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Knowledge sourced from Mātauranga Māori



A strong Māori identity through access to Māori knowledge is important for achieving good Māori sexual and reproductive health. Sexual health promoters and school teachers can use sexual and reproductive health activities and programmes underpinned by Māori knowledge to help rangatahi build their identities whilst increasing their knowledge about staying STI and HIV-free and choosing contraceptives that work for them.

What is Te Aitanga a Tiki

Te Aitanga a Tiki is a collection of Māori and English language resources – pūrākau, waiata, mōteatea – that are sourced from Māori knowledge and relate to sexual and reproductive health. Te Whāriki Takapou describes Māori knowledge as having the following characteristics:

  • Positively expresses Māori understandings of sexual and reproductive health;
  • Reflects Māori and iwi-specific worldviews;
  • Affirms Māori knowledge as growing from historical and contemporary Māori interactions with the world.

Aim of Te Aitanga a Tiki

The aim of Te Aitanga a Tiki: Māori dimensions of sexuality is to develop a repository of material pertaining to sexuality that is underpinned by mātauranga Māori and relevant to rangatahi Māori. The repository will collate material for sexual and reproductive health promotion and education, and contribute to promoting positive approaches to improving the sexual and reproductive health of priority rangatahi groups.

Development of Te Aitanga a Tiki

Stage 1 Needs-analysis

The first stage of the project involved using a needs-analysis to assess the need for mātauranga Māori material among end-users, exploring the option of an electronic repository, undertaking an initial sourcing of mātauranga Māori, and testing the material with four community groups (Collaborating End-user Groups).

Collaborating with the end-users ensured they could utilise the mātauranga Māori material sourced by the project to advance the sexual and reproductive health of priority populations.

In order to guide and focus the sourcing and collation of material for the repository, potential end-users of the repository were surveyed as to their needs in terms of mātauranga Māori-informed information pertaining to sexuality and sexual health.

Section A

The needs analysis survey comprised two sections: Section A asked potential end-users about the organisations they work within, e.g. types of services provided to Māori; percentage of their clients who are Māori; age range of Māori that they work with; whether they already use or access material sourced from mātauranga Māori; and whether a digital repository of mātauranga Māori material would be useful for the work they do.

Section B

In this section potential end-users were asked to identify the priority topic areas for which mātauranga Māori material could assist and enhance their delivery, and to provide their thoughts on how such material could be utilised in the provision of their services to Māori, including limitations or barriers.

How to use Te Aitanga a Tiki resources

The resources address a range of sexual and reproductive health topics that promoters and teachers tell us are important for rangatahi health and wellbeing. Each resource has a key topic, health promotion messages, suggested uses, some background information, a glossary of Māori language terms, and references. The resources are designed to be easily incorporated into sexual health promotion and school-based sexuality education programmes.

A cautionary note

Sexual and reproductive health promoters and teachers using these resources are encouraged to consider the fact that some primary source Māori knowledge material, including Māori and English language terms for aspects of sexuality and gender from the 19th century and right up to today, have been heavily influenced by dominant Western ideas. Christianity, Victorian morality and Western medicine introduced negative ideas about sexuality and gender. Sexual activities became inexplicably linked to risk and shame, all of which differs markedly from the knowledge and understandings expressed by pre-colonial Māori communities. As a result, many of the early accounts of Māori sexuality and sexual and gender identities were changed or sanitised – covered up beneath ‘polite’ Victorian phrases, or altered so that diverse, tribally specific accounts of an event were merged into one generic story.

There is also the perception that Māori terms such as ‘moe’, ‘aroha’ and ‘whakapapa’ have English-language equivalents; that the term ‘moe’ is the same as the English word ‘sleep’; that ‘aroha’ means ‘love’, and that ‘whakapapa’ is the same as ‘genealogy’. In fact, the Māori term ‘moe’ is used in a number of ways in Māori knowledge material. The only way to work out what the term ‘moe’ really means is to understand the times and the context within which the term was used. Early Māori knowledge sources used ‘moe’ to refer to a sexual relationship that had the support of the extended family, the sub-tribe or the tribe. Other sources used the term ‘moe’ to indicate a sexual relationship that produced children, and another source used the term ‘moe’ to refer to rape in warfare. Today, the term ‘moe’ is used to mean ‘marriage’, a civil union or a defacto relationship, as well as a relationship of a sexual nature that produces children.


To the best of our knowledge the material selected for Te Aitanga a Tiki is from publicly-available sources. If you think there has been an infringement of copyright please do not hesitate to contact us at


We thank the following organistions for being part of the peer review process:

  • New Zealand Aids Foundation/ Te Tūāpapa Ārai Mate Kore o Aotearoa
  • Te Kaha o te Rangatahi
  • Family Planning New Zealand
  • Te Ahurei a Rangtahi


aro whānuito generalise, standardise
hapahapaito promote, champion
hauora hōkakatangasexual health
hauora taihemahemareproductive health
hōkakatangasexuality (modern)
hononga kawanatangacilvil union
huatauidea, concept
kōkuhu(tia)to introduce
  moeto have sex with In translating pūrākau, narratives, whakapapa, etc. into English, ‘moe’ is often rendered as ‘marry’. The concept of marriage is a western/ Pākehā concept and was not part of Māori cultural tradition. The customary Māori practice of cohabitation between two people was sometimes referred to as ‘moe māori’.  Among the rangatira class, however, this form of cohabitation must be sanctioned by the whānau and/or hapū involved. Moe māori was still in common usage as recently as the 1950s, although the introduction of the Marriage Act (1908) meant that a customary union had to be formalised, i.e. performed by a minister of religion, to be recognised as legal. Under Pākehā law, this was important to one’s ability to make claims to land and inheritance. When the Māori Purposes Act was introduced  in in 1951, Māori couples had to marry according to European customs to be eligble for the Family Benefit, and to ensure their children were not classified as ‘illegitimate’.
moe māoride facto or common law marriage
ngākau rekapositive
pae tukutukuwebsite
pāhekohekointeraction, relationship
pāwherato violate a woman, rape
piringa aisexual relationship
taihemahemagenitals, sexual organs
tauonionito copulate, have sexual intercourse
whakaaweawe(tia)to influence, have an impact on
whakaihuwaka hauora hōkakatangasexual health promoter
whakarata(ngia)to appease, make amenable
whakatōpū(tia)to amalgamate, combine
ŪropiEurope(an), West(ern)


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Green, J. A., Tipene, J., & Davis, K. (2016). Mana tangata whenua: National guidelines for sexual and reproductive health promotion with Māori – First edition. Hamilton, NZ: Te Whāriki Takapou.

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Murphy, Ng. (2013). Te awa atua: Menstruation in the pre-colonial Māori world. Ngāruawāhia, NZ: He Puna Manawa Ltd.

Ngata, P. (Judge). (1886, November 1). Hone Kaora in evidence. In Otorohanga Minute Book: Te Rohe Potae Poraka (p. 594). Otorohanga, New Zealand: Otorohanga Māori Land Court.

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Tipene, J. (2009). Mā muri ko mua: An introduction to the issues associated with the translation of the Pene Haare manuscript (Masters thesis, University of Waikato, Hamilton).