Matariki – remembering my dead

Image of the Matariki constellation overlaid with Maori artwork

I can’t see the Matariki from here in Sydney, OZ, but I remember it each year. I remember Claire, my pagan friend, telling me of similar celebrations in other countries (day of the dead), a time to remember those who have passed on, a time to clean up family gravestones, share stories, do genealogy, show family members in photo albums and gather the young to remember those who are gone and share their stories.

This was to be the year, I was going to visit Aunt Liz’s grave in Christchurch, New Zealand, with COVID it will have to wait until next year. She died in May 2012, our cousins her children were casually cruel never bothering to tell the rest of the family that their mother had died ‘they couldn’t be bothered’, another family member said these were her daughter’s words. It was gutting, and it wrenches my heart even now not to be able to say goodbye. More so because around that time, I had sent a parcel of pictures and a long letter thanking Aunt Liz for her influence in my life, telling her I loved her. I know now, she never got it.

Aunt Liz was a striking, slim, tallish woman, she was fiercely protective and had some part in raising me from 5-6 years old. She was staunch as hell. When my father Richard was burnt; something close to over 70% of his body caused by a petrol pump explosion, the hospital refused to give him pain killers when he cried for them. As they figured he would die at any time so it would be a waste. (He was Maori, that’s just how it goes in a white Hospital). My Aunt flew from Christchurch to Wellington Hospital, when she found out, she strode into the hospital and demanded the nurse comply. When the Nurse refused my Aunt’s holy anger gave her the strength to lift up the nurse, plant her against the wall and tell the nurse coldly, ‘you will give Richard the pain killer or you will be needing it for yourself’’. The nurse gave Richard the pain killer…And to spite the Hospital, Richard lived.

I first remembered her when I was probably about 4 or so and living at my Grandparents’ home in Palmerston North. She introduced us to porridge. I remember the look on her face when she heard that all we ever ate was cold weetbix. She would have none of that. I remember how impressed I was with Porridge. How I stared in wonder at the cream and milk floating on it. How it was warm and how the sugar fell as crystals then syrup-ed into glassy sheen on top. It was love in a warm, grey lumpy sludge.

In the main, she was strict, very disciplined, principled, and fair. Her sisters and brothers couldn’t pull her into fights with their partners, she wouldn’t take sides. She wouldn’t take sides with children fights either. If you started it, you finished it, no one would rescue you. She kept her promises, even if it was months later. The first summer, I wouldn’t swim in the Council’s paddling pool (I saw a white boy with red hair, poo in it). She didn’t see that. But she promised if I wasn’t going to swim in the pool then I wasn’t to go with them to it next year. Next year came along, and I didn’t get to go. Rather than be upset, I was impressed and comforted that promises meant something. (And I enjoyed the time on my own.)

She was truthful, and wouldn’t tolerate lies or cowardice. She taught evil was rooted in those two things; lies and lack of courage. Now much older, I’ve seen that’s true.

But she hit me often. I could avoid it if I was clear on the rules, pay attention, and keep small. I learned a lot of self-discipline and to pay attention. At 5-6 years old, my memory wasn’t always that good though. And the beatings were severe, around the end of my stay with her, for a few weeks, after dinner I would clean myself up and put myself in bed at 6 p.m to avoid any opportunity to be punished for an infraction. Still, I forgave her. One night she came quietly into the darkened room, sat at the end of the bed and told me that it was not right that she was so hard, that what she was doing was wrong. I will always be grateful for that. I had felt that it was me; I was just ‘wrong’. And it shifted something. She said she loved me. She teared up and said she couldn’t keep treating me this way. Not too long after I was sent to Petone for a brief stay, before moving to more homes.

Ten or so years later, I was 15, in and out of hospital. I was alone. I wrote to her, I don’t know what it was I said or didn’t say. But she was on the plane immediately, to visit and see if I needed to leave. She said she read between the lines and she had to come. And it was this trait, that she would drop everything if you needed her – to ‘rescue’ you from harm, I saw time and time again. I learned in time that she shaped me; I remember one night ages ago at a gathering with ex-missionaries I had served with, we were to go around the circle and describe the best trait of another in the room. A former companion picked me and said; ‘Kat will go to hell and back for a friend’ – and the others nodded. I know, that’s been one of her influences on my character.

I wished I had written to her more. I wish I knew the strong succumb to death. For some stupid reason, I assumed death wasn’t stronger than she. And she’s gone. At this time of Matariki, I mourn her.

Measuring infinity

A few years back NEC Research Institute in Princeton created an experiment in which a light beam raced through a gas-filled chamber so quickly, it exceeded the speed of light by a factor of 300.

What’s more, the light pulse appeared to have left the confines of the chamber before it even entered – a seemingly impossible occurrence according to theories of causality, which predict that causes must always precede their effects. I read somewhere that Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity holds that no object or information can move faster than the speed of light: 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second. At light speed, it would take us many generations to reach even the closest galaxies. The significance of anything moving faster is exciting because it would make intergalactic space travel possible. The experiment was discounted I think or is highly controversial, I don’t know. I think they’re still arguing about it.

