Histories of New Zealand – a part of the new curriculum changes - has the potential to raise many emotions ... guilt, shame, pain, confusion, and defensiveness, and not just in Northland classrooms.
Tai Tokerau education experts believe the new syllabus, scheduled to formally begin in 2023, is going to cause friction and tension within the communities and the tough job is how to manage that.
However, if delivered in the right way, it has the potential to be "absolutely transformational" and "empowering" for the same communities in New Zealand.
Justice Hetaraka, co-founder of Tai Tokerau education group HĀ, History of Aotearoa, believes that although the curriculum and content are set to change, the way of teaching is not changing and according to her it is a "scary" situation.
"It is how you deliver and manage it, allowing students to be empowered by it, is going to matter.
"If you go into classrooms and drop a whole lot of content that is triggering, it will bring up conflicting emotions for Māori and even Pākehā kids.
"If you talk about war and land confiscations without being able to manage those emotions and empower students, it is going to be a mess."
Justice appreciated some teachers were putting their best effort to avoid traumatising the children and said while it was all on them, "with no credit to anyone else", there were others who had not had the opportunity to confront their own bias.
"They will either not deliver the content or will deliver the content in a way that is not empowering and unsafe.
"If you believe that 'the land my family has lived on for four generations was rightfully purchased and really righteously believe that it was just and fair', how are you expected to teach land confiscations in class without feeling strongly about it?
"And it is no fault of their own but the education system for teaching us that it was okay. It is the product of the education system that the transition is going to be so hard.
"Our teachers have been put through the system that did not allow them to do that, to justify our history and conveniently forgot a lot of it."
Justice said the history syllabus so far only talked about the goodness of colonisation – the technology, advancement, and science - and prioritised colonial ways of being and thinking, ignoring "the war, the genocide, the violent land alienation, and all the history" of how Kiwis got to the present day.
"For generations, the education system has been put in place to assimilate Māori into the Pākehā world, to essentially make 'brown Pākehā '."
HĀ worked to bridge the gap, teach local history to the region's youth through art and provide resources to the teachers.
Northland was a unique place, Justice said, simply because of its rich history.
"Because we have had a long history of encounters between cultures, we are so disproportionately affected by the effects of colonisation – imprisonment, crime, health, education ... all the statistics are against us up here, especially the Māori community.
"On the risk end, there is a lot of risk for tension and collision between cultures if it is not delivered right.
"But, if it is delivered right, we have the potential to create this beautiful conjunction of people and we have so many beautiful communities up here."
A Northland teacher wearing many hats, including being one of the writers for the new history curriculum, Maia Hetaraka, said the success of the change would depend on how it was taught and put across.
"In the past, we have not addressed that at all, so you end up with some people who don't understand why Māori continue to say we need to redress the problems – our lands and resources were taken.
"Because history hurts, sometimes it can be presented in a way that places blame on a person in front of you, which is also not the right approach.
"However, if we are able to look at those issues from the perspective that people who made those decisions at that time had different ideas and understanding, it creates safety for everybody."
Maia said some topics were too big and scary for people in the past to unpack in schools, but it was high time to face those issues.
"We are at a place now that yes, they are still big and scary and they sometimes make us feel uncomfortable, but we have to sit in that uncomfortable situation until we are okay. All of that stuff has made us who we are as a country."
Hetaraka said while it was in the past, the things that happened continued to impact us today.
"The issues that we see in terms of economic disadvantage for Māori, they are directly connected to colonisation."
Being able to trace those things and understand the reason behind the inequalities in the country would give the children the opportunity to understand what has happened, the impacts of it, and where to go next, said Maia.
Maia said the change also provided schools with an opportunity to design a more place-based curriculum within the national curriculum and how regions implemented it would vary.
However, in terms of local curriculum, Maia worried it might be tricky for schools as it would put pressure on Māori knowledge-holders in each community, "who are a very small specific group of people".
"What could potentially happen is all the schools would go and tap into those resources and put too much pressure and expectation on the small group to share their knowledge.
"In this modern day and age where everything is online, a lot of our localised curriculum knowledge is not accessible that way and it shouldn't be."
The new curriculum was officially announced in February last year, after the compulsory history in all NZ schools was announced in September 2019.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Ministers Kelvin Davis, Jan Tinetti and Aupito William Sio launched the Aotearoa New Zealand histories curriculum at an Auckland school in March this year, with the teaching of the syllabus to formally begin in 2023.
With her teacher's hat on, Maia hoped that when it was pushed out to schools for implementation, the teachers saw the possibilities it posed and people saw themselves reflected in it.
"When I look at the draft, I do see opportunities, but I also understand that I see those opportunities because of my role but perhaps a brand-new teacher who looks at it differently could think 'what am I supposed to do?' It is only because of the way it is structured.
"I hope it is received with excitement rather than dread."
Maia said work had to be done to support schools and teachers to develop the knowledge base and connection with people.
"That is where HĀ comes in and investing in resources like that will help to support teachers.
"We can't just go and bombard that small group of knowledge-holders, we have to be able to provide other sources of information in safe ways."
The new document is focused on the questions "what do we know", "what do we understand" and "what do we do" in each curriculum area and each one has specific knowledge bases and big ideas, and Maia says it is very different from the learning outcome we are used to achieving.
It would be less assessment- and measurement-focused, said Maia.
"In schools, if you can't measure it, there can't be a learning outcome.
"Whereas this curriculum is saying that we want our students at the end of three years to understand these big ideas. You can't necessarily understand what someone understands, so that's going to be a big shift for both teachers and parents.
"Some parents and teachers will have to be more open-minded."
Pauline Cleaver, associate leader (hautū) pathways and progress in the Ministry of Education, said schools would have access to curriculum leads across the country to support implementation.
"They [curriculum leads] are working on ensuring there are multiple local opportunities for tumuaki, leaders, kaiako and teachers to unpack the new content.
"In addition, there are webinars and online learning opportunities, the first of which is available now. There are a number of expert teachers already in our schools and through the ministry-funded Networks of Expertise teachers can get peer-to-peer support."
Teacher networks that specifically support Aotearoa New Zealand's histories are the New Zealand History Teachers' Association, Aotearoa Social Studies Educators' Network, Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Arts Educators, Ako Panuku, and Kahu Pūtoi.