Reflections from the Hui: Aotearoa New Zealand 2040 Reimagined by Wāhine

For two blue sky days and full moon nights, eighty wāhine from the Global Women membership congregated at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of Aotearoa New Zealand, to converse, connect, and co-create a vision for the future of our nation.

In a world-first, our annual members’ hui for 2024 was opened with an all women-led pōwhiri. Delivered with the support of Waitangi National Trust, and conducted by Ngāpuhi wāhine and Global Women members, the pōwhiri included Dame Marilyn Waring delivering the taumata kōrero as tangata Tiriti, and Tania Simpson holding the role of kai manaaki i te katoa.

Following this history-making pōwhiri, the hui was opened by Karleen Everitt and Global Women Chair Theresa Gattung. Challenged with the choice “to be an observer or participant in the future of Te Tiriti,” our rōpū of women leaders were welcomed to the first of a series of interactive and involved wānanga sessions that would trace the evolution of Aotearoa New Zealand, from the 1840 signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi through to the reimagined future of 2040.

It is said that “he kotuku rerenga tahi” – a white heron’s flight is seen but once – and this hui truly embodied a one-of-a-kind experience that was that was not only unifying and connective, but profoundly transformative. From the opening session, ‘Seeing Yourself in Te Tiriti as a Living Document,’ through to the final interactive strategy session planning for the future, each wānanga invited reflection and facilitated connection.

Wāhine Māori and tangata Tiriti from across the political spectrum came together to unpack the history and the promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the development of women’s rights in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the state of women’s advocacy both locally and globally.

From each kōrero arose wisdom for women leading Aotearoa New Zealand towards 2040. Out of Dame Jenny Shipley, Hon Margaret Wilson, Prue Kapua and Tania Simpson’s wānanga arose the challenge for women to be brave and lead the way in furthering equity for Māori and educating Aotearoa New Zealand on its history. Dame Marilyn Waring encouraged members to actively lend their strength to movements actively opposing growing discrimination. Amanda Ellis, Catherine O’Connell, Michele Embling, Justine Daw and Caroline Rainsfield emphasised the importance of uplifting fellow women locally and globally, both interpersonally and systemically.

Following these nourishing wānanga, Caren Rangi and Claire Amos led the group through an interactive and reflective porotiti session. Sharing in kōrero stimulated by the day, members came together in harmony through the generation of a unifying soundscape. This sense of unity was carried through into the rōpū’s dinner session at Zane Grey’s in Paihia, where Global Women members connected with one another and with Hinewhare Harawira, Nora Rameka and Mere Mangu, three Ngāpuhi wāhine who had led the pōwhiri.

Sharing the history of the whenua, and speaking to the ongoing need Māori equity, these local wāhine toa reflected on the unity that the hui had facilitated. All of the women attending were coming together as one, practicing being good to one another and together envisioning a unified future for Aotearoa New Zealand. Wāhine Māori and the women politicians who they had protested in the past were seated side by side, part of a unified collective.

This sense of deep connection was further reflected on by the rōpū in the opening session of the second day. Following an opening karakia, composed by the late Dr Rangimarie Pere and reserved for wāhine only, the rōpū joined their voices together for ‘He Taonga Kamehameha,’ the waiata composed by Joey Rogers and Anya Satyanand, and currently under Global Women’s custodianship. Under Te Tai Tokerau’s winter sun, women shared their reflections and learnings from the first day of wānanga, before moving into the sessions for the new day.

Reflecting on how Global Women is built on, and builds, trusted long-term relationships, Theresa Gattung and Agnes Naera spoke on the past, present and future of Global Women. Acknowledging the Lifetime Members and the roots of the kaupapa in the first hui with Dame Jenny and Mai Chen, the session outlined the ongoing and expansive advocacy work undertaken by Global Women’s 460 members and 60 Champion Partners, as well as that of past kaimahi, partners and members.

The underpinning sense of connection and unity nurtured over the course of the hui was woven into the fabric of each session, with the rōpū moving from a space of reflection into a space strategic planning for a reimagined future. Following Sharon Zollner, Andy Blair and Jenny Rudd’s presentations on the multifaceted relationship between gender equality and economic prosperity, the rōpū wove together their knowledge, insights and aspirations to pave the way for Aotearoa New Zealand 2040.

After two full days of courageous and inspiring wānanga, the rōpū congregated for the last time on Waitangi Treaty Grounds. At the heart of our nation, a group of powerful women leaders came together in a circle of unity to activate Gill Gatfield’s HALO, a synthesis of ancient stone and digital media that honours the past while evoking new possibilities for the future.

Beneath this visionary monument to unity, on the sacred whenua surrounding the Waitangi river, our rōpū realised the truth of the claim that “one does not go to Waitangi: one comes from Waitangi.” At the start of the hui, our rōpū had arrived as individuals, only to leave as a collective of wāhine toa unified in their vision and unified in their purpose to build and equitable, sustainable, and thriving future for Aotearoa New Zealand.