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Mana Whaikaha korero

The identity of Mana Whaikaha was co-designed with a group of disabled people and families and whānau, including some who identified as Māori.

The concept behind the symbol was that disabled people and whānau should be able to steer their own waka in the new system. The system would be able to uplift and support the waka with the disabled person and whānau on their journey to where they wanted to go. Crucially, it is the disabled person and their whānau who are in control, who decide where they want the waka to go, who steer it in the direction they want to take, alter where it might head to, and decide who will be on it at various points in their life. 'He waka eke noa – we’re all in this together'

Whaikaha means to have strength, to have ability, to be otherly abled, and to be enabled.

“Tāngata Whaikaha means people who are determined to do well, or is certainly a goal that they reach for. It fits nicely with the goals and aims of people with disabilities who are determined in some way to do well and create opportunities for themselves as opposed to being labelled, as in the past.”

Maaka Tibble, founding member of the Māori Disability Leadership Group, 2016

Whaikaha was published as part of Te Reo Hāpai, an initiative to translate words that might carry stigma and discrimination into words that recognise humanity, hope and personal dignity. Te Reo Hāpai is a Māori language initiative created by Keri Opai in his role of Paeārahi (Māori Leadership) at Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui to update and create Māori language used in the health and disability sector.  

A weaving created at a wānanga with tāngata whaikaha Māori in MidCentral

The weaving in the waka came from a wānanga with Tāngata Whaikaha Māori in MidCentral about the need to incorporate kaupapa Māori principles into all elements of the new system. This was highlighted by the whāriki, a weaving created at the wānanga which reflected the ways people in the disability community prefer or are able to communicate using different senses, and how much stronger the whole is when weaving together the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) principles as they relate to Te Ao Māori (the Māori world). 

Mana Whaikaha reflects a strengths-based and enabling focus for the new disability support system. The waka is a positive and uplifting symbol with disabled people and their whānau having the support and control they want for their lives. 

How the Mana Whaikaha brand was designed

In 2018, a group of disabled people, whānau representatives, providers and officials, including those who identified as Māori, came together to develop concepts for a brand that would represent the new disability support system in MidCentral. 

A number of common themes emerged.  The brand should be for and by disabled people, respectful, hopeful, available to all, achieving, empowering, warm and welcoming, uplifting, a partnership, caring, one boat for everyone, accessible, inclusive, inviting to all cultures, highlight kiwi diversity, and be creative. 

The next time the group met, members came prepared with suggestions and proposals for concepts, language and symbols. One whānau representative had spoken with other families who had disabled whānau members and together they identified the concept that the new system offers the opportunity for disabled people to be able to paddle their own waka. 

A number of phrases to go with the waka were tested and the word 'Whaikaha' was chosen. Disabled people become tāngata whaikaha with an emphasis on gaining strength and ability. 

Whaikaha has become socialised in Te Reo Hāpai which is about enriching language, including words of great power in te reo from a strengths base and a mana enhancing Māori worldview. 

The creator of Te Reo Hāpai, Keri Opai, noted it was positive for the new system to be embracing the use of 'Whaikaha'.  He supported the phrase Mana Whaikaha, 'I think it fits well with the idea of "whaikahatanga" – an otherly-abled culture that is strengths-based, not deficit-based. Mana in the title/brand could imply an independence and an ability to make one’s own decisions'. Mr Opai saw the symbol of the waka as 'being very inclusive; everyone has a place and purpose on a waka - to paddle, to steer, to read the swells, currents and stars, even to keep time for the paddlers'. 

Te Ao Mārama (the Ministry of Health’s Māori Disability Advisory Group) was consulted on the proposed brand. Disabled people are known as tāngata whaikaha in Whāia Te Ao Mārama, the Māori Disability Action Plan. Members of Te Ao Mārama respected the co-design process and sought to understand the meaning behind the suggested brand.  There was a positive connection with 'Whaikaha' and 'Enabling Good Lives'. 

The National Enabling Good Lives (NEGL) Leadership Group was consulted and gifted the new system the tagline, 'Enabling Good Lives' and the colours used in the brand and logo.