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Mahi aroha: Māori work in times of trouble and disaster as an expression of a love for the people.

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Kōtuitui, 16(2), 356-370

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This article explores the significance of Māori collective institutions and pan-Māori organisations in supporting community resilience and survival through colonial challenges and recent crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

It examines the historical context of Māori adaptation to urban life post-World War II, the establishment of voluntary associations to maintain Māori identity and culture, and the collective response to health crises exacerbated by colonialism. The paper highlights the proactive measures taken by Māori communities during the Covid-19 lockdown, including the formation of voluntary checkpoints, adaptation of traditional practices, and leveraging of social media to support community well-being. It discusses the concept of mahi aroha—work done out of love for the people—as a critical element of Māori response to crises, including natural disasters and pandemics. The article concludes with considerations on the future vitality of Māori collective responsiveness and the importance of secure and affordable housing in sustaining the capacity for mahi aroha. It underscores the importance of whānau, hapū, marae, and pan-Māori organisations in fostering resilience, cultural identity, and social support networks that are vital for community well-being. The study details the community-led initiatives and adaptations of traditional practices to ensure safety and support during the pandemic, showcasing the enduring nature of mahi aroha as a fundamental aspect of Māori social and cultural life. By focusing on the crucial role of affordable and secure housing in enabling the practice of mahi aroha, the authors argue for the need to address housing insecurities to preserve the capacity of Māori communities to respond collectively to future challenges.

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