A way of working together.

These guiding principles talk about how we look after ourselves and our communities. Written in a Māori context, however, these guiding principles can be easily applied to us all. It is expected we will lead by example.


Acknowledged to be the most essential requirement for health. It is believed that without spiritual awareness, an individual can be considered lacking in wellbeing and more prone to ill health. Wairua may also explore relationships with the environment, between people, or with heritage. The breakdown of this relationship could be seen in terms of ill health or lack of personal identity. When confronted with a problem, Māori do not seek to analyse its separate components or parts, but ask in what larger context it resides, incorporating ancestors or future generations to discussions. This may mean the discussion goes off on a tangent, but the flow will return to the question.


Thoughts, feelings and behaviour are vital to health in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world). Māori may be more impressed with unspoken signals, eye movement, bland expressions, and in some cases regard words as superfluous, even demeaning. Māori thinking can be described as holistic. Understanding occurs less by dividing things into smaller and smaller parts. Healthy thinking for a Māori person is about relationships. The individual whose first thought is to put themselves, their personal ambitions and their needs first, without recognising the impact it may have on others, is considered unhealthy. Communication through emotions is important and more meaningful than the exchange of words, and is valued as much. For example, if Māori show what they feel, instead of talking about their feelings, this is considered healthy.


The most familiar component to all of us. For Māori, the body and things associated with it are Tapu (sacred/special). There is a clear separation between sacred and common. For instance, the head is regarded as tapu, and Māori do not pat each other on the head, nor should food be anywhere near a person’s head. When this happens, it can be perceived as unhealthy. Hairbrushes should not be placed on tables, nor should hats.

There is also the question of personal space to consider. Māori consider stepping over someone rude and demeaning to that person’s mana (personal authority/power).

However, there are different ways in which respect is shown to another person. For example, Māori tend to have minimal eye contact and respect each other’s space in formal situations. Body language is also an important feature to note.


Te Taha Whanau (family health) is the prime support system providing care, not only physically, but also culturally and emotionally. For Māori, whanau is about extended relationships, rather than the western nuclear family concept. Maintaining family relationships is an important part of life, and caring for young and old alike is paramount. Everyone has a place and role to fulfil within their own whanau. Families contribute to a person’s wellbeing, and most importantly a person’s identity. A Māori viewpoint of identity derives much from family characteristics. It is important to understand that a person carrying an ancestral name often has the qualities of their namesake.

It is important to be aware that for Māori, a person’s identity is gleaned by asking “Where are you from” rather than “What is your name?” Maori identity is based on an ancestral Waka (canoe), a physical landmark, usually a Maunga (mountain), a body of water Awa (river), Moana (sea) and a significant Tupuna (ancestor). Once this is known, people can share a common bond.


the Māori word meaning a devoted partner of the same sex. In modern terminology, a person who identifies as Takataapui is a Maori individual who is queer, in other words Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, plus others who identify as belonging to the Rainbow community (LGBTTIQ+). However, the name Takataapuhi has been adopted by many non-Maori as a queer identity for themselves.

Adapted: Professor Mason Duri (Tangata Whenua)