Around the same time, I remember an obscure experiment in which they were able to record a faster speed of light by a new method and technology in measurement.

Which gave me this thought. If we measured something that by its nature was infinite, of an infinite number of properties, any standard or limit we discovered would not measure that thing. But only measure our progress in our understanding that thing, in relation to what we knew before.

Infinity Symbol
I don’t why but for some reason, that for me is a happy thought.

A Beautiful Passage — from Inanna.

(This is an experience from a dear friend of mine who passed away only 2 years ago, I came across it looking at old emails tonight – and cry again for her dear friendship.)

“A very dear friend of mine Graham was dying of complications brought upon by
AIDS. I went to see him almost every evening at the hospice if to do nothing but
hold his hand. A very special bond formed between us.

I was calm, and quiet just a comforting presence for him. One evening he said to
me “I don’t think I’ve done anything in my life” and that’s when I said “Your
wrong my friend, you have done a lot. We have worked together on many projects, I
could not have done them without your help and insight. I’ve learned much from
you and because of that, I know I have much from you to pass on to another
generation. We may not think we’ve done much, but in many ways we do.”

He looked at me in a most unusual way as if he were seeing me for the first time,
and then he smiled. He then looked toward his hospice doorway and acted as if
someone he knew had walked in, he looked at this presence that I could not see
smiled and nodded his head.

All of a sudden the energy in the room shifted, before I could hear the sounds of
the outside and hospice and was aware of people but all of a sudden those sounds
were gone. There was an unseen energy swirling around the other edges of the room
acting like a barrier against the outside world. But where I and my friend were,
there was a calmness and a peace that was so indescribable that I felt that this
is what heaven must be like.

And an incredible feeling of love so powerful began to overwhelm me and I felt a
presence next to me. I thought what is happening?? Where is the nurse?? A nurse
did come to the door but the look that suddenly came over her face was that she
could not come in, even if she tried she was not wanted in there, even to check
on him.

I saw her eyes grow large and see her throat move in that gulping fashion of
fear. But I felt no fear only love and a clarity of mind that I have never felt
before or since. I felt sorry for her because she could not join us. She backed
quickly from the door and hurried down the hall.

My friend had a look of peace on his face and he turned to me and asked “Would it
bother you if I asked you to leave?” and I said “no, you must be very tired and
need your sleep. Would you like me to come back tomorrow?”

“If you don’t mind, but call first,” he said–then he said to me “Thank you for
everything, I love you” “And I love you”

I said. I backed out of the room as he kept his eyes on me and at the door, I blew
him a kiss, and with that, he gave me a big grin as I disappeared out of the room.

I felt the presence next to me as if it had its arm around my shoulders, it
seemed to be saying to me—he’s fine now, we’ll take good care of him. I’m to
see you safely home.

I ran into the nurse at the station where she was with her co-worker she said to
me” What is happening in his room, I went to the door to check on him and I
couldn’t cross the doorway. What’s going on?” and I said to her “His friends are
with him, they’re taking him home” “But you were the only one in the room with
him” “Was I?” I replied.

Her mouth dropped open and her co-worker said to her “Your first Huh?, You’ll
come across a lot here. You’ll get used to it”

I went home had a cup of hot chocolate in milk and went to bed. I woke up
suddenly at 5:23 a.m. because I heard my friend laugh and say in my ear ” Your
right, and it is wonderful here” that’s when my eyes opened up abruptly and I
looked at the bedside clock and read the red light readout.

I called the next morning asking on my friend’s condition since I was one of the
people on his list to be given information on him, the nurse asked me if I was
sitting down and I said to her “he passed away last night didn’t he?” She
apologized and said yes he did and expressed her condolences to me and that the
the family had already been notified.

I asked if she knew what time he had passed away. The nurse replied that it was
some time between 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The nurse on duty had noted that he was
sleeping comfortably at 4:50 a.m. when she had checked on him. The Doctor had put
the official time of death at 5:30 a.m. when the nurse had gone in to check his
I.V. bottle.

Some people would say it was my imagination brought on by strain because of his
illness or a dream. But that voice in my ear was too real. And what I felt was
real.

You decide.

Bright Blessings,
Inanna”

Lego, cultural appropriation, Maori

There was an incident that happened about 13 years ago, that forever is included in University classes on the topic of cultural appropriation. It seems so very long ago and I am happy that people have become much more aware, but I’m a little bit sick of the reinvention of what happened at that time. That I’m reposting an old article I wrote to reference it when I come across the discussion again.

