when I was growing up, she always read to me when I was really young, she was always really big on education, and she always supported me on anything I wanted to pursue or was interested in.
EH: My mum is exactly the same. Mum did fifth form twice, and didn't quite make it to the end of that. And for many reasons in her life, left Aotearoa. So she hadn't technically finished high school. She went back to school as an adult, at 24. Because she really wanted to be a librarian. So she really saw the value in knowledge. But, Mum had a lot of barriers in life. Really, really big barriers. And education wasn't really seen as valuable in her house. She just needed to get a job. Just get a job and work. And that was fine, but Mum knew that for me, she read to me insistently, she made sure that, even if it meant, and often it literally meant working four to five jobs to make sure that there were opportunities to do, you know, singing lessons, and drama lessons. My brothers could get support with maths and english, or whatever. Education was important. And to the best of her damn ability, she fought really hard to make sure that I had what I needed. And she never had anybody fight for her like that. So, when I say I do these things for my whānau, I mean it very literally, and I know that for my nieces and nephews and hopefully one day for my own tamariki, every little interview, every little job we do, every person we've taught to say things correctly in te reo, makes a really big difference to their lives.
JK: I really loved that. Big mihi to our mums.
EH: Yeah. Massive mihi to our mums.
JK v/o: I also asked Haley Hooper, nō Ngāti Hau, for her whakaaro on this issue. Why does representation matter, from both a diversity and Treaty perspective?
Haley Hooper: I think it's a very important question to ask, and I think the fact that we don't have a lot of Māori women, or Māori in urban design, or even in architecture - like it's getting better but there's still limited numbers, we definitely have a need to grow our rangatahi into those spaces. So, I think, from my point of view when I think about being Māori in the design space, or myself in the design space, I think sometimes it has been an uncomfortable environment, and sometimes it's difficult, the processes that you go through, and it's an identity search as well, of like how are you fitting into these places, and how are these places representing themselves. And you're trying to establish what your ideas are in a kaupapa Māori way, sometimes, and in Pākehā way, and then in a development oriented way, and you're always negotiating the multiplicity of influences, and still trying to figure out where you stand in that, as a young designer. So I think as much as I love design, and the position of urban design, as a role, and as a Māori woman, I don't think it's always been a comfortable space to be in, specifically. And I'm not sure how I feel about that, or how to make that better. I think the thing is, it's all about education and awareness and things growing, and us getting stronger in that space as well. I think it's a very male-dominated industry as well all know, and it's male power heavy too. So, yes there are a lot more women in the industry, but as you get up to the top and the more important the projects seem to be, there is still a really strong lack of women in those places, and Māori women you very rarely see them, and when you do seem them you have huge admiration for them being there, and there are some very strong Māori women working in this space. But I'd love to see more coming through. There are certain norms and behaviours and cliques and types of things that exist in our industry that you're getting to know as a young designer, and then at the same time you're trying to figure out how you fit in to them, and they relate to things like, you know, what's the company's values, or what's the project's values, the priorities, the perceptions of people, the different hierarchies that you're working inside of, and those structures and establishments. And then I think, when you add the kaupapa Māori side to it, and then you try to figure out how that all works in together, you could say it's contrasting, and then sometimes it's in conflict with. And I think it's just how those things come together. Sometimes it works great, and other times it doesn't. And it's just a process of evolution, that you're trying to grow and understand yourself, and your identity in that space. Without conforming to the norm all the time. And then if you don't conform to the norm, where does that leave you, and what is your voice? And I think sometimes, on the inside, I'll be sitting in a room, and I could possibly be thinking a complete other thing to the way that it's been presented, and then it's like, what do you do then?
JK: Something I've really struggled with, was, I mean I think I have the strength in my convictions now, through experience, but I felt the same things quite strongly, you know, six years ago, ten years ago. But I didn't have the confidence to voice those, because I didn't have the experience. It just felt like an intuitive thing. And so you kind of go into these spaces, and you're like, that doesn't seem right, but I don't know enough to know that I'm correct in that. Which can be a really tricky place, because you feel like you're learning, but then somehow you still have to be, you have to be an advocate, and it's kind of a lot.
HH: Yes. Yeah, well I think you're really in the flux of learning, and you can sometimes be right in the front face of something, and you've got an idea, and you're like - should I say it? Do I say it? How do I say it? Is it appropriate? How's it going to recieved? Is this even the right space or place to say this thing? And how are these people going to take it on, and will it make a difference? But I think at the end of the day, if you've got an opinion that's strong and true you should always try to make it heard. I guess from my personal point of view, I'm probably still working on making that happen. But I hope that when it's very necessary that I do have the confidence to say it.
JK v/o: This episode of Indigenous Urbanism has been supported by The Diversity Agenda, an initiative aimed at driving change within New Zealand’s architecture and engineering industries. Dedicated to improving diversity and inclusion across the board, the Diversity Agenda’s overarching goal is getting 20 percent more women into engineering and architecture roles by 2021. The Diversity Agenda started as a collaboration between industry bodies Engineering New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) and the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACENZ) - and more than 75 firms have come on board since its launch. To find out more about the Diversity Agenda, please visit diversityagenda.org.
Indigenous Urbanism Aotearoa Edition is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.
For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to indigenousurbanism.net. You can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.
That’s it. That’s a wrap. That was our last episode of the season. We’re on hiatus right now, but we look forward to you joining us for more great stories on Indigenous Urbanism in 2019.