“Time travel”. Through Our Eyes study participant (Female, 14 years)
E kore e ngaro nga tapuwae i nga wa o mua,
He arahina ke tatou ki te huarahi nei,
Me hangaia e tatou e tatou ano.
We can never erase the footprints of our past,
They lead us to the paths of the future
We carve for ourselves.



Powerful economic forces were at work in the early years of the 21st century. The subprime mortgage market crashed in 2008 and the recession that followed echoed around the world. A host of other shocks were experienced in New Zealand— the Canterbury earthquake in 2011 and severe droughts in 2012 and 2013 amongst others.

Life became increasingly difficult as poverty, unemployment, food scarcity and homelessness reached ever more deeply into the lives of many people, including several members of my own extended family who were living precariously between pay-checks. The income gap between rich and poor New Zealanders was also widening and a corresponding change in public attitudes towards the poor began to surface— a sneering belief that poverty was a result of bad choices, bad attitudes, bad parenting and laziness. But at the same time, the expanding queues at the soup kitchen and the growing numbers of street beggars huddled in doorways along Lambton Quay in Wellington (an area known in boom times as the ‘golden mile’) told me that the social narrative had shifted in some irrevocable way.

I wanted to find out how Māori young people were experiencing these economic shocks and in 2016 began planning a new study that would take me back into the lives of Māori youth and their communities. In many respects— this was Through Our Eyes Redux— I wanted to know how everyday life had altered for young Māori since I had conducted the 2005 Through Our Eyes study but I also wanted to gauge the degree of hope they felt about the years ahead. This study is called Ngā moemoea ō āpōpō: Taiohi Māori and the future [Dreaming of tomorrow: Māori youth and the future] and it will run until 2019.

Here is a snapshot of the aims of the study:


Ngā Moemoea ō Ᾱpōpō: Taiohi Māori and the Future

In the 21st century, indigenous youth face an uncertain and challenging future. In the years ahead they will deal with a daunting range of issues, some of potentially unprecedented scale and scope. At the same time, everyday life for many young Māori in the present carries its own tensions and challenges.

The study recognises that despite formidable challenges, Māori young people of today will be called on in the years ahead to work out problem-solving strategies that address the diverse needs and priorities of their families and communities. We take a strengths-based approach to identifying the ways that these young people can navigate the uncertainties ahead with confidence and hope.


I expected to find economic and social inequality more deeply entrenched in New Zealand’s small towns and cities than when I had conducted the 2005 Through Our Eyes study, but still I was not prepared for some of the stories I heard. Over the past year, we have spent time with taiohi Māori living in the economic margins who are struggling to cope with unemployment, a broken social welfare system and a growing social divide. In those environments, we witness courage and hope — often mixed in fairly equal parts with anxiety or despair. In other communities, Māori young people and their families are managing well but many still find the economics of growing up in New Zealand increasingly difficult. Fieldwork for the study is ongoing and I will give updates as we go.



Some members of the research team. Front (L-R): Professor Waimarie Linda Nikora (University of Waikato & Leader of Mauri Ora Research portfolio), Joanna Kidman (Victoria University of Wellington). Back (L to R): Professor Patricia Johnston (Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi), Dr Adreanne Ormond (Victoria University of Wellington), and Donna Gardiner (PhD student / project field researcher b). Absent: Professor Huia Jahnke (Massey University).
Photograph: Courtesy of Adreanne Ormond.

Thanks to research funding from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, I am able to work with a larger team than I had in 2005. I am joined by Professors Huia Jahnke (Massey University) and Professor Patricia Johnston (Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi) and together we are managing this three-year study. My colleague, Dr Adreanne Ormond (Victoria University of Wellington) and I are working together on a rural field site on the East Coast of the North Island. Dr Fiona Beals (WelTec) is advising us as we develop project methodologies.


We also have a team of exceptionally able postgraduate students who have joined the study. Hine Funaki (Ngā Puhi and Tonga) did field research in two urban centres, which we have called Tūmanako and The Gully, as part of her MA thesis research. Data have been collected from these sites now and Hine’s thesis (“At least I have a house to live in”: Māori and Pacific young people’s hopes and fears about the future, MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2017) is available online at: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/6474


Ariti Ransfield (PhD student) and Liana MacDonald (PhD student/ project field researcher). Photograph: Joanna Kidman

Liana MacDonald (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Koata, Rangitāne) is a PhD student (Victoria University of Wellington) who is working with me in one of the rural field sites in the lower North Island. Ariti Ransfield (Ngāti Raukawa) is a PhD student (Victoria University of Wellington) who is writing about kōhine Māori [young Māori women] and their hopes and fears about the future. Ariti is collecting data in an urban centre that we are referring to in this study as The Gully, an area where many families are experiencing significant economic hardship.


