Māori tikanga and mediation

As we come to the end of Māori Language Week it strikes me how much of our Māori tikanga applies to the practice of mediation. A hui is a meeting where people meet to settle differences through discourse. Agreement is reached by consensus and if no agreement can be reached at that particular hui a further hui will be called.

The mediator starts with a mihi Whakatau. Traditionally this mihi is delivered by a Māori versed in language, tikanga and kawa. The mihi whakatau is used for welcoming, introductions openings which take place off the marae.

A mediator must have excellent communication skills, knowledge of the process and understanding of the particular cultural requirements of the parties who are attending that mediation. The start of the mediation process is so important for establishing the environment for the discussion which follows.

Acknowledging the past that has brought the parties to the mediation cannot be avoided, however it clearly does not need to be something that parties dwell on.  The focus of an FDR mediation is on the children. The tamariki/children do not come from two families/ whanau. The children unite at least two whanau/families who are equally responsible for the future care and development of the children.  Many times there may be links between the families which strengthen the relationships. Sometimes those links may be the challenges.

After the discussion has been had the focus moves onto resolution. The resolution may be about how the parties will manage future disagreement, it may be about how the children/tamariki and sometimes mokopuna will be cared for and shared by the whanau, hapu, extended family. The parties also decide how the children/tamariki celebrate the important events which will happen in the future and be a part of the significant milestones in family history.

The mediator, after making his or her opening statement, hands the discussion to the parties and facilitates the continuation of that discussion. The mediator gathers the ideas that develop from an understanding of the parties’ interests and brainstorming options for settlement.

The mediator is like a gardener reaping the produce when he or she gathers and sorts the ideas from the parties for resolution and helps them process those ideas into a written agreement that the parties can take away and reflect on in the future.  Hopefully it also establishes a kawa for future dispute resolution.

At the end of the meeting the parties hand back the responsibility to the mediator to close the meeting. The meeting closes with acknowledgement of the work done by everyone, a celebration of the agreement reached and in some instances a karakia/ prayer or invocation to protect the parties and which asks for support as the parties leave and have the responsibility of making the agreement work.

Article written by Denise Evans – FairWay’s Family Dispute Resolution Scheme Director