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Air Force advisor committed to maintaining integrity of Maōri culture

Natasha Hill, Te Rito Journalism Cadet

His goals is to ensure that the air force’s people are “culturally safe” in te ao Māori spaces.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A cultural advisor for the Royal New Zealand Air Force is ensuring that the use of tīkanga and kawa are being upheld and maintained.

RNZAF Māori cultural advisor Flight Lieutenant Thomas Cookson (Ngāti Uenukukopako) is the seventh Māori cultural advisor for the air force since the role was established in 2003.

Cookson said it was important to have cultural advisors to uphold the “integrity” of the Māori culture within the force.

“With the establishment of our air force marae, Turangawaewae, the obvious clear need for a cultural advisor is that, if you are going to run a Māori capability, you need to operate it and maintain it in a safe manner.

“It’s a really big risk that needs to be dealt with carefully, so therefore it’s appropriate for a Māori cultural advisor to come into play and guide the air force.”

The RNZAF opened its first marae, Turangawaewae at the Ohakea base in Palmerston North in 2016. It was built from relocated Air Force buildings because of a small budget for the project.

His goals for the future are to ensure that air force people and organisation are “culturally safe” when in a te ao Māori space.

“The more we make our people competent within te ao Māori, the more we have to ensure our system keeps them safe when they do whaikōrero, karakia, mihi and wero.

“If we’re going to be actively participating in training our people in those areas, equally we have an obligation of maintaining the cultural safety.”

He said they are encouraging more Māori to join the RNZAF because proportionately there are fewer Māori than the general population.

“I just looked at our latest Māori percentages within the Air Force and we really need more Māori people within our organisation to help uplift our general skill and knowledge within te ao Māori.”

Tags: Royal New Zealand Air Force

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