The incident was; a Mäori hacker took down a major Lego forum that encouraged the reinvention of Mäori culture and language for the sake of their Bionicle product range. There seemed to be a bit of an upset as a result of this, it was in the newspapers,(e.g. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0211/S00055.htm) radio and various academics wrote various articles dissecting the conversation. etc. Even today the incident seems to part of ongoing conversations around cultural appropriation. I wrote an article in 2002 for our Maori website, to discuss that Lego’s actions were just a little example of an ongoing larger story that is replayed.

——————————————————————————————————(2002)
On the Te Taura Whiri te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) website is stated the following:
“Mäori is the foundation language of New Zealand, the ancestral language of the Tangata Whenua and one of the taonga guaranteed protection under the Treaty of Waitangi. It also provides this country with a unique language identity in the rest of the world, as this is the only place where Mäori is spoken widely. In more tangible terms, the Mäori language is a powerful social force for the reconstruction of a damaged and deteriorated self-image among Mäori youth, a vehicle of contribution to society, and therefore a means of regaining dignity. Finally, human freedom is dependent at all levels of choice and diversity; linguistic pluralism can be nothing other than a guardian of individual freedom and identity against the forces of conformism.”

The core issue at the heart of this discussion is that of identity.
Who defines who the Māori people are?
Who has the right of representation of Māori cultures?
Who defines our identity to the larger world?
Is it the people themselves: the Māori?

Or is it as the American based BZPower forum insists; that it is the equal right of Americans to reinvent the Māori and other Polynesian and indigenous cultures “as they see fit”?(1)
This small story of LEGO plus the spin-off American online communities’ appropriation of Māori and Polynesian identity and resources to brand their new product line; Bionicle, is a chapter of a much larger story that replays in many places all over the world past and present. It is the ongoing story of western domination; that process of invasion of another’s territory; theft and destruction of lives, resources, the reinvention of history and indigenous identity for the sake of power, profit and the inflated image that the Dominator would present to the world.

The larger story goes like this; the Colonizer (5) has history start with his arrival. All that was before his arrival he determines is wrong, ugly, “primitive” or of no account. All that there is to remind one, of who you really are, what really was ‘so’ before the Colonizer’s arrival has been sought out, destroyed, trivialized or reinvented. The evils and injustices that the Colonizer committed and still commits are hidden minimized or erased. Mythologies, religious stories, foreign ideologies or philosophies are indoctrinated into our indigenous populations to account for this new state of affairs as being ordained or decreed by God, Science or Nature. So that the Colonizer’s way is the only standard and reference to what is ‘real’, the norm, of value, of worth or of beauty. It is a ‘one true way’ mindset that categorizes superiority or inferiority according to adherence to its norms and values only. This mentality permeates and underscores every facet of Western society, so it is predominantly an unquestioned ‘given’ from one generation to the next down to this present day.

Many contemporary Māori are alienated from their roots, they’re adrift, neither fully participant in the western cultures that engulf them, nor firmly anchored to even a memory of the ways of life that once sustained our ancestors. For those who are lost to their Māoritanga the whole of who they are is valued of little worth as accounted for by the larger society.
The first vehicle to the recovery of esteem as Māori, Polynesian, or Aboriginal people or for that matter any other human person is to recover the truth of your past. To know from who you were descended the truth of your people’s culture and teachings to really understand for yourself who you are. For Māori, it is to discover in fact a great heritage and diverse history that frees you from the inferiority mentality derived from the indoctrination of false identity. The heart and center of identity as a people and a person are family, land, and truth told both past and present. The guardians of Māori cultures, histories, and identity are in fact the Māori themselves; we alone are the authors of our cultures’ past and present. It is our birthright and our current responsibility. We reject the reinvention of who we are as a people as defined by any both past and present who so claim whether they be from America or any other country. Historically and to this day the images and identities you project onto us are false and profit you alone to our detriment.

Let’s look then at a smaller chapter of that larger story
When in 1997 the Lego Company for the first time experienced a loss, they realized that today’s kids wanted something “cool” to play with. Something that would encompass more than building blocks they wanted a story and to go with that story “they wanted neat pieces that they could use to create their own play fantasies” (2). This observation was confirmed when they introduced the Star Wars line, which took them out of the red for 1999. Lego now knew for a fact, that ‘bricks with a story’ was a great money-spinner. However they had to pay out a large number of royalties to Lucasfilm cutting into their profit margin, hence they got the idea of avoiding that expense by creating their “own” story.

In much the same way that George Lucas turned to the indigenous cultures of Asia (3) to appropriate it’s mythology and spiritual teachings as the background stories and culture of his own ‘invention’. The LEGO Company followed that pattern looking instead to Polynesia for something ‘new’ and ‘creative’ to offer the international market interweaving a story as did Lucas with elements of other cultures reinterpreted through a western perspective.

Again, in much the same way that the early dominator cultures mined the natural resources of land, sea, and air for industry and economy. In more recent times the Western world at large has discovered there is just as much profit to be had in mining the spiritual and cultural resources of indigenous cultures for its new products. LEGO is nothing if not a product of it’s own larger past.

