Growing Māori engagement in our foreign affairs

Each year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) offers a range of paid summer internships for university students. The Arorere Internship Programme targets applicants of Māori descent, specifically rangatahi who are still studying or have recently completed their formal qualifications. It offers tauira Māori the opportunity to work in one of the Ministry’s business units with support and guidance from the wider MFAT team, including its Te Pou Māori network.

Interns learn what it takes to work at MFAT and gather valuable understanding as to how their experience might lead to permanent job opportunities. This summer, Ngāi Tahu rangatahi Daniel Tukiri, Claudia Prasad and Eden Skipper were part of the programme, completing an 11-week internship. Here they share some insights of their experience and the kaupapa they were involved in as part of this amazing internship.


Daniel Tukiri (Waikato Tainui, Kāi Tahu) is a student from the University of Auckland, where he is studying Japanese and Spanish.

It was a privilege to undertake a three-month internship at MFAT, an enriching experience that I will never forget. It was particularly interesting to see how Māori can be incorporated in foreign policy work to make a meaningful impact.

My research topic was the APEC 2021 programme – specifically around embedding a Māori/indigenous view into this. Aotearoa is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and will be hosting APEC 2021 – a major forum with more than 70 meetings and events throughout the year.

I quickly found out that when it comes to incorporating a Māori perspective into the programme, we are starting almost from scratch. We have hosted APEC once before, in 1999, and the programme that year featured very little of anything related to Māori. There is currently no policy nor project space within APEC that accounts for indigenous rights, inclusions, or perspectives.

This was a daunting start, but I was pleased to see the following efforts being made already:

> a Māori Success Team in APEC, working specifically on incorporating Māori into the programme
> a Māori Engagement Strategy, and a push for mātauranga Māori capability within MFAT
> the establishment of Te Taumata, the Māori advisory board for MFAT in trade negotiations.

I was asked to provide suggestions on how to enhance the indigenous aspect of the APEC 2021 programme. These were my suggestions:

1. a Māori business exhibition for smaller businesses that are interested in the international space, plus an indigenous fashion showcase
2. increasing mātauranga Māori confidence for all New Zealand representatives through lessons, noho marae, etc., to ensure confidence when discussing te ao Māori with international stakeholders
3. showcasing the historical connections of Māori to the Pacific to emphasise our connections, and commitment, to the region
4. bring international representatives to the whenua, farms, and workplaces of Māori businesses to make real life connections between trade and Māori businesses
5. rangatahi outreach strategy at universities, to gather Māori youth voices and perspectives on APEC and trade in general.

I concluded by emphasising that this is not mahi solely for Māori – everyone who is involved in APEC 2021 will need to believe in the impact that Māori can make, and take action where possible to help make this happen.

It is all about shaping our narrative and asking ourselves the question: how do we currently view Māori here in Aotearoa, and how do we want Māori to be viewed on the global stage?


Claudia Prasad (Ngāi Tahu) is currently completing a masters in Policy and Governance at the University of Canterbury, after completing her undergraduate study in Criminal Justice and Political Science.

When I began my tertiary education in policy and governance, it quickly became apparent that my “why” was influenced by my desire to see Māori communities thrive. I strongly resonate with the guiding principle of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu: Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei.

My “why” meant that a career in foreign affairs had never really interested me, but as an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) I was able to challenge my preconceived ideas. Based on a long history of injustice, I had made the assumption that MFAT would not care about including Māori perspectives in foreign policy. Many people in te ao Māori have expressed discontent at the lack of Crown engagement with Māori, which in my opinion holds space for significant improvement.

My preconceptions of the Ministry were challenged through the Māori Engagement Strategy (MES). While MFAT still have a way to go in delivering for our people, the MES is a step in the right direction. The strategy addresses building in-house capability in mātauranga Māori, for mana-enhancing engagement with tangata whenua that respects our Tiriti partner status. Another goal is to build capacity by actively recruiting more Māori into MFAT, with an overarching aim to raise the confidence of Māori who engage with the Ministry.

During my internship I was required to analyse the MES, and facilitate conversations with its architects and public servants, in-house and across other ministries. One purpose of this project was to learn what other ministries were doing regarding Māori engagement, and how this could influence MFAT’s actions to make them more meaningful and expedient. Another part of the project was to assess gaps in the existing strategy, so that the Ministry could progress in a way that is mana-enhancing.

We all must walk before we can run, and the MES is no exception. Through analysis of the strategy and conversations with brilliant Māori public servants, I was able to identify strategic gaps that have long-term implications for in-house implementation and effect. While this does not sound promising, the vibe that I got from my time at MFAT is that there is a genuine desire to improve as a Tiriti partner. Senior Leadership Team members are at the forefront of this, which also gives me hope that the MES will continue to be strengthened over time.

However, it would be a great injustice to disregard the mahi of Māori staff in the Ministry, who actively challenge the status quo of their workplace by merely existing in that space. It is also important to acknowledge the work of our tīpuna in challenging the Crown to do better.

I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to be an Aorere intern, and encourage other rangatahi interested in the public sector to apply.


Eden Skipper (Ngāi Tahu) has recently completed his Bachelor of Science in Statistics at the University of Canterbury.

When I began my internship with MFAT, one of my concerns was that the Māori economy had been given a $50 billion dollar price tag, thus synthesising the richness of te ao Māori to a single unit, and regarding it through a colonial lens. As witnessed at MFAT and more recently within the Ministry for the Environment, it is far too easy for policy to be dehumanised and data-driven, and to neglect views other than neo-classical economics. The purpose of my presentation was to take the opportunity to reframe the Ministry’s perspective and to think
intergenerationally.

I presented a Māori view on the Māori economy, considering the past, present, and future, starting with my connection to Wairewa Rūnanga, and the late Makō Hakirikiri.

Mahinga kai was not only the historical currency, but a way of life; and grounding to our tikanga. At Wairewa, that currency, way of life, and grounding was provided by tuna. Fast forward to today: tribal bodies, co-operatives, and private entities have surged to that influential price tag value. However, a Te Puni Kōkiri study of successful Māori businesses showed that they had characteristics of intergenerational thinking and integrated kaupapa. A benefit of an intergenerational business is that the triple bottom-line mindset (profit, people, and planet) comes naturally; which in these turbulent times ensures more sustainability and success in the long-term. The future opportunities I saw for Māori businesses were mergers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and joint ventures between iwi groups, as well as the ability to leverage our story and promote it to the world. The Wellington restaurant Hiakai is an example of a business that has successfully woven whakapapa into its operations, with menus devoted to the exploration and development of Māori cooking techniques and ingredients. Hiakai was mentioned in Time magazine’s World’s Greatest Places 2019 list, having only opened in 2016.

This MFAT internship and the opportunity to present my research was a privilege, not only because I had a platform to put forward a Māori way of thinking to the Ministry, but for the chance to acknowledge my koro, George Skipper, and generations of tīpuna by telling their story in parallel. My whānau still catch tuna from Wairewa roto. We have three generations of our family congregated back home, as we continue to build on our family story and acknowledge those before us.

I would like to thank the Ministry for their commitment to the Aorere programme, and also to thank the Māori staff who made us feel welcome. I recommend the opportunity to students who are at university, in any field, to apply; and to embrace the work the Ministry does to benefit Aotearoa and Māori from abroad.