Lyn Waiwiri thought learning more about rongoā Māori (traditional Māori medicines) would be of benefit to her elderly parents, who had returned to Taranaki after 34 years living in Australia.
“For me, I thought it was great to learn more about rongoā to help them. Unfortunately they both passed on during COVID,” she says.
Despite the shock, Lyn has continued her study of rongoā and says it aligns well with earlier studies in horticulture and her inherent interest in the land and the environment.
“I just had this pull back to nature, to the whenua, and doing the horticulture allowed me to work out how to grow things, and then the things I wanted to grow are rongoā, to have our medicines around us so we can get off these other pills.”
Last year Lyn completed the Level 4 Certificate in Rongoā programme at the new Te Wānanga o Aotearoa campus in New Plymouth and says she became a changed person.
“I feel a lot more grounded, as opposed to being a bit all over the place. I think I’m getting that clear path of where I want to go and what I want to do, and doing it in our tikanga, in our culture,” she says.
The course teaches the customs and protocols that surround rongoā and students gain an insight and understanding of how to appreciate, and respect rongoā.
Lyn says the course is ideal for anyone looking to improve their lives.
“It’s for those who have a connection with the whenua, who want to help whānau, who want to live a better life, a healthier life. There’s a lot of changes you’ve got to make but it’s a journey and we can see that things have to change.”
While initially surprised at the amount of research required, Lyn says she came to appreciate the knowledge she was gaining.
“What I’ve learnt from the paperwork has stuck in my head in terms of the history, the Tohunga Suppression Act, Te Tiriti and things like that. I thought ‘why are we doing this’ but as we’ve gone through it I understand why you need it.”
And she understands that learning about rongoā is a long-term undertaking that she is ready for.
“Now is my time,” she says.
“That’s why I’m focussed on finishing and continuing. I guess that’s what I’ve identified, it’s going to take ages, not five minutes. But that’s okay, I’ve got a bit of grounding there.”