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Toi Pakihi: MANAVATION, Tūraukawa Bartlett


For the future of Ngāti Whātua, whānau and hapori (communities) – that was the motivation spurring Tūraukawa Bartlett to start Manavation. It’s where anyone and everyone can find and embrace te reo Māori in finding a sense of belonging to who they are. And since its conception, it has amassed a strong following of over a thousand students across Aotearoa, Australia and even the United States of America.

Although successful now, the Manavation journey was not easy. Tūraukawa says it all started after his son Varden was born. Varden’s birth came towards the end of an already tumultuous time, and it got tougher when Varden was diagnosed as takiwātanga – living with autism.

“He went from being a ‘normal’ 18-month-old, to then having the functions of a 3-month-old baby”, says Tūraukawa.

The diagnosis was “a kick up the bum” for him to change his life and start working towards finding a sense of healing for Varden and the whānau. Tūraukawa and his wife Aimee decided being connected to their language and worldview was a start to the kind of stability that would support his tamariki.

“Suddenly after 26 years of not speaking te reo Māori, of being totally culturally disconnected, I’m doing my first ever reo programme, at the marae in Ōrākei,” he explains.

That was the beginning of his involvement with his iwi of Ngāti Whātua ki Tāmaki, and the start of his growing community. As life got more stable, Tūraukawa’s dreams got bigger. He wanted to buy a house, to make a name for himself, to secure a prosperous future for his whānau – but where to start?

His first thought was to establish Manavation. This was a means of giving back to the community, to help more people like himself to discover their tuakiritanga Māori (cultural identity) as well as Tangata Tiriti to feel connected within the language and worldview. But as he says, he was clueless about running a business.

“We didn’t even know what a business plan was! We had the passion, and the motivation, just not the know-how.”

That’s when the iwi supported through the Toi Pakihi programme driven by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia. “They helped us put together a step-by-step plan to get our kaupapa going. Suddenly we had lawyers, we had accountants, we had a business mentor. It was not only an investment from a business perspective, but an investment in aroha. It was an investment in our whānau going forward, and for that, we will be forever thankful.”

Today, he and his whānau continue to drive Manavation to new heights after 5 years in operation and have recently started building their own language-learning centre at home on their whenua (land).

Their motto to finding a work-life balance is to work smarter, not harder, meaning confining the Manavation work to the first third of the day, so he has more time to spend with his whānau – because if you do the mahi, you get the treats.

“When we bring the value, potential and commitment to what we do, then everything else will fall in place”, he says. He particularly wants to support his wider whānau to believe in the potential and value of te reo Māori as Tangata Whenua here in Aotearoa.

“If you don’t value yourself, no one else will. It takes courage to even have these conversations to begin something new. You put in the hard work, show up day after day, and let the mahi speak for itself.”

Manavation offers multiple levels of Te Reo courses, and wellbeing support. To register, or find out more, click here.