Placing Western science and matauranga Maori side-by-side

22 February 2018

Western science and methods are often given prominence over all other systems of knowledge. With this in mind, we’ve just released ‘Bridging Cultural Perspectives’, a new report which describes the He Awa Whiria – Braided Rivers model of using Western science and matauranga Maori knowledge side-by-side for research and evaluation in the social sector.

Maori represent an important sector in society, and are contributors as well as users of social services. While Maori do well in society, there continues to be an over-representation of Maori in negative statistics. If we are to achieve a research-based understanding of the underlying causes of this situation, we need to acknowledge a te ao Maori worldview.

The He Awa Whiria – Braided Rivers model draws on both sets of knowledge to learn about, and improve, family and whānau wellbeing. It provides different information about what is valued and to what degree it is valued.

The name Awa Whiria is drawn from the landscape of the South Island where braided rivers are a common feature. Braided rivers are made up of a complex system of channels that are constantly shifting and converging, and represent Western science and matauranga Maori knowledge functioning separately and also working together when needed. Both ‘streams’ have equal status. The concept of ‘braided rivers’ was developed by Professor Angus Macfarlane in 2009 and has been used by Superu and, before that, the Families Commission in our work on family and whānau wellbeing.

To facilitate He Awa Whiria – Braided Rivers, a ‘Negotiated Spaces’ model is recommended to exchange knowledge in a respectful way. In this space, relationships, ideas and values are realigned, renegotiated, and resolutions and agreements are sought. This is where the braiding in and braiding out of knowledge takes place.

The Bridging Cultural Perspectives report explores the concept in detail and proposes processes and guidelines for its use in the social sector.

Read the report here

Last update: 22 Feb 2018