The annual awards run by Te Papa Tākaro o Te Arawa, have evolved since the inaugural sports awards in 1996, which focused on Māori elite athletes in the Te Arawa region.
The celebration of rangatahi and iwi have been added to the mix, recognising achievements over the past year. For some of the supreme awards – such as the Kōeke awards, Hall of Fame and Roll of Honour – it’s across their lifetime.
Te Papa Tākaro o Te Arawa CEO, Paora Te Hurihanganui, says many people achieve because of their environment or whānau background but not necessarily because they’ve been influenced by Te Arawa or are influencing Te Arawa.
“Rangatahi wānanga have been an integral part of the awards for the past eight years because a lot of previous recipients were from Te Arawa but not necessarily well connected to their iwi. We wanted to know how they represented Te Arawa, how they gave back to the iwi and the hapū system underneath. A lot of recipients, especially the rangatahi, knew nothing about Te Arawa.”
Te Papa Tākaro o Te Arawa take rangatahi, and sometimes their whānau, into uniquely Te Arawa spaces where they can connect and understand who they are.
“Most of it is through the natural environment and exposing them to Te Arawa leaders. We use that as a system of assessment and deciding who gets the grants – by the behaviours and actions they demonstrate while in a Te Arawa space. If we call ourselves a tikanga-based iwi, then we look at them exemplifying tikanga when they’re with their peers – whether in a natural environment, on a marae, or amongst elders.
“The wānanga have been hugely successful and all rangatahi nominees are invited. Some are there because they’re national athletes, while someone may be at a lower level but given more to their community and iwi. That’s the leadership we’re looking at for the future.”
Paora says not only do the awards acknowledge the rangatahi and their efforts, but also the support system behind them.
“We’re trying to grow good Te Arawa families, good values, good hapū connection, good iwi and build from there. The disconnect and the deficit has been too long in our gene pool, especially post-WWII, where Māori wellbeing and cultural connections diminished. But we’re on the rise again, so we’re supporting the rise by valuing good behaviours as opposed to valuing just your efforts or achievements.
“Someone can go and shoot a couple of baskets and be successful. Or someone might get to the finals of a sporting event and beat the champion. Yes, there’s training to get them there but we’re looking for that wider growth.
“It’s interesting because a lot of organisations are looking to partner with us because they can develop athletes, but they can’t develop people. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Paora says the awards are important because often community and service providers concentrate on deficit – about what’s going wrong and how to fix it.
“The awards have been around over two decades, and Te Papa Tākaro o Te Arawa is growing up into an adult. We’re going on 26 years now, so we’re looking to redevelop and reconstitute ourselves and grow a bigger organisation, as well develop athletes and other wānanga. It’s important we take our rangatahi and whānau along the way too.”