Self and community care with Irihipeti Waretini

I acknowledge the Wurundjeri & Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin nation, as the true custodians of the land on which this piece was written. I continue to pay my respect to the land, their elders, past, present and emerging and stand in solidarity with all indigenous, sovereign peoples. I acknowledge that no treaties were made and sovereignty has never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

I hear a resounding “PAY ATTENTION!

Don’t switch off, don’t shut down, just pay attention. So, I listen, I observe, and I allow my breath to move through me scanning my body, my thoughts, my heart and my wairua. I simply pay attention.

Self care begins with paying attention. Paying attention to yourself, to the earth, the elements, ancestors, he tohu, he tapu. “Ko au te awa, ko awa ko au” is a well known Māori whakataukī meaning “I am the river and the river is me”. We are the earth, we are the elements and we are our ancestors.

So, as we pay attention to our environment, we also pay attention to ourselves and our own needs. Again, in theory, simple. Yet many of us don’t do this at all, don’t know how, or if we do, it is one of the last things in our day.

But nothing grows from neglect and nothing heals from mistreatment.

Photo by Irihipeti Waretini of NZ fern over window’s ledge

So how do we begin to pay attention?

We start with ourselves.

We focus on our breath because breath is what allows us to transmute our experiences. So they remain exactly that, experiences, not to be pocketed or stored in our bodies.

And we allow space for ourselves.

We hold ourselves accountable for not paying attention in the past. We encourage ourselves to finally learn.  And we practise paying attention. We begin with our own conduct with ourselves.

We expect no less from ourselves.

And then we expect no less from others.

Photo by Irihipeti Waretini of Bella Waru holding a transformed plant

When we meet all our needs, we start to look outside of ourselves.

We start paying attention to the needs of our families, to the needs of our communities and our society.

As we unlearn our own internal ignorance of our own needs, we bring light to our external ignorance too.

We expect no less from ourselves, so we expect no less from others.

We learn meeting our basic survival needs is not a given but a privilege.

We learn the effect our consumption impacts the earth, and our ability to draw strength and healing from the whenua. For we are the land and the land is us.

We can no longer ignore the blatant desecration of the sacred and many thousand-year-old sites of First Nations people. For we are the people and the people are us.

We can no longer ignore the institutional racism that has fuelled a breeding ground for neglect, mistreatment and the murder of black and brown bodies. For we are the future and the future is us.

But we are triggered by this newfound awareness, and our natural reaction is to shut off and shut down. Only this time our self-care practices ensure we keep practising and paying attention.

We expect no less from ourselves, so we expect no less from others.

Then, we hear a resounding “listen, learn and TAKE ACTION”.

Tūturu o whiti whakamaua kia tina
Haumi e, hui e, taiki e!

We are united. Be ready to pull together to progress our purpose.

Victorian Womens Trust has a list of books, podcasts, activists to follow and more from Australia and beyond, to support anti-racism self education here.


Ko Ruapehu tōku maunga
Ko Wanganui tōku awa
Ko Mangawhero rāua ko Whangaehu ōku awa
Ko Morimotu tōku maunga tapu
Ko Paerangi tōku tupuna
Ko Rangituhia, Rangiteauria me Uenukumanawawiri ōku tupuna
Ko Ngāti Rangi tōku iwi
Ko Irihipeti Waretini tōku ingoa

Irihipeti Waretini is a storyteller based in Naarm. Irihipeti’s focus is to support the healing, growth and visibility of indigenous and POC. Together with Ataria Rangipikitia Sharman of AwaWahine.co.nz they create oceanic collaborations to empower the voices of indigenous, Pasifika and POC women and non-binary writers.