Looking back on his upbringing in his hometown of Ratana Pa has made Cory James better able to use his skills to help the youth of Te Taitokerau.
Cory is a drug and alcohol counsellor and clinical lead for Ngāti Kahu Social and Health Services in Kaitaia.
He works with young people to get them work-ready and says the year-long programme he’s just completed with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Auckland has given him new skills which will ultimately benefit the people of the north.
The Kaitiakitanga – Postgraduate Diploma in Bicultural Professional Supervision programme is unique in that it uses mātauranga Māori as the core of its supervision curriculum in a range of disciplines. It is aimed at professionals with at least five years’ experience working in areas such as social work, health, nursing, midwifery, counselling and education or in their community.
Cory says in terms of his professional development, “it’s massive” but also has huge benefits for the people he works with.
“I could go on and become a registered and accredited supervisor and that means people in my area can access me for kaitiakitanga. This then filters down to the mahi that happens in the community. At the ground level with our people, it means that we’re able to apply some of our tikanga, some of our traditional ways of healing that is often overtaken by the western sort.”
While western counselling focusses mainly on the problem at hand, a mātauranga Māori approach takes a more holistic view, he says.
“Us as Maori we don’t treat things in isolation,” he says.
“You don’t just fall over and become addicted to meth, there’s a long journey that takes place before you get there, there’s a reason. So with this kaupapa you would turn around and look back and try and understand why in order to move forward.”
He says the course - which involved monthly trips to noho marae in Auckland along with online sessions – has seen him incorporate more tikanga into his work.
“I’ve always valued clinical approaches, I’ve got a clinical background and I’ve always valued it but I’ve also valued tikanga. Tikanga is what got me here and I’ve seen it work in our people, so I would balance it in the way that I work,” he says.
“But doing this kaupapa, it’s really tipped things over to the cultural side. Within our culture there are so many healing processes that can heal many aspects of a person, not just one. So we’re able to apply some of those tikanga approaches, those holistic approaches of healing.”
One example is as simple as climbing a mountain, which is part of one of the programmes he runs.
“There are so many different aspects to healing when you climb your maunga and understand all of that stuff. From a clinical perspective, that might not be a type of healing but there are clinical bodies of knowledge that I can use to justify why I can now climb up my maunga.”
“So I’m using my tikanga approach and I’ve noticed some massive changes in the mahi we’re doing. There’s a bigger picture at play.”
Part of that bigger picture is becoming a better counsellor and Cory says it’s been looking back at where he comes from that has made that possible.
“This journey has been one where I’ve turned around and looked back at why am I the way I am. Where do some of my values come from, my principles? I’ve been so entrenched in the northern lifestyle it’s been good for me to look back at my Ratanatanga and some of the core values within myself and how to apply those into my practice. It’s sort of another level of self-awareness so it’s been an awesome journey for me.”
Cory had previously worked in Auckland but says his journey will continue in Te Taitokerau.
“There’s no turning back. It feels like we’re making a difference in our community. Down there I was based in west Auckland and I didn’t feel that connection to the community as what I do in the north. We can see change around us, it’s evident when we walk up the street and we see our young people. We see it.”