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Taruna project helps to model sustainable future with Maori communities
The New Zealand Government recently made a number of changes at all levels of education.Von: By Vee Noble, NNA South Pacific correspondent
NNA South Pacific correspondent Vee Noble spoke to him. Foto: Kahikatea planting
HAVELOCK NORTH (NNA) – Taruna has been a centre for anthroposophical study since the 1930’s. Since 1982, when teacher training began, courses on Rudolf Steiner education, biodynamics and anthroposophical nursing have continued to attract students from around New Zealand and all over the world. “Having worked for several decades as a programme director in a huge university in the UK, it was inevitable that my arrival at Taruna, with its small student groups and intimate atmosphere, would offer a new and different experience,” says John Burnett, “but what has made the move particularly exciting and personally significant has been the opportunity to begin working with the unique culture of these islands. As a newcomer to New Zealand, it seemed a good opportunity to learn more about the country, so I volunteered to explore what might be possible in this domain,” he explains. And Burnett has made a good start: “I have been heartened and encouraged by the small steps we have been able to achieve. Over recent years, New Zealand has experienced a revival of interest in and awareness of the culture of the people who first inhabited these islands. Amazingly skilled navigators and adventurers, the Polynesian ancestors of the present Maori people brought their canoes to these shores at least 800 years ago,” he continues. “Since the arrival of the first European settlers in the Eighteenth Century, a unique dialogue between two cultures has been played out, culminating in an historic treaty, the effects of which still influence the economic, social and spiritual life of its people. Ownership versus stewardship of land and resources; family responsibilities versus individualism; materialism versus spirituality: these are core issues still occupying the media on a daily basis,” Taruna’s new programme director explains the background to his work. For years, Taruna has offered successful courses on wool-weaving and spinning as part of its diploma course, but this summer it has been able to augment what has been a traditional Pakeha (Western) technology by introducing raranga, the sacred art of Maori flax weaving. For Maori culture, acknowledgement of the presence of spiritual beings, including elementals and ancestors, is an essential prerequisite for a harmonious relationship with one’s environment. As the students learnt to harvest and weave flax into beautiful artefacts, they were also inducted into a communal view of life which has a deep respect for the earth, plants, birds, water, weather and stars. Maori protocol serves as a protection for these values and the spiritual realities standing behind them. “Participation in flax weaving led to the idea that students would spend three days living and working on a local marae as guests of the local Maori community,” Burnett says. During their stay, students planted kahikatea trees as part of a re-forestation programme dedicated to restoring native plants on farmland previously devastated by exploitative farming practices. They shared the idea that the Earth, who previously could heal herself from the damage inflicted on her, now needs our help and support. “To this end, we were able to use biodynamic preparations as part of the planting process and are now in discussion about longer-term involvement in a food-production project linked to Maori principles of living in harmony with nature.” “During the visit to the marae, the idea surfaced that the people of the South Pacific have a particular world task – that of modelling ways of working harmoniously with nature at a time when the devastations of industrial and commercial modernisation become increasingly critical for our society,” says John Burnett. “New Zealand, because of its size, location and unique history, is a country where models of truly sustainable living could be particularly well achieved,” the former Plymouth University course director says, looking ahead. “As students of anthroposophy, working and studying in this environment, we have the potential to bring spiritual scientific perspectives into creative dialogue with contemporary representatives of more ancient spirituality. My hope is that our project can, in some way, realise this potential.” END/nna/vn Item: 310131 Date: 31 January 2013 Copyright 2013 News Network Anthroposophy Limited. All rights reserved.