“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 wrapped up in August 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. During the study, we spent time with taiohi Māori living in the economic margins and often struggling to cope with unemployment, a broken social welfare system and a growing social divide. In those environments, we saw courage and hope — often mixed in fairly equal parts with anxiety or despair. In other communities, Māori young people and their families were managing well but many still found the economics of growing up in New Zealand increasingly difficult.



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). Absent: Professor Huia Jahnke (Massey University).
Photograph: Courtesy of Adreanne Ormond.

Thanks to research funding from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, I was able to work with a larger team than I had in 2005. Between 2017 and 2019, I was joined by Professors Huia Jahnke (Massey University), Professor Patricia Johnston (Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi) and my colleague, Dr Adreanne Ormond (Victoria University of Wellington).  Dr Fiona Beals (WelTec) advised us as we developed project methodologies.


A team of exceptionally able postgraduate students were also involved in 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 (former PhD student/ project field researcher). Photograph: Joanna Kidman

Liana MacDonald (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Koata, Rangitāne) a PhD student (Victoria University of Wellington, now graduated) worked with me in one of the rural field sites in the lower North Island. A host of other Māori PhD students joined us for periods of time throughout the study, adding richness and depth to our analysis.

Jason Mareroa, an experienced Auckland-based youth worker ran fieldwork with eastern Bay of Plenty iwi alongside Professor Huia Jahnke (Massey University).



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 works in the field of youth development and wa an advisor on the Ngā Moemoea ō Ᾱpōpō project. She was instrumental in helping us develop the focus group and walk-along interview methods used in this study. She also mentored the field researchers and her guidance and advice has been invaluable.



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

These insights into their everyday lives were an important part of the study. They showed us where and how taiohi Māori live in a range of rural and urban geographies.

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 heard about the challenges of growing up Māori. Some of those stories were difficult for us to hear.



Dr Adreanne Ormond, and I were awarded a small university research grant to carry out a parallel study on rural Māori young people’s hopes and fears about the future. The work was carried out in a remote rural community on the East Coast of the North Island. 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 also spent 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 were incredibly fortunate to have contact with some amazing, extraordinary kuia who advised us and guided our work.



Liana MacDonald did 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.

The Māori population in the town is quite small (only 10% of the total population) 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 these 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.


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

Our findings show that Māori young people have significant anxieties about the future. They worry about how their families and communities will fare in the years to come but many also have hope.

This reflects the conclusions drawn by other youth researchers in New Zealand and overseas so we were not entirely surprised. But in our study, we found, in very large part, that indigenous young people’s hopes and anxieties about the future in settler-colonial New Zealand are shaped by the lasting effects of our colonial history and its ongoing impact on Māori families and communities today.

The everyday lifeworlds of Māori youth are forged by the politics of the present as much as by the violent, difficult and unresolved histories of the nation and this profoundly affects how they think about the future.

Over and over again, in the course of this study, the young people led us back to their ancestors. And so, in the end, we have followed them.

In April 2019, we began a related study about Māori tribal memory, young people and New Zealand’s colonial past. This has taken us to battlefields and other sites of invasion around New Zealand to learn the stories that tribal communities have carried with them for over 150 years.

When we stand in those places, we feel the weight of history and understand that in order to speak of the future, we must engage with the past. You can find out more about the project on this website at: http://inabrownstudy.nz/memory-and-nation/ or go to our dedicated project website at: https://www.difficulthistories.nz/

Or you can follow us on twitter at: @NewZealandWars



Beals, F., Kidman, J. & Funaki, H. (2019). Researchers negotiating self on the edge of the emic/etic divide. Qualitative Inquiry. doi.org/10.1177/1077800419843950

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 



Kidman, J., Ormond, A., & MacDonald, L. (2019). Walking with our ancestors: Decolonising indigenous youth studies in Aotearoa. AIATSIS. National Indigenous Research Conference. Brisbane 2-4 July.

Funaki, H. (2019). At least I have a house to live in”: Urban Māori young people’s hopes and fears about the future. NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, 26-29 June 2019.

Kidman, J. (2019). Decolonising the future: Indigenous youth solidarities and resistance in Aotearoa New Zealand. Out of time: Indigenous youth, temporal solidarities and Māori resistance. NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, 26-29 June 2019.

Ormond, A. (2019). Māori youth and the future of an indigenous rural community in Aotearoa New Zealand. NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, 26-29 June 2019.

Tomlins-Jahnke, H. Māori youth voices and tribal futures in two tribal communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, 26-29 June 2019.

Beals, F. & Funaki, H. (2019). Qualitative research methods in indigenous communities. Currently preparing an abstract for the 15th International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. May 15-18.

Beals, F. & Rudolph, D. (2018). Igniting hope in dark spaces: Conversations between research and practice. INVOLVE Conference, Association of Social Workers. Wellington, 13-15 August.

Kidman, J. (2018). Decolonising Island time: Native youth temporalities in the New Zealand archipelago. The space between: A symposium on creativity, performance and impact in contemporary Island societies symposium. University of Hong Kong, 6-8 December.

Ormond, A. (2018). Indigenous Māori youth identity: Meaning making through relationality.  Oceania Comparative and International Education Society Conference. Victoria University of Wellington, 20-22 November.

Ormond, A. Kidman, J. & Tomlins-Jahnke, H. (2018). Indigeneous Māori youth: Navigating the present and future. Youth Futures: Connection and Mobility in the Asia Pacific. Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia 15 – 16 November.

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.





Murray, J. (2018, 16 March). Te Putake o te riri- Dr Joanna Kidman on youth activism. Te Ahi Kaa, Radio New Zealand. http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/teahikaa/audio/2018636221/te-putake-o-te-riri-dr-joanna-kidman-on-youth-activism

Māori Television. (2017, 16 August). Widening inequalities detrimental to Māori youth aspirations.  http://www.maoritelevision.com/news/national/widening-inequalities-detrimental-maori-youth-aspirations

TV3/ NewsHub. Boxing academy gives young Māori chance for positive future (2017, 16 August).http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/08/boxing-academy-give-young-maori-chance-for-positive-future.html

Radio New Zealand. (2017, 15 August). Rangatahi in poverty need help to see bright future. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/337291/rangatahi-in-poverty-need-help-to-see-bright-future
















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