Whaingaroa community throws support behind rites of passage initiative

No fewer than 18 men – most of them from Raglan – have put up their hands to mentor teenage boys in a fresh take later this year on a Whaingaroa rites of passage programme.

All the volunteers recently completed the second of two weekend-long wānanga or training workshops to ensure they can “look after our boys” as they transition into adulthood, says Tiaki Coates who is behind the community-led programme.

Tiaki is amazed at the huge response from local men to become poutāne or male mentors, supporting our youth. They will facilitate the Poutama Tāne rites of passage “journey” in the July school holidays for six to 12 teenage boys. 

These mentors will keep the learnings and growth of the young men going, Tiaki adds. “It’s not easy being a teenage boy … and this is about building a network of men for the boys to turn to when the going gets tough.”

Tiaki says he’s seen the power of mentorship during a pilot Poutama Tāne journey in 2016 supported by local kaupapa-Māori organisation Te Mauri Tau.  On that course the men – fathers, family members, mentors and youth workers – outnumbered the teenagers  three to one.   

Back then they all camped together and shared stories for five days in a secret spot in Waingaro, the journey a mix of outdoor adventure and wānanga – the sharing of traditional knowledge and real life learnings between men and boys.

The boys took part in the likes of hunting and river crossings during Matariki, the Māori New Year, and the wet and cold conditions they faced were all part of the challenge. Local participants like Adam Blake and son Joseph,  described the pilot course as a life-changing experience.

Poutama Tāne 2019 will build on that model, says Tiaki, with a focus on Kaupapa Maori, outdoor adventure and the philosophy and practice of nonviolence.

“We aim to bring out the best in our teenage boys, celebrating their unique gifts, instilling a sense of belonging and inspiring a belief that they can enhance the health of their community and the wider world,” he says.

The Poutama Rites of Passage (PRoP) team, whose work is funded by the J R McKenzie Trust, believes it takes a community to raise a child. “Our work will only grow if it is community-led,” stresses Tiaki, a PRoP trust board member.

With this in mind PRoP is currently building relationships throughout the community, including local teachers, counsellors and Te Rōpū at Raglan Area School.

Solscape eco retreat is being used as one of the training grounds, and owners Phil McCabe and Bernadette Gavin are more than happy to support the cause. Says Phil: “They are doing great work, important work in developing real world cultural grounding for young men.”

Poutama Rites of Passage would like to thank its elders Sean Ellison, Rob Carter and Rick Thorpe; hosts Solscape, Whaingaroa Kohanga Reo, Waingaro Marae, Joymar and Manu Wairua Retreat; and Top Cut Butchery, The Herbal Dispensary and Four Square for their delicious donations.

Email info@poutamarites.nz for information on the upcoming boys rites of passage journey

Edith Symes