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Researching in a complex-cultured space that exists to help vulnerable young people has illuminated both tensions and rare insights for our research team. The project aimed to explore Ngā Kōti Rangatahi, which are youth courts that take place on marae (tribal meeting places). The focus of this paper is the preliminary work spanning five years that needed to take place to ensure the protection of young people and for the research to find its place within, between and across spaces occupied by Māori, the pākehā legal system and both pākehā and Māori academic research conventions. The work we needed to do before we could begin the work of researching included doing the work of forming the right team, whakawhanaungatanga (building relationships), making time for kanohi kitea hui (face to face meetings) and the development of the research questions. At the same time, we attempted to walk two paths cognisant of the need of doing things the right way. One was exacting and was based on meeting the orthodox written legal, ethical and academic requirements to conduct research. The other, can be viewed as pragmatic and its unwritten less structured and rule like approach more flexible and adaptable but equally exacting in determining how marae engagement and consultation should be carried out (Gallagher 2008). This paper offers insights into the strengths and challenges of developing a uniquely kaupapa Maori methodology for conducting research within a marae domain when it is occupied by a foreign legal concept.
 Ngā is the plural form of te meaning the, for the purpose of this paper ngā refers a sample of Kōti Rangatahi marae sites researched in this project (n=4). The use of Te can refer to a single rangatahi court or all fourteen currently in operation, the use of te will depend on the context.
 Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand.
We struggled to find the right word to describe the legal system. It is based on the Parliamentary system which was introduced at the time of European settlement and is largely consistent with the systems in place in the UK and Australia. We considered western and dominant as descriptors, but ultimately decided to use pākehā, the Māori term to describe non-Māori peoples. This was a political as well as a pragmatic decision as we grappled with privilege, domination and colonisation in our research space.