Early 2001 Maui Solomon a Māori Lawyer drew up a letter of complaint to Lego. Although there were accusations that the premise of the game borrowed from the story derived from the Easter Islands people (who are closely related), the major complaint ccentered on Polynesian names that were used out of context and without permission. After meeting with Māori representatives, it was reported that in the latter part of that year that, Lego would discontinue the use of Maori words such as “Tohunga” (Maori for “priest”), “Pohatu” (“stone”), “Kanohi” (“mask”), and “Whenua” (“earth”), and in the future would refrain from using names taken directly from other cultures. (4)
Over a year later LEGO has made a cool £6m from the toys, plans a new range of remote-controlled ones plus a movie associated with Miramax, has cartoons, multi-media entertainment and has formed an alliance with Nike. It has not (with the exception of the word “Tohunga”) discontinued the use of all the words that they originally misappropriated. Furthermore, the BZPower forums and other Bionicle online communities continue to use all terminology originally employed by the LEGO Company and sources the entire Māori language for fantasy and role-play. The exploitation of Māori resources such as online translators designed to assist the recovery of heritage and identity of the sake of our Māori youth is used instead to fabricate and re-invent anew false pseudo-Polynesian identities for the entertainment of American and European consumers; young and old.

The administrators encourage this exploitation as an expression of American cultural values: “You[r] language belongs to anyone who wants to use it. You are not going to like this, but we in the United States, have as much right to your language as you do. We have just as many rights to use it as you do, and I know I will continue to do so as I see fit.” (Assistant administrator BZPower forum)

“Yes I condone “bastardizing” other cultures, as you would like to put it, as it is my right to and I will do so as I see fit.” (Assistant administrator)
We refute America’s ‘right’ to colonize our culture anew for the sake of profit and gain let alone this company’s. We recognise that they have no ethical right, that they are but asserting their ‘might’ as a larger bullying power to take without asking. We stand against demeaning Māori peoples lives and culture as a resource for fantasy role-play and product. We stand also against the false representation of the Māori people by such forums as exemplified by BZPower forums which follows the patterns of a vile tradition that has done generations of harm to First peoples the world over.
Last year the first and only comment made by a Māori on that forum, which expressed firstly my feelings on the misuse of Māori language was immediately suppressed. Discussion was re-opened after I challenged that act on the basis of free speech. Through the course of that debate I was informed that the rights of an indigenous person of another land to use free speech to define my culture and represent a Māori’s voice was denied:
“You have no rights granted by the American constitution. Only citizens of the United States have those rights, and your right to express your opinion here is only granted by the administration of this website, a website that you bash as unfair. Therefore you can be stopped from saying everything, because freedom of speech does not apply to you, however the administration (of which I am a part of) have given you the right to discuss your opinion.” Assistant Administrator.

Not too long after explaining why the misuse of Māori culture was wrong all commentary by myself or any Māori for that matter on the issues of Māori language and culture used by the BZPower forum users was forbidden by the administrators. Freedom of speech is not as many Americans think the unique invention of White American culture. Evidence of this was among my own ancestors and was more likely adopted into the American constitution based on the practices of the Iroquois people that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson studied. Freedom of speech as given by them is the right for ALL people to be heard regardless of race, nationality, sex, religion, or any other criteria.

After the BZPower forum was recently hacked into by an alleged Māori hacker Bzpower posted the following:

“BZPower would like to ask for the assistance of anyone within the Maori sphere of influence, who would be able to help convince the radical elements within the Maori people that such destructive behavior is counterproductive to improving that culture’s international acceptance. Such negative publicity is certain to impede anything the Maori are trying to achieve, and shutting down a forum about a toy will certainly do more harm than good in the long run.”

Frankly, no stereotyping of a people for the sake of fun and games serves anyone in the short or long term. The false representation of a culture does not render ‘international acceptance’ it suggests instead that an indigenous culture needs to be reinvented by the western world to be considered equal or of worth. The world would be a better place if America recognised the right of other people to be governed by their own people. It would be better again if the western world recognised that human freedom is dependent at all levels on choice and diversity; linguistic pluralism let alone unique systems of thoughts and ways as found in indigenous cultures ensure a diversity of human expression which stand as a bastion against the forces of conformism; represented by global commercial interests it offers a choice to what the market would profit from having you see yourself or others as.

This article has been written in response to the BZPower forums intimating that the hacker was associated with Aotearoalive.com (because of a debate I had with them a year ago), instigating an ongoing barrage of cyber attacks on one of New Zealand’s largest and most current Māori websites. Although personally, I don’t endorse hacking – I can fully understand that when an organization or a people for that matter forbids the freedom of speech of all people regardless of race or nationality and furthermore encroaches on that’s people’s wellbeing that you allow no other expression but retaliation. Certainly, BZPower can not expect sympathy that their ‘freedom of speech’ is removed when they do so to others.

