Wairua and wellbeing : exploratory perspectives from wahine Maori : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand
There are significant health disparities between Māori (Indigenous people of New
Zealand) and non-Māori in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Initiatives to address these
issues include (re)connection to Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) and the
integration of Māori health perspectives within the New Zealand health system.
Although wairua (Māori spirituality) is recognised as being crucial to the oranga
(wellbeing) of Māori, it is not very well understood and there is little research on
how wairua is manifested within this context.
The aim of this research was to enhance the understanding of wairua and highlight
its importance to the wellbeing of Māori wāhine (Māori women). Guided by a
kaupapa Māori (Māori cultural ideologies) approach, this research utilises
narrative inquiry to explore the perspectives of eight wāhine Māori about what
wairua means to them and their wellbeing, and how it is actualised in their daily
lives in contemporary Aotearoa. These wāhine have all participated in a mana
wahine (Māori feminist discourse, authority, influence, power of women)
programme designed to enhance the wairua of wāhine by (re) connecting them to
Te Ao Māori.
Thematic analysis was employed identifying three key themes; wairua, oranga and
mana wahine. Further analysis revealed that these three main themes can be
understood as the connection to: Wairua, Tāngata (people), Whenua (land),
Tūpuna (ancestors) and Atua (God/deities). This connection was described by the
participants as vital to their wellbeing through providing a sense of belonging,
strength, self-determination, support, resilience, stability, empowerment, cultural
identity, self-respect, motivation, guidance, and self-efficacy. Wairua was described
as a spiritual essence, an intuitive knowing, a higher power or Atua. Access to
wairua was through cosmology narratives and tikanga (customs) such as karakia
(prayer), karanga (ceremonial call), raranga (weaving) and waiata (singing).
The purpose of this research was to explore Māori perspectives of wellbeing and
enhance cultural understanding. Implications for the findings advocate
(re)connection to Te Ao Māori and the integration of traditional knowledge with
medical science within Māori mental health services as pathways to positive health
outcomes for tāngata whaiora (Māori mental health service users). While
recognising the diversity of Māori in their desire to participate in Te Ao Māori, the
choice to accessing it should still be made available.