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Whakarongo ki ō Tūpuna: Listen to your Ancestors – Book Review

Whakarongo ki ō Tūpuna: Listen to your Ancestors

Joseph, D., & Te Whata, M. (2019). New Zealand: Oratia Books.

This picture book centres around how a teacher guides her granddaughter and her pupils to walk the path of their ancestors/tūpuna. In Māori tradition all living things were linked through whakapapa. The story teaches children to be strong, kind, patient, brave, respectful and positive and connects these traits to their ancestors.

Kia māia, e tama mā, e hine mā kia kaua rā koutou e murirere. Tūria te tū a tō koutou tupuna, a Tū-te-ihiihi. Be brave, boys and girls, there's no need to panic. Stand tall like your ancestor. The most-awe-inspiring-of-them-all.

Eventually the teacher gets old and the roles are reversed. It is now her granddaughter who becomes the teacher. Because of this she can use her teaching to guide and comfort her grandmother.

Ka nui taku aroha mōu, e kui. Kia kaua rā koe e mokemoke. Haere tāua ki tō tāua tupuna, ki a Tāne-whakapiripiri.  I love you lots nan. You don’t have to be lonely. Let’s go to our ancestor, Tāne who keeps us close together.

Eventually her nan passes on and she is returned to the land.

Kia kaha e kui, e pai ana, kia kaua rā tāua e wehi. Nāu anō te kī, ki a tāua te Māori, ka hoki tatou katoa kit e poho o tō tatou tupuna, o Papatūānuku. Be strong, Nan, it’s okay let’s not be scared. As you said, it’s our belief, we all return to the care of our ancestor, The Great Earth Mother.

In Māori tradition Papatūānuku is the land. After the earth emerged from water, it gave birth to all life. Trees, birds and humans emerge from the land and are nourished by it. Figuratively, humans are born from the womb of Papatūānuku, and return there after death.  After the tangi it is time for new beginnings. We see her granddaughter now taking over the mantle. She is ready to follow in the footsteps of her nan and start the teaching all over again.

This beautiful picture book demonstrates how Māori have a direct connection with the natural world, the earth, the sea, the land and the sky. It also shows the respect for those that have passed on their knowledge to the younger generation and the importance of doing this.

“kia mau koe ki nga kupu o ou tūpuna”

“Hold fast to the words of your ancestors”.

Reviewed by Wharepaoro Christie, Kaiwhakarite Māori Development Specialist, MHF



This beautiful picture book is written in te reo Māori and English. The rhythm of the words make it a great book to read out loud. It starts with an invite to rest, pause and connect:

Kia tau, e hine mā, e tama mā, kia kaua tātou e manawapā.

Mātakina te pōteretere haere o ngā kapua o tō koutou tupuna, o Ranginui e tū nei.  Relax now, girls and boys, and don’t stress out. Look up to the swiftly passing clouds cloaking your ancestor, The Majestic Sky Father.

A true story underlies this – in June 2016, Massey University Language Lecturer, Darryn Joseph spent time in a hospital room minding a teacher who’d became a good friend and mentor to him. Darryn wrote her a poem of appreciation, kissed her hand and said goodbye. The next day she passed away.

The first half of the story shows a teacher looking after children, showing them how to let go of anger, anxiety and stress, stand strong and tall, and spend time in nature, linking with ancestors. In the second half, the teacher has become old and now her granddaughter reminds her of the lessons:

Kia kaha, e kui, e pai ana, kia kaua rā tāua e wehi.

Nāu anō te kῙ, ki a tāua te Māori, ka hoki tātou katoa ki te poho o tō tātou tupuna, o Papatūānuku. Be strong, Nan, it’s okay – let’s not be scared. Earth Mother.

The teacher dies. The granddaughter looks after her whānau, sharing the lessons with them. If your whānau is experiencing grief and loss and you’re looking for ways to reflect on the journey of life with your young ones, this book is helpful. The words are supported by colourful images that create space for further kōrero. I say young ones – however this book is a true classic with messages for all ages and stages. And if you’re keen to practise te reo Māori, it helps with that too.

Reviewed by Virginia Brooks, MHF Community Engagement & Health Promotion Specialist. MHF

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Reconnect with someone you care about / He hononga tangata, he hononga aroha


When life gets busy it’s easy to forget to check in with the people in our lives, butwe know connection is important for our wellbeing. Having a kōrero with others nurtures our relationships and helps us to feel happy, connected and secure.
Over time, these chats help us to understand each other better and ensure we have people we can count on when times are tough. Today we encourage you to reconnect with someone you care about. Whether it’s with whānau, friends, hoamahi/colleagues, iwi or community, a little chat can go a long way.

A few ideas for reconnecting:

  • Check in with whānau you haven’t spoken to in a while. Have a chat on the phone, send them a text or catch up kanohi ki te kanohi/face to face if you can. Ask them how they’re going and really listen.

  • Write a letter or email to your whānau sharing what you appreciate about them.
  • Look back through your photos and share a happy memory to reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with.

  • Have a think about whether there is someone in your life who may be going through a tough time. Take time to kōrero and ask them how they are, empathise and listen. You can find more support for how to have a safe and supportive kōrero on page 16 of the Mental Health Awareness Week guide.