The recovery of all Maori people’s identity and well being will continue; our response will be, tell the truth, both past and present of our culture first and foremost by the people, for the people without the re-invention practices of the West. Although our ability to get our voice heard is substantially less than the wider commercial world we clearly signpost authentic Māori sites under second-level domain names and interlink authentic websites off our main Māori portals. The contrast between authenticity and fabrication is immense; the first builds a people and provides tools to the wider world for a diverse array of needs that require a diverse array of solutions, the latter is exploitation for fun and the belittlement of others.

* Tangata Whenua means people of the land.
* Taonga means treasure.
* Māoritanga – Māori ways and traditions
1 “my right to bastardize other cultures as I see fit” Assistant Administrator of BZPower forum
2 http://www.bzpower.com/ref.php?ID=489
3 http://www.middleenglish.org/spc/23.1/wetmore.htm Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
The Tao of Star Wars, Or, Cultural Appropriation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
4 http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/840.html

How Kiwi Lost Its Wings by Hana Weka

One day, Tane Mahuta, the god of the forest, was walking through the forest. He looked up at his children reaching for the sky and he noticed that they were starting to sicken, as bugs were eating them. He talked to his brother, Tanehokahoka, who called all of his children, the birds of the air together. Tanemahuta spoke to them.

“Something is eating my children, the trees. I need one of you to come down from the forest roof and live on the floor so that my children can be saved, and your home can be saved. Who will come?”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

Tanehokahoka turned to Tui.

“E Tui, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Tui looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Tui looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, dark earth and shuddered.

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too dark and I am afraid of the dark.”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

Tanehokahoka turned to Pukeko.

“Pukeko, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Pukeko looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Pukeko looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, damp earth and shuddered.

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too damp and I do not want to get my feet wet.”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

Tanehokahoka turned to Pipiwharauroa.

“Pipiwharauroa, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Pipiwharauroa looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Pipiwharauroa looked around and saw his family.

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for I am busy at the moment building my nest.”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke. And great was the sadness in the heart of Tanehokahoka, for he knew, that if one of his children did not come down from the forest roof, not only would his brother lose his children, but the birds would have no home.

Tanehokahoka turned to Kiwi.

“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Kiwi looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Kiwi looked around and saw his family. Kiwi looked at the cold damp earth. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,

“I will.”

Great was the joy in the hearts of Tanehokahoka and Tanemahuta, for this little bird was giving them hope. But Tanemahuta felt that he should warn kiwi of what would happen.

“E kiwi, do you realise that if you do this, you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart the logs on the ground and you will lose your beautiful coloured feathers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the forest roof.
You will never see the light of day again.”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Kiwi took one last look at the sun filtering through the trees and said a silent goodbye. Kiwi took one last look at the other birds, their wings and their coloured feathers and said a silent goodbye. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,

“I will.”

Then Tanehokahoka turned to the other birds and said,

“E Tui, because you were too scared to come down from the forest roof, from now on you will wear the two white feathers at your throat as the mark of a
coward.

Pukeko, because you did not want to get your feet wet, you will live forever in the swamp.
Pipiwharauroa, because you were too busy building your nest, from now on you will never build another nest again, but lay your eggs in other birds nests.

But you kiwi, because of your great sacrifice, you will become the most well known and most loved bird of them all.”

Rata’s Waka

The Legend of Rata’s Waka by Hana Weka

Long ago Rata wandered sadly along the bank of the stream. He thought of his father who had died.

“I must bring him home,” thought Rata, “but how am I going to do that?”

He stared at the trees in the forest and said to himself, “I need a waka, a canoe that will be big enough to hold many warriors.”

He walked through the forest looking for a suitable tree. “Miro… rimu… kahikatea… Tawa tanekaha … totora. Yes., totora it shall be.”

Early the next morning Rata returned to the forest and chopped down the totora tree. He left it where it fell and went home to rest. The next day, when he returned, the tree trunk was no longer lying on the ground. There were no chips of wood lying around nor any twigs or leaves. Rata stared at the trees around him and with a start, he recognised the totora tree that he had chopped down yesterday.

The totora was growing tall and proud again as though it had never been touched. Rata was puzzled and a little fearful.

He took up his axe and began to chop down the totora tree again. The chips flew into the air and after a while the totora fell to the ground once more. Rata trimmed the tree trunk. He stripped off the bark and when the night came he returned home.

The next morning when he arrived to haul the log out of the forest Rata could not find it anywhere. All he found was the totora tree standing tall and silent.

For the third Time Rata chopped the tree ~ He trimmed it. He shaped it. He began to scoop out the inside of the canoe from the trunk. When night fell, he left the half-formed canoe and returned home.

Later that night, he took down his fighting spear.. crept out of his house and quietly stole back into the forest. As he approached he could hear strange singing and he could see light shining through the trees. He held his breath and crept closer.

