We use Mahana’s Vā Conceptual Framework in partnership with businesses in a range of industries, who report intercultural challenges and seek culturally intelligent project management, leadership expertise and co-design to tackle a range of objectives. Vā in Action encompasses our community development work including projects within a correctional centre, within city councils and neighborhood houses as well as with national sporting representative bodies.
In times of crisis, uncertainty and challenge Mahana Culture staff leverage our Vā Conceptual Framework combined with a culturally responsive approach to navigating interpersonal and operational challenges. We support organisations to develop the perspective, knowledge and skills required to pause, reflect and execute strategic planning towards a common goal.
We add value to your mission or objective by holding space, so that leaders and teams may come together collectively to grapple with complexity, engage diverse stakeholders and move towards a shared understanding. We achieve this in a way that drives improvement and innovation, whilst respecting the relational foundation of all things. We reimagine diversity and difference from a deficit point of view to a strength-based lens. In doing so, we reawaken dignity and the interconnected wellbeing of individuals and systems.
In 2019 the Wellbeing, Transition and Reintegration team from Geo Group Australia who run Ravenhall Corrections Centre contacted Mahana Culture about meeting with a group of Pasifika men seeking codesign support for a project they were working on. Tavale from Mahana Culture contacted Jeremy Nikora, an established cultural leader and innovator in the Melbourne Pasifika community and together they ventured into a new vā. Little did they know of the richness that lay ahead.
Once on the inside, Tavale and Jeremy met with a group of strong, curious, vulnerable yet confident young men, who were hungry for cultural healing and connection. They had already created the bones of a program they wanted to run with other inmates, including a literature review on culture-specific programs for Polynesians in the Australian criminal justice system, and now they were ready for us. Over the next seven months, on a Wednesday afternoon; we laughed, cried, sang, planned, debated, ate and created a Vā full of safe sharing, creativity, trust, agency and mutual respect.
The men commented that they never felt heard in this manner before. Not only by us, but also by Geo Group staff who bent over backwards to support the vā that was developing. Mahana staff introduced the men to the 1Circle of Courage (CoC) framework; they then adopted this framework to form the basis of their program. The artwork below represents their interpretation of the CoC; a comprehensive, culturally responsive program called ‘PolySwag’ which was co-designed from within. A powerful presentation of the program was delivered to Geo Group management, which received unanimous support. Vā is everywhere; exploring and nurturing Vā, especially when people are at their most vulnerable, can support powerful healing to emerge. The creators of this project hope that many others will step into the healing and learning space they have created. For Mahana staff, it will continue to inspire and drive us.
1 Brendtro, Larry K.; Brokenleg, Martin; Van Bockern, Steve (1990). Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
In 2019 Mahana Culture formed a partnership with Brimbank City Council’s Youth and Leisure Services, Brimbank Neighbourhood Houses and the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) aptly named the ‘Fusion Project’, funded through Vic Health’s ‘Innovation’ grants. The Vā between local city councils and multicultural communities is often misunderstood; the ‘Fusion Project’ was designed to strengthen this complex and multi-faceted Vā by holding space for community and council as well as other local stakeholders to innovate in culturally responsive ways. Leveraging CMY’s existing relationships between the South Sudanese and Pasifika communities of Brimbank, Mahana developed a culturally safe Vā with young people and families from these vibrant cultural communities. The outcome was a collaborative, intercultural and intergenerational model culminating in a series of community-developed workshops and events which showcased the area’s cultural diversity.