Formal participation of Māori in the PSA began in the 1980s when Māori public servants began to express concerns the absence of Māori perspectives in the public service and lack of Māori participation and involvement in union affairs.
In 1984, the PSA embarked on a process of change to address these issues. A national hui of Māori trade unionists organised by the Federation of Labour’s Māori Trade Union Committee and Combined State Unions was held in Rotorua in 1986.
This was followed by series of PSA hui throughout the country where discussions focused upon how to reflect the needs of Māori PSA members and enable them to have a full voice within the PSA.
In 1986, an Interim Māori Policy Committee was formed to consider how to address the issues raised by Māori PSA members and develop a structure that would provide for Māori participation in the affairs of the union.
In a historic vote and by overwhelming majority, the 1987 PSA conference decided to establish a structure which would allow greater representation for Māori members. By August 1988, the Ngā Toa Āwhina Rūnanga became a recognised entity within the PSA.
In 1993 the PSA elected its first Māori President Huki Nepia, followed by Na Raihania in 1997. Na was one of five Māori on the seven-member PSA executive that year.
In 2003 the PSA Executive Board asked the Rūnanga to provide a Māori name for the PSA. After much discussion the Rūnanga decided on “Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi”. Not a simple translation of the Public Service Association, it seeks to capture the essence of the organisation. The key word is pūkenga, which refers to the skills of all the people in the PSA. Tikanga is the correct way of doing things and mahi means work. Put together they convey the idea of skilled people coming together to create good conditions and ways of working.
At the PSA Congress in 2004 the Ngā Toa Āwhina Rūnanga was officially renamed as: Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina.
Today Māori enjoy full participation in the affairs of the union. Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina provides representation and coordinates Māori members within the structures of the PSA. The Committee of Te Rūnanga is charged with the governance of Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina. It acts as an advisor to the Executive Board and makes recommendations on strategic and policy issues and has an oversight of the union’s operational activities and relevant industrial activities for Māori.
In addition, PSA Rules allow for the election of a Māori enterprise delegate by Māori members in an agency or organisation where the PSA has members. The Māori enterprise delegate acts as a point of connection within the wider structures of Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina and the PSA, and is a member of their organisation’s delegates’ committee.
In 2006 Bicultural Unionism, a PSA delegate development course, was developed by Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina, PSA Māori staff and the delegate development team.
The PSA Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi has also recognised the roles of Kuia and Kaumatua. Kuia and Kaumatua have extensive experience in tikanga Māori and tikanga union and provide advice and counsel to the PSA leadership and Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina. Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina identify Kuia and Kaumatua for this role and it is formally recognised in the PSA Rules.