Then he stared in amazement.

Birds were scurrying backwards and forwards, carrying leaves and twigs in their beaks, thousands of insects swarmed all over the log replacing chips and filling up the hollow. And as he watched, the half-formed canoe disappeared and was replaced with a smooth trunk that glowed red in the light. Then the birds scurried around the trunk pushing twigs, leaves and branches on to the rapidly forming tree.
Branches that he had hacked and tossed away so carelessly were slowly dragged by hundreds of little creatures towards the fallen totora. Every piece of bark that Rata had flicked off with his axe was hunted for and taken back to the tree.

All the while, the strange singing floated in the air above the forest. Rata could not bear to be hidden any longer. He stood up and stepped into the light. At once the singing stopped and the light went out. Rata was alone.

“Come back,” he whispered. “Come back. I am sorry I cut down the totora tree. Please forgive me. I did not mean to harm it. I just wanted to build a canoe to go and fetch my father. My father is dead and I have to go and find him. Please come back. I can help you lift up the totora tree. I’ll do anything you want to make up for what I have done.”

He began to lift the heavy tree and then all at once he felt it move, turn slowly, lift off the ground and then settle on the stump he had cut it from. Rata put his arms around the tree and said, “Please forgive me, totora, I did not think I was harming you when I cut you down.”

And as he held on to the tree, he felt thousands of little legs run over his body and on to the tree trunk. Rata shut his eyes for a moment and then very slowly bent down until he was able to pick up the little creatures and lift them into the tree.

When the dawn came, Rata was alone. The totora tree was whole again. Every little creature had disappeared.

“I shall never cut down another tree again,” said Rata

“You may,” said a voice close to him. “But you must ask Tane Mahuta, god of the forest and birds, for permission. He created all these trees and birds for Papatuanuku the Earth Mother. Ask him when you want to use any of it.”

Rata turned to see who was speaking. There was no one beside him. With a sigh, Rata turned to go home promising that he would not disturb the totora tree any more.

His heart leapt when he saw a war canoe sitting on logs that stretched in an endless line through the forest.

“Mine?” he whispered.

“Yes,” replied the voice.

“Rata’s waka.”

 

A song created word for word by a dream…

I have amazing dreams they often have a clear narrative, they’re colourful, and occasionally the effects are better than what I’ve seen on tv.

But this dream was unusual. And I wonder if the reader has experienced something similar?

I dreamed the scene opened on a female avatar in a gorgeous video game. She was on an overlook, the scene had every colour you can find in a Southern New Zealand landscape. It was beautiful. She was up high, I could only see the back of her, but she was looking at  road winding into shadows below. She started to sing to the road.

What was strange was her words were clear, articulate and organised,  that part of myself that watches my dreams, me,  was taken back. And though still asleep I become conscious. I let the song play out and fought my way out of my dreamstate so I could record the tune into my mobile and sketch down the words.

I didn’t capture it all, I remember the first and last chorus and verses but couldn’t remember what fell in the middle.

But here is a couple of the choruses and one of the verses… as sung by my dream self:

(Chorus:)
remind me, remind me, remind me, what I know
the path I walk is who I’ll be
and push ahead I go

Maybe our steps won’t last forever
for all things come to a still
but each step if truth it tracks
then the echo of them will

(Chorus:)
remind me, remind me, remind me, nothing is gone
all things imprint on the road
and it goes on and on”

 

Test-Ed and Good to Go…

WHAT I DO
My organisation; Test-Ed transforms young people between 18-24 so that they break through perceived limitations to learning and get employed in their dream careers.
testedFairfaxAteam
 
DOES IT REALLY WORK?
These young people I’m training get their first jobs making over $60K without University degrees, no debt and taking no more than 16 weeks. Here are some examples…
 
Malcolm
When I first met Malcolm, he had just spent two and half years of unpaid laboring work, because his family and disability service provider didn’t believe he was capable of more. Malcolm has mild autistic spectrum and a lifelong dream of working in IT. Out of fear of discouragement, he kept his dream hidden from his family including his studying at TAFE and completing Certificates 2 and 3 in Digital Media and IT. After completing his training, today he works as a Quality Engineer doing automation testing in APIs and UI for Qantas. A few weeks ago he shared with me that if it wasn’t for our training program, he would have committed suicide. That what made a world of difference for him was for the first time being recognised and treated as intelligent. His family is proud of him now.
 
John
John came from two generations of parents who had never held down a full-time job. He was different, he wanted to a job and he wanted it in IT. He was extremely shy and work placement programs put him into factory labour, believing that would be the level of his capability. He’d keep his head down when he spoke and because he wouldn’t look at you, the IT support role that he wanted was considered out of the question, by educational and recruitment professionals around him. I offered him the chance to learn how to communicate before his working day began and he left his home at 5.30 am in the mornings to come to be coached in handling people and technical issues. One week after his training with me, he landed a full-time technical support job with Tyro Payments. The ‘professionals’ were speechless.
 