PhD student, Donna Gardiner (University of Auckland) is conducting field research for the study with Professor Patricia Johnston (Te Whare Wānanaga o Awanuiārangi) in a tribal area in the north-west Bay of Plenty; and Jason Mareroa, an experienced Auckland-based youth worker is doing fieldwork with eastern Bay of Plenty iwi. Jason is working with Professor Huia Jahnke (Massey University).


Missing from the photographs (because the images I took were blurred) are Jason Mareroa (project field researcher) and Pine Southon (Hautohu Matua, Victoria University of Wellington).



Dr Fiona Beals (WelTec/ project adviser) and Hine Funaki (MA student/ project field researcher) conducting fieldwork training for Ngā Moemoea ō Ᾱpōpō study, March 2017. Photograph: Joanna Kidman

Dr Fiona Beals (WelTec) works in the field of youth development and is an advisor on the Ngā Moemoea ō Ᾱpōpō project. She has been instrumental in helping us develop the focus group and walk-along interview methods used in this study. She also acts as a mentor for the field researchers and her guidance and advice has been invaluable.

In March 2017, Fiona and Hine talked to the team about the field methods developed for research sites in Tūmanako and The Gully.



During our meetings with young people, we take walks with them through their local neighbourhoods or towns.

These insights into their everyday lives are a really important part of the study. They show us where and how taiohi Māori live in different parts of New Zealand.

But we also have a better understanding about how they think about the future of the communities and towns where they are growing up.

In some places, young people feel a strong sense of belonging and connection. In other places, we hear about the challenges of growing up Māori. Some of those stories are difficult for us to hear.



My Victoria University of Wellington colleague, Dr Adreanne Ormond, and I were recently awarded a small university research grant to carry out a parallel study on rural Māori young people’s hopes and fears about the future. We are doing this work in a remote rural community on the East Coast of the North Island and Adreanne has now completed the fieldwork. It was a very busy time for the community. Two cyclones had caused a lot of flooding and roads were washed out in some areas which made it difficult to get around. To get around that, some of the walk-along interviews took place as Adreanne drove the young people to different parts of the peninsula.



We have recently begun work in a town about an hour and a half’s drive from Wellington. Located at the edge of a farming district, the town is bordered by two large mountain ranges that stretch across much of the lower North Island. In summer, these mountains glow in the filtered evening light. In winter, it is icy cold. Many of taiohi Māori in this area have strong tribal connections and close links to whānau. We are incredibly fortunate to have contact with some amazing, extraordinary kuia who have been advising us and guiding our work.



Liana MacDonald has done fieldwork for our study in a small South Island town. We are calling this town, Taharua.

Taharua is an attractive town with a steadily growing population. At certain times of the year, when seasonal workers arrive looking for jobs, things get busy and there’s more for young people to do.

But the Māori population in the town is quite small (only 10% of the total) and during the walk-along interviews, the young people told Liana that there are often tensions between Māori and Pākehā residents. They don’t always feel safe in some areas, especially after dark.

A few families relocated to Taharua after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch. These whānau had to work very hard to rebuild support networks and employment prospects after the devastating events that left them homeless or unemployed. For young Māori who left Canterbury in the wake of the earthquakes, life is better in some ways but being newcomer in a small community has its own challenges.


We will add further updates as the study progresses.


“Future”. (Female participant, 15 years). Through Our Eyes study.



Funaki, H.R.M. (2017). “At least I have a house to live in”: Māori and Pacific young people’s hopes and fears about the future. MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/6474 



Beals, F. & Rudolph, D. (2018). Igniting hope in dark spaces: Conversations between research and practice. InVolve Conference:  Looking Back to Move Forward (Ara Taiohi, New Zealand Youth Mentoring Network, Society for Youth Health Professionals Aotearoa New Zealand and The Collaborative Trust). Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, 13-15 August.

Jahnke, H. (2018). Through the voices of Indigenous youth: Their hopes, dreams, aspirations and challenges for the future. American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, 13-17 April.

Kidman, J. (2018). Māori youth in the colonized city and their dreams of the future. American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, 13-17 April.

Kidman, J. (2018). Doing time in the colonized city: Indigenous youth solidarities in the ‘vivid present’. World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, 15-21 July.

Ormond, A. (2018). Māori youth: The future of an indigenous rural community. American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, 13-17 April.
















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