About Poutama Pounamu


Te Wero (the challenge) by Donn Ratana Ngāi TūhoeE ō maunga tapu, e o awa e tere ana
E ō moana piataata,
E ō marae, e ō whare tipuna,
Ki a koe, ki ō whānau, hapū, iwi, tēnā koutou katoa.
Tēnā koutou katoa ngā mihi ki a koutou e pānui ana i ēnei whārangi.
Ngā mohiotanga kei roto i tēnei whakatakotoranga kaupapa, mo tātou katoa, ahakoa nō hea.

To your sacred mountains, to your flowing rivers,
To your glistening seas,
To your tribal places, your ancestral houses,
To you and to your people, we greet you.
Greetings to all that read within these pages.
The knowledge being laid out within this agenda is for us all, from wherever we have come.

(Artwork: Te Wero (the challenge) by Donn Ratana of Ngāi Tūhoe)


The name Poutama Pounamu

Rangiwhakaehu Walker, an elder from Tauranga Moana, gifted the name Poutama Pounamu to a former research centre in 1995. Rangiwhakaehu wanted a name that encapsulated the poutama or staircase towards knowledge with pounamu, the most precious and highly valued greenstone. Hence the Poutama Pounamu Education Research and Development Centre was launched within Special Education Services.

This Centre undertook important research with schools and Māori communities for over 20 years before it was disbanded in 2010.Much of this work was undertaken with leaders from the University of Waikato.

It is a privilege now as a group of academics and professional developers, working at the University of Waikato, to utilise this name once more.

Atawhai ngā rito, kia puāwai ngā tamariki.
Ako i ngā tamariki, kia tu tāngata ai, tātou katoa.

Cherish and nurture the shoots, so the children will bloom.
Learn from and with these children, so that we all can stand tall.

Our work

The work of Poutama Pounamu is testament to having learned iteratively through research and development (R&D) since 1995, about what works for Māori if Māori are to succeed as Māori. We have learned that working with whānau and teachers in relational, responsive and dialogic ways aimed at improving the potential of Māori learners, also has a positive influence when applied and personalised to all students.

These pedagogical constructs helped us to understand effective contexts for learning required being more knowledgeable about the impact of our combined colonial history on Māori and on other marginalised groups in our schooling system and in society. This includes our ability to reach back prior to colonisation to understand Tangata Whenua as successful, innovative, productive and living as one with the land.

Understanding colonisation

It includes understanding why colonisation brought different discourses to our shores so that today we must help others to talk about issues such as racism in ways that are respectful and mindful of mana. Developing effective contexts for learning requires moving beyond the pedagogical rhetoric to understand the foundations of our society and implications for our collective futures.

This work is essential now. It must lay the foundation for New Zealand history becoming compulsory. It must be prioritised, collectively undertaken and achieved in ways that promote the equality of each other’s mana (mana ōrite).

Working across the system

Our work has now taken place over almost three decades, from Early Childhood Education (ECE) through to tertiary. We have led in both the development of Te Kotahitanga and subsequent models of reform that have grown from Te Kotahitanga and we believe we will continue to lead in Te Hurihanganui.

The Poutama Pounamu facilitation team is currently interacting with 116 Early Childhood Centres, 184 Primary Schools, 13 intermediates, and 63 Secondary Schools across 30 Kāhui Ako. In these spaces we are using two theoretical frameworks (kaupapa Māori and critical theories) to both indigenise the culture of schools and centres and decolonise the structures of these same settings.

The Poutama Pounamu Blended Learning for education communities has had 387 individuals enrolled as Kaiwhakaako since its inception. Kaiwhakaako in turn are working with about 2,000 ākonga inside ECE centres, schools and wider communities. We also have a version of Poutama Pounamu Blended Learning for rangatahi and whānau that ensures these same conversations are being had in our schools/centres and home communities.

What people we have worked with say about our 'cultural capability'


Meet the Poutama Pounamu team



The work of Poutama Pounamu builds on years of iterative New Zealand research, amplified by the voices of Māori students, their whānau and education professionals. It reflects the bicultural nature of New Zealand society.

Our team includes:


Ako critical contexts for change

From within whānau responsibilities to grow and nurture, Poutama Pounamu extends opportunities to schools/kura, communities and Kāhui Ako to ensure each learner’s prior knowledge and experience provides the foundation from which new learning can build and potential can be released.

Under the Treaty of Waitangi, partnership, protection and participation is the right of all learners, Māori (iwi) and non-Māori (Pākehā and Tauiwi).

The ako critical contexts for change:

  • professional knowledge and adaptive expertise together with
  • relational and culturally responsive pedagogies and
  • home school collaborations

promote an accelerated pathway of change towards equity, excellence and belonging.


The challenge and the vision

Our challenge is to consider how we might contribute more effectively towards ending the disparities faced by earlier generations of Māori children.

Just as we may have contributed to these past disparities, we now have the agency to change this status quo and contribute towards a better future so that our next generation have more equitable opportunities to develop their potential and take their rightful place in society.

Our kaupapa is

Equity, excellence and belonging, building strong foundations for the future.

We will do this by supporting schools/kura, communities and Kāhui Ako to understand the moral purpose that is central to promoting contexts for change where equity, excellence and belonging can be realised.

(Artwork: Whānau by Donn Ratana of Ngāi Tūhoe)