Get outside in nature with someone / E puta ki te taiao


It’s often the little things that bring us joy. The singing birds, the grass beneath our feet, the wind on our faces. Kōrero doesn’t have to happen indoors. Today we encourage you to get outside in nature with someone else. Take a moment to chat about the things that support your wellbeing and appreciate the beauty around you. You might be surprised by what you notice!

A few ideas for connecting in nature:

  • Have your lunch outside with a friend or hoamahi/colleague, take notice of the
    nature around you. Even if you work outdoors, it’s great to take a break and
    spend some quailty time together outside of your work space.

  • Connect with the whenua; grab some mates and get into the great outdoors - go on a bush walk, walk up your local maunga, breathe in the salty fresh air of the moana. Take time to kōrero and get to know each other whilst you’re there.

  • Head down to your local beach with a friend or whānau member and pick up any rubbish you come across. It’s a great way to spend quality time together outside and keep Aotearoa beautiful! Check out the Department of Conservation
    website for more ideas.

  • Take tamariki on a nature walk and get them to point out the things they see, smell and hear. Ask them how being in nature makes them feel. Or, head to the school field, park or your backyard and have tamariki lie on the grass and do this tummy breathing Sleeping Statues activity from the Sparklers website.

  • Have a cuppa and a kōrero in the garden with your whānau, listen to the birds, be present and enjoy each other’s company. You might like to take off your shoes and feel the grass beneath your feet.

  • Go outdoors, snap a photo of some nature that catches your eye and send it to someone to brighten their day.



Have a kōrero about Te Whare Tapa Whā/ Tōku Whare Tapa Whā


Now that we’re halfway through MHAW, why not use this day to explore your wellbeing through Te Whare Tapa Whā and have a kōrero with someone else about what you learn? Consider the four pou and think about the different ways you can boost your wellbeing.

A few ideas for exploring Te Whare Tapa Whā:

  • Learn about Te Whare Tapa Whā and its four dimensions of wellbeing. Reflect on which areas you feel are going well for you right now and which ones you need to focus on for your hauora/wellbeing. Share your thoughts with someone else.
  • If you’re in an office or shared workspace, get hoamahi together and have each corner of the room represent one of the four dimensions of Te Whare Tapa Whā. Ask them to stand in the corner of the dimension they feel is strongest for them at the moment. They might like to then share why they chose this dimension with the group.
  • Print out and fold this Chatterbox to encourage tamariki to have a kōrero about their wellbeing using Te Whare Tapa Whā.
  • Add a song to our MHAWNZ playlist on Spotify. It might be a song you love to work out to for your tinana, that uplifts your wairua, soothes your hinengaro, or a whānau favourite that you sing along to in the car!




Connect through kindness / Takohatia ki tētahi


When we do something nice for someone else, be it a friend, colleague or stranger, not only does it make them feel good, it gives our wellbeing a boost in return. Whether it’s a big gesture or just a smile, everyone has a little act of kindness to offer. Think about someone who might need some extra support right now, because today is all about giving: our time, our kindness, our aroha, our kōrero, to others.

A few ideas for spreading kindness:

  • Send a kind message to someone in your life and let them know you’re thinking of them
  • Visit a friend, neighbour or family member who could do with some company or tautoko/support. If you’re unable to visit, give them a call.
  • Volunteer your time to others in need – join a community group, pick up someone’s groceries or simply drop off a hot meal to someone who could do with a helping hand – not only will it create a moment to kōrero, it will give you and them a feel-good boost.
  • Make a kaimahi a cup of tea or bring in some biscuits and create a moment to kōrero in the lunchroom – look for opportunities to put a smile on someone’s face
  • Introduce yourself to a new parent at your child’s school, new kaimahi at your workplace or a new neighbour in your community. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them settle in.


Come together and reflect / Noho tahi, kōrero tahi


Come together with others at school, work or home, or find a moment on your own to reflect on the week just gone. Be present and take time to kōrero about the things you’ve learnt, and the wellbeing tools you’re going to continue with. What little chats have you had this week? How does connecting with others and talking openly about wellbeing make you feel?

A few ideas for reflecting together:

  • Try switching off the TV for a night and play a game with your partner or tamariki instead. You could even make music together, or just talk.
  • Organise a virtual dinner date. Set a time to eat and jump on a video call with someone else. Share kai, reflect on your weeks and chat about how you’re going to keep up the kōrero.
  • Plan a whānau activity day - create a moment to kōrero about what makes each person feel good and plan an activity that focuses on each of those things. It could be getting out in nature for a walk, cooking a favourite meal, or video calling a relative overseas. 
  • Share kōrero and kai with your team at work. Everyone bring a plate and chat about the things that you do to look after your wellbeing. If you’re working from home, have lunch and chat together over Zoom. Afterwards, have kaimahi fill in the wellbeing action plan at the end of the Mental Health Awareness Week guide to help them stay mentally healthy at work.
  • For tamariki, end the week with this How Am I Doing? activity by Sparklers. It’ll encourage them to think about their wellbeing and all of the things they already do to care for it.