Marae based Takiwātanga wānanga were first introduced on March 19th 2021, at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Whirikoka Campus in Gisborne. The concept intended to address the absence of regular Autism training delivered in Gisborne and the wider Tairāwhiti region. The need was becoming a priority, as frontline staff working in the health, disability and education sectors saw a steady increase in referrals and enrolments for children diagnosed with autism spectrum. However, many frontline practitioners were not equipped with the expertise or knowledge to appropriately support the child and or their whanau.
Tairāwhiti’s Māori population is estimated to be 54%. Māori in the Tairāwhiti region are particularly disadvantaged due to the geographical location, and the dearth of literature and research that reports on Māori with Autism. In response, Taonga Takiwātanga Charitable Trust developed a series of Marae based Takiwātanga Wānanga in the Tairāwhiti region as a local solution to a local issue. The intent behind Marae based learning offered a ‘by Māori’ learning experience for professionals and a sense of familiarity, safety, and security for whānau Māori.