On an afternoon in mid-August, we hosted the inaugural Te Tiriti Meets Tech in collaboration with the Vodafone Foundation. Held at Vodafone’s Smales Farm Headquarters in Auckland, the intention for the afternoon hui was to explore how the tech sector could better honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
About 45 participants from as far afield as the New Zealand Defence Force, InternetNZ and The University of Auckland joined us to explore this question.
The event started with a Pōwhiri (a traditional Māori welcoming ceremony) from Te Hā Whero, Vodafone’s kapa haka team to welcome the manuhiri (guests, in this instance the participants who weren’t part of Vodafone). We followed this with kai (food) and an introduction of who was in the room through people sharing their Pepeha or a body of water that was significant to them. People also shared the organisation they represented.
Off the back of this, the team at Dev Academy gave a brief overview of why this work matters to us. As a company that is of Pākeha origin, and started by two white, straight men nonetheless, Dev Academy has always had diversity of the tech sector front of mind and heart. Since its earliest days, we have been working towards bringing great junior talent into the industry — and have known that diversity and inclusion are one of the sector’s challenges. But it doesn’t end there. If we look at the rates of Māori participation and representation in the sector, you’ve got to look pretty damn hard (hopefully increasingly less so). Dougal Stott, of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa & Ngāi Tewhatuiāpiti descent and our Kaiārahi Māori, says: Five years ago you could have counted the Māori developer in the industry on two hands. We’re slowly making a difference in that space.”
And this is where the topic of representation becomes a Treaty issue: It states participation as one of its principles. For us, this looks like population parity in the sector — for Māori but also for people from minority genders and other cultural backgrounds.
We figured that if more people recognised the need to do their piece to honour Te Tiriti, then we will reach parity faster.
But what does it look like to honour Te Tiriti as an individual or as an organisation? During the event, we ran through three case studies: Dev Academy, Rāhuitia (one of our grads’ projects) and Vodafone New Zealand. Between us we shared some tales of success and failure, of progress and resistance.
Kirstin Te Wao, now Vodafone’s Diversity and Inclusion Lead, told us the story of how she progressed from business analyst to her current role: leading Vodafone to participate in Te Wiki O Te Reo (Māori language week) as a volunteer within the organisation. Putting a lot of energy behind it for years and needing to take a step back from the volunteering — only to see things came to a halt. This became the pivotal moment, of a dedicated role being established. Once, Kirstin was asked whether she ever felt like a token in her role.
She made the commitment to herself then to move from ‘token to taonga’ — a phrase that resonated with many of the participants.
We too shared some of our lessons in that space. Rohan, Dev Academy’s co-founder challenged us: “Who feels safe in your org and who doesn’t?” Since our beginning, we have focussed on whanaungatanga (the process of becoming like family; building relationships) in particular in the early days and weeks of Bootcamp. But only recently did it come to our attention that even the questions we had so intentionally designed weren’t enough to fully invite folks from a Māori background to share their Pepeha. One student recently said: Ah, it’ll take too long so I’ll skip that. We have since changed the question, making it very explicit that Pepeha are very welcome.
The main take-away from the event (and our journey)? That everyone is on a path to improving how to honour Te Tiriti. Crucially, this isn’t one big commitment (though it may well be!) but also very much in the day-to-day: Pronouncing names in te reo properly, for example. Is that enough? Definitely not — but a good first step. Similarly, normalising tikanga (check the NZTE Tikanga Downloadable App as a helpful guide).
During the event, we shifted from case study to workshop, giving participants the space (and guidance) to ponder what honouring Te Tiriti looks like for them through this handy worksheet.
A penny-drop moment for me was the interpretation of article three Ōritetanga (equity / social equality): only when no further social inequities exist between Tangata Whenua (people of the land) and Tangata Te Tiriti (people of the Treaty) have we arrived. This looks like parity in incarceration rates, home ownership, representation on boards etc. What’s this got to do with you and me, and the tech sector? Everybody’s got to do their part, with where we are, what we do and what we have.
During the checkout round, it became clear that this event was significant for lots of people who had chosen to come. Someone mentioned that this ‘was a conversation we wouldn’t have had five years ago. In summing up the word ahead for all of us, another participant said: “the best time to plant a fruit tree was a hundred years ago. The next best time is today.”
We’ll leave you with another quote from our participants: Kua tae mai te wā — the time has come, to be brave.
We are running a Wellington session on 26 September together with CatalystIT, register here.