Kaupapa Māori Perspective

Youth Encounter's Theory of Change, from a Kaupapa Māori perspective, is embodied in the concept of the "poutama" or staircase, which represents a step-by-step framework guiding young people towards holistic development. This poutama approach is deeply rooted in Māori cultural values, emphasizing a progressive journey through stages of growth and learning. By integrating the principles of Te Whare Tapa Whā, the poutama ensures that each step addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the individual. This culturally resonant model not only supports the rangatahi immediate needs but also nurtures their identity, purpose, hope, and resilience. Through this structured pathway, Youth Encounter creates a supportive environment where young people can climb towards unleashing their potential, embodying the organization’s mission to empower them to Live Life Wide Open.

Kaupapa Māori is crucial to Youth Encounter because it ensures our programs are culturally relevant and supportive, particularly given that 81% of participants in our Therapy groups identify as Māori, and 66% in our Mentoring programme. By integrating Kaupapa Māori principles, we honor and uplift the cultural identities of our participants, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment that is essential for their holistic well-being and success. 

“Kaupapa Māori may challenge and resist, but that is incidental to the primary focus which is to develop and advance as Māori using our own knowledge, values, and processes. Those of us who are involved in Kaupapa Māori do not do it because we are ‘rebels who have finally found a cause’, but because it is inherently right and normal for us to do so. Māori development and advancement is about practice and research that supports us as Māori to develop, not in relation to others, but to be where we want to be and to do what we want to do.” -Anaru Eketone

“What is important is the understanding that Kaupapa Māori theory is founded within knowledge that derives from learning, experiences, understandings, worldviews, values and beliefs that are ancient. These forms have been handed down through generations, and although disrupted and disregarded through colonial impositions they have survived to continue to inform how we are in the world. Kaupapa Māori theory is developed from a foundation of Kaupapa Māori and mātauranga Māori. Its base is firmly entrenched on Māori land, on Papatūānuku, and that holds Kaupapa Māori theory as a distinctive framework.” - Leonie Pihama

At Youth Encounter, we acknowledge tangata Tiriti as a collective philosophy, recognizing our commitment to building meaningful relationships with Māori, understanding the history of Aotearoa New Zealand's formation, and supporting the ongoing struggle for Māori self-sovereignty. As an organization of the Treaty, we are dedicated to fostering partnerships that honor the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, ensuring our programs and practices contribute to the empowerment and self-determination of Māori communities.

  • Acknowledgement: At the core of Kaupapa Māori is the affirmation and legitimation of being Māori. As tangata Tiriti we must acknowledge that Māori are tangata whenua and allow them the means to fully express their identity

  • Collaboration: To live in right relationships, we must partake in positioning ourselves to receive equally as we give. Collaboration requires us to be naïve inquirers and to constantly look for opportunities to include.

  • Participation: Kaupapa Māori asserts the right for Māori to be Māori while simultaneously critiquing social and institutional structures that are oppressive. We must facilitate spaces that enable participation for all.

  • Responsibility: Kaupapa Māori seeks to deconstruct the discourse that Māori are ‘other’ and it aligns itself with critical theory to expose power relations that continue forms of oppression.

Youth Encounter uses the Mauri Ora Spectrum to guide our approach in nurturing the well-being of young people. This ensures we meet rangatahi where they are and support their holistic development across physical, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions. Mauri ora represents a state of balanced life force, where one is alive, well, and vibrant. When your mauri is supported and enhanced, you can confidently express your cultural identity in all spaces and places, regardless of who you are or where you come from.

  • Mauri Moe - Untapped Potential: This state of being is withdrawn with expressions of isolation, pain, anguish and sorrow. There is darkness and inactivity.

  • Mauri Oho - Being Awakened: This state of being indicates courage and locating inner strength. Interest has been sparked and there is a newfound willingness to participate.

  • Mauri Ora - Transformative Potential: This state of being has full awareness of and engages in purpose, identity, inspiration and motivation for the future. There is growth, hope and life.


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