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Doing Difference Differently - are we ready?

Written by Dione Joseph, Founder of Black Creatives Aotearoa.

Reflecting on Retreat Three of The New Zealand Leadership Programme at Flock Hill, I can't help but feel how time is demanding us to be still.

There is no easy or simple - and dare I say even appropriate - way to 'move on'  from the tragedy in Ōtautahi (Christchurch). Then on Easter Monday in New Zealand, news came of fresh attacks in Sri Lanka made on a group of people gathered to pray. It seems again appropriate, therefore to stay, in conversation, in action, in situ. It seems appropriate to not move on

207 worshippers were murdered in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and as a nation still grieving for attacks on this whenua on the 15th March 2019, it seems more than ever that a deep cry is coming from the bowels of Papatūānukui (our land). 

In the in-between 

Breadth of tragedy, 

My heart, yours too

Breaks again into unseen stars.

There is a shattering, a deep heaviness and it was holding that weight (amongst many others) that I joined my Programme colleagues.

I am so grateful for the chance to re-connect with Ōtautahi. I have been visiting her almost every two years over the last decade and felt humbled to have the chance to walk her streets, honour her dead (both from the Earthquakes and the Mosque attacks) and to connect with the living. It was the right way to enter Te Waipounamu (South Island) before continuing our journey to Flock Hill. Immersed amongst the misty peaks and the autumn colours, I found this place extremely special. 

Perhaps it was a crackling fire

An opening, deliberate of heart

My brain, finally, stretching 

How do we feed?

As a nation of growers, 

How are we raising this nation

In symbiotic relationships that

Hold and Heal?

The energy in the room over the three days changed remarkably - due in no small part to our speakers, John Skurr and Milton Munro, who are both deeply committed to sharing knowledge about farming (and didn't we all learn a truckload?), and Barry Brailsford

Barry is an enormously special human. No small coincidence that his book, Songs of Waitaha, has been on my bedside table for the past year or that he has worked closely with Whaea Rose (Dr. Rangimarie Pere) whom I also hold in the highest regard.

Barry is a storyteller, a fine orator. Keenly aware of place, of his place, our place and our learning space, he spoke on a range of subjects: the land, the knowledge of the ancestors, the challenges, the awakenings. However, one of the most beautiful words he uttered were these: "I unbind you of the fault and thus, may I be unbound."

A statement so simple, but it sat with me in a very precious way as I let a wave of emotion flood through me. I feel confident saying that while it may not have been that particular statement, there were many other quiet and confident remarks that were resonating with my Programme colleagues.

It was fitting that then, with appropriate tikanga set in place by Barry, we did finally venture to Castle Hill.

At one point, while I sat in the hollowed amphitheater of the ancestors, I couldn't help but think: 

Here is our daily ritual

Unfolding in sight

The ridge on high

The creek below.

Here the performance 

Begins afresh 

Circled crowds

Gathered in communion.

Chalky grey mammoths

Protectors and teachers

Creators. Creatives. Creating.

We are all. 

It was another piece of the puzzle. Another alignment with the other sacred sites that have made themselves known to me and a deeply satisfying sense of peace. Leaders as healers is a concept that might make boardrooms shudder and bureaucrats scrunch their inner wisdom into condescending nods and eye-rolls. But there's a reason. Leaders as Healers repurposes existing euro-centric knowledge and demands a re-alignment. It questions purpose and meaning in a life lived according to a linear clock, one that is dictated by needs that are increasingly becoming irrelevant in the face of a world keening at the unfolding tragedy across the land.

But those in the boardrooms, at the decision-makers tables, in the privacy of the closed doors - there are people ready to make a difference. Genuine. Actionable. Substantive. Difference. 

This is change that translates into greater inclusivity of not only the presence of tangata whenua, tangata pasifika and other tauiwi communities - including the other others -  but actively including the breadth and knowledge that these communities bring. 

Before Notre-Dame there were 

Temples in Belize. 

Churches in Syria

Ancient mosques in Palestine....

and more 

Before Notre-Dame there was 

Poisoning of the waterways

Fracking of the land 

Moving of the mountains...

and more 

Everything comes back to the land. Sacred land and her sacred people.

The question is: are we ready to start doing difference, differently?