Brendan
Brendan (like so many in school) was bullied, had anxiety issues and attempted suicide as a youth. With the help of a friend, he turned himself around and later came across our program at Test-Ed. He had always loved everything to do with computers, coding, testing for the unknown and found that our methods for learning really worked for him. Today he’s got a full-time job working for Fairfax Digital as a Test Automation engineer.
 
WHY DOES IT WORK?
I and other switched on recruitment professionals know that Australia and New Zealand does not have a youth unemployment problem. What we do have is a youth unemployable problem!
 
I believe that problem has come about because of a mismatch between education and the market. Our education system was designed in the industrial revolution around a factory process framework. On top of that, the current business models of Higher Education have revenue streams that are based on course duration; i.e. the longer a student stays the more they pay so there is no incentive to pare back bloated or irrelevant content.
 
Test-Ed challenges the status quo of what it means to be educated – particularly around higher education. Our new education model involves training unemployed youth, (usually marginalised), in Code, Test and Enterprise skills for various software development related roles in High Tech’ companies.

enterpriseskills2

 
And we train them for free for 12-16 weeks. Our graduates have competed and secured roles usually reserved only for degree qualified candidates in major companies like Suncorp, Fairfax Digital, Tyro and others. And we’ve placed these trainees in roles within 1-4 weeks of completing their training. How many universities can claim that?
 
What if, all young people could spend considerably less time in University, be better skilled, little to no debt and get a job a few weeks after course completion?
 
I care and others care too, Atlassian, ex-Googlers, Fairfax Media, Suncorp, SafetyCulture, Tyro Payments, Testing Times (See community page of https://test-ed.com.au.) Industry professionals from these companies train and coach our youth in their technical, enterprise and quality engineering skills or trial them for jobs in their organisation.
And you can join this community of supporters too and help us build momentum. Our plan is to scale up and train 60 plus young people this year and 180 plus next year. If you are inspired and want to be part of the community, I want to connect with you. Help me provide an alternative path to young people to jobs in high calibre companies without entering into debt, wasting time and bring value to their IT community.
 
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
We need companies trialing our trainee graduates for roles. Suncorp gave us a go and was astounded. They ranked my graduates on their internship trials as outperforming the university grads they hosted at the same time. These young people could skip Suncorp’s graduate entry program, saving Suncorp months of training and upskilling time. They offered half of our trainees roles in their organisation.
 
TEST-ED AND GOOD TO GO
Understand companies hire our trainees not out of charity but because they have hard to find skills both in code, quality engineering, and enterprise skills.
 
Our young trainees are worthy of help as they bring value to the young and growing IT community – the Start-Ups. Test-Ed trains these young unemployed Australians for free, but they, in turn, provide free test and coding services for the IT Start-Up community thus helping Sydney’s young IT sector grow and hence making more jobs available for others in the future.
 
ITecosystem
In the process, the IT Start-Up community provides a wonderful learning environment since Start-ups have no time, no patience, no money, no administration, continually changing. That means trainees learn in a state of chaos. Perfect. It provides real-world challenges in enterprise skills and firsthand experience in running projects end to end; client meetings, analysing business requirements, specifying and designing solutions, coding, testing, support and finally reporting. 
 
Placement fees from mature companies provide us the ability to continue to train and provide free training to the youth to support these IT start-ups. As do profits from our commercial training courses.
 
Let’s repeat that Test-Ed not only provides free training to the youth but helps Startups grow. As they grow they employ more people, hence they make more jobs. Our youth so far have exposed security breaches that would allow an entire database to be downloaded of client tax information, safeguarded a job portals revenue stream by identifying the disengagement problems of their users, identified serious issues in a game that overheated phones, discovered how to gamify an app to get free money, did an Accessibility project that should have taken 4 weeks in 4 days for Australia’s oldest newspaper chain…
 
Test-Ed trainees bring value.
 
WHY WE DO IT
The ‘why’ behind the passion I and others I include in my community do what we do, is in our core beliefs:
 
We believe in a debt-free education for youth. When you put young people into long-term debt you put a millstone around their neck and the family that supports them.
 
 • We believe ‘Limitation’ is not an impediment to placing youth into IT jobs historically belonging to degree-qualified only. We make that point by training the ‘least’ in a community; those impacted by poverty, abuse or attitudes of prejudice to disprove outdated methodologies and attitudes current in higher education.
 
 • We believe in relevant intelligent education. We accelerate students into the IT job market by active engagement in the start-up IT community, the wider IT market and training the young people in relevant, current skills.
 
 • We believe that humans learn and work best as part of a community. We’ve seen youth benefit from adding value to the IT Start-Up community, by creating personal connections, first-hand experience, pride in work well-done and understanding how businesses work.
 
 • We believe that people are happier when they get to work out what roles fit them best. We’ve seen that many real-world insights and varied experiences are required for youth to find the career that best fits their talents, passion, and nature. When people are in the roles that match their nature, skills, and talent – they are happy. Happy people equals happy communities.
 
 • We believe in the need for the ability to play well with others. We’ve seen that frequent opportunities to practice soft skills need to be integral in youth education in order to meet the challenges of the future economy. 
 
WHAT AM I DOING NEXT
By the end of 2019, I want to have trained 240 young people AND put them into work. If you want to disrupt how we educate young people, for the better, connect with me on ckarena@test-ed.com.au.

Breaking through a limitations…

I gave a talk on Wednesday at ThoughtWorks for the Sydney Tester’s Meetup on those key principles I use in my training programme to train and place marginalized young people into high tech jobs. Jobs that usually go to University Graduates,  not instead to those with no degrees and are considered the least in the community.

“Our time is running out”

indigenous-art-gallery-exhibition

I want to share something it was said by David Mowaljarlai, Ngarinyin Lawman. (Australian Elder) I kept a transcript of his talk from some 20 years ago.

I hope it’s not dry or unrelated to you the reader.  I think through the sharing of other cultures you will see more clearly your own, and how much the past is repeating today.

 David’s people set up a Bush university in Australia for people to learn directly from them, these are the words he’s spoke introducing the school.

We old people in the Law, there’s not many of us left now. We’re all dying off, or been killed off by alcohol and disease and heartbreak because we’re still not in our country, our proper place.

 Our gift will give you your meaning, your belonging.  We have to give it to your now before the time runs out.  For a long, long time we have been trying to give our gift to you but we are always blocked.

 We’re blocked by media because they don’t know how to talk to us.  We’re blocked by university people because they lock up our knowledge.  All our evidence has been locked up in universities and museums.  Doctoral people write down our evidence in languages that are too hard for anybody to understand.  They’ve written it up so that the meaning is lost.  Our gift is not just systems on paper.  It is the experience of life. 

 We’re blocked by politicians who are frightened we might lock them out of their power over us.  Their fear stops them from listening to us properly, Lawmen to Lawmen.

 We’re blocked by Gardia law because the rules of law shut up our mouths and only let us speak through Gardia lawyers in courtrooms in cities.  Our gift is lost this way because lawyers have to obey Gardia thinking. 

 We’re blocked by Gardia economic development because their mineral wealth is in our country and they don’t want to be stopped from getting it out.  And pastoralists who let their cattle run all over our sacred space, cutting up the country with their hooves, spoiling our sacred waters, killing off our animals, our totems, our identity.  This cattle mob block us from our Law sites, our paintings, where we camp and do our ceremony.  They take Gardia tourists to our sites without our permission  – without knowing sacred meaning.

 We old people want to tell you this.  We want to give your our gift so you can belong properly in this country and not be afraid.  We want you to fill up your emptiness with meaning so you can respect us and our country.  We’ve been trying for a long time. This is what we want to before our time is up.

 We want to teach our young people their meaning, their belonging so they stop getting lost to emptiness and alcohol.  We want to teach Gardia young people so they stop killing themselves and getting lost too.

 We want to teach all Australians about their belonging in this country so they stop destroying their meaning before it its too late. They’re ignorant of what they’re doing because they don’t know.  They can’t understand how to relate to land, and how land looks after them if they don’t learn these things.  We want to teach them that respect.

 We want to leave you our heritage.  Not in university papers that nobody reads or understands.  We want to teach you in our country so you experience what we know.

 We can’t do this while Gardia keep making laws and protests and arguments to keep us out of our proper place. They just run us out of time doing this.  We know what we want to do, and we know we have to start our important work now before its too late and we’re dead gone.  Everybody will suffer, really suffer if we die before we can give you our gift…….

 We Ngarinyin have a vision for our country and it is our gift.  Bush university is one of the big ideas we want to start. 

 Already we have filmed a lot of our sacred places and our ceremony so after we’re gone our children and you have that evidence.  We have already started taking people from the cities and overseas into our country for them to get their meaning. 

 We want to develop our own communications station in our country so everybody can talk to us directly, not through somebody else.  There are people in American, and Germany and Canada trying to contact us to learn from us.  We want to teach them.

 Our story is being written up in art. This is starting to go out to all the world. We’ve been broadcasting our radio for everyone to hear. We’re speaking at places where Gardia come to listen at seminars and conferences.  We’re talking everywhere to tell people about Ngarinyin culture, Ngarinyin stories, Ngarinyin meaning.  Gardia are really enjoying filling up with these stories.

 We’re doing all this so we can start up our Bush University.  White people are crying out to learn about our culture, and we cry because we’re blocked from teaching.

 …The country is not going anywhere.  The minerals are not going anywhere.  The paintings are not going anywhere. There’s plenty of time left for them.  Only we are going somewhere.  Our time is running out.