Whānau Development Summit

Whānau Development Summit

Helen Leahy, Pouārahi

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu


One minute from our home in Linwood there is a garage.  We go through frequently – to get petrol, milk, bread and the occasional boysenberry trumpet. 

Ten days ago that garage on the corner took on a new significance.   For directly opposite the Z is a place of worship where the Muslim community come to pray, to congregate, to express their culture and religion.  That’s where they were – bowed over, reverent, deep in prayer when a terrorist changed our lives forever.

My daughter drives past there every day at 3pm when she finishes work.  That day she was prevented getting home by a police cordon, ambulances and helicopters swooping over-head.  Our son was on lockdown at kura; another daughter on lockdown at university.   Separated across the city in a warzone constructed from a terrorist act of white supremacy.

On that same day, families across the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, lost sons and brothers, fathers, wives and children.   Fifty lives stolen, leaving families, communities, countries and our city in an unspeakable anguish.

And yet it had started off a day like any other.   In fact better than most – the face of the future – our student population – had taken over the square for a march to mobilise attention to climate change.   Armed with optimistic placards – “like the sea we rise” or “plait flax”, our young people were making the city council listen to their message. 

That was until the sirens overpowered us all, signalling the horrific onslaught of the massacre.

Crisis.  Conflict.   Chaos.  Catastrophe.  We have had more than enough to test us – the earthquakes of 2010, 2011 and 2016; the Port Hills fires; the Wakefield fires;   185 people killed and several thousand injured by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in 2011; the destruction of the main freight line and State Highway One for two years after the Kaikōura earthquakes. 

It is the fragility of the fault-line between crisis and resilience which is the natural home of Whānau Ora. 

The important differential, however, is that whilst whānau may present in crisis, there is a mindset shift which focuses whānau on future horizons, reinforcing that they are not broken; they are brilliant.  

Enter Whānau Ora where change is sustainable because whānau determine it and whānau action it.  It is not a programme, a service, a provider, a government department fixing families up; a “place-based project”; creating a one-size-fits all methodology; an intervention logic, a funding formula devised by Treasury prescribed need for a lineal cost-benefit analysis.  This is life as we know it.

I think we reached an important turning point as a nation this last ten days.   The Prophet Muhammad said ‘speak good words or remain silent’.  It is a philosophy which speaks to kaupapa Māori particularly manaakitanga, kotahitanga and wairuatanga.  

As we have stood alongside and shed tears, the Muslim communities have demonstrated that they are proudly independent, authentic and self-determining, while also reaching out across the wider communities.  It is not so much “we are they” or “they are us”; but more particularly “we know of them and they know of us” – we are not all part of an assimilated oneness – we are uniquely distinctive in all our nationalities, ethnicities, spiritualities, and beliefs.  How we respond to our circumstances reflects on the philosophical framework we uphold.

Additionally, as Ngāi Tahu has challenged us all – this moment in time is a precious opportunity to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us – to have courageous conversations.  

In all of this – a Whānau Ora approach prevails driven by aspirations; by a strengths focus and an outcomes methodology.  Most of all it is by, for and of whānau – as architects of their ultimate future.   We should see this time, this circumstance, as a much needed opportunity for transformation wherever we sit.   The common purpose is compelling.

I want to take us back to the last time Government held a national Whānau Development Summit. 

Exactly sixteen years ago, in March 2003, Whakapumau Whānau was hosted at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Otaki – a national whānau development summit, followed by eleven regional hui .  There were four significant themes that arose from that summit.

  • Tangata whenua see themselves as collectives

  • Tangata whenua have a vision of whānau as healthy, vibrant and self-sustaining social structures

  • Tangata whenua see the revitalization of whakapapa whānau as a means to progress positive outcomes for Māori

  • Tangata whenua view whānau based around a particular kaupapa as an important element of their development.

Whānau gathered at that summit had a vision for the future which was positive, and they saw whānau as the vehicle to achieve this.   It was in that field of optimism that Whānau Ora was born.

Six years later, in 2009, that positive vehicle that whānau were seeking came along through the report of the Taskforce on what was then called ‘whānau-centred initiatives’.  The wero was laid firmly at the role of the public service then, as it is now.

The Taskforce recommends that all government agencies with responsibilities to any aspects of whānau wellbeing, commit to the Whānau Ora principles and support the Whānau Ora approach”.  

That Taskforce – consisting of Mason Durie as Chair, the late Rob Cooper, Di Grennell, Suzanne Snivelly and Nancy Tuaine, determined there were five key domains of whānau impact that constitute Whānau Ora:

1.  A whānau aspirational aim

2.  Principles

3.  Whānau outcome goals

4.  Whānau centred approach

5.  A Whānau Ora Trust

“An independent Trust be constituted to govern, coordinate and implement Whānau Ora and report to a dedicated Minister of Whānau Ora”.

First Minister for Whānau Ora appointed 8 April 2010,

Hon Dame Tariana Turia

There is an authentic evidence whakapapa.

The aspiration was premised on a balance between social gains such as health, education and social inclusion; economic gains such as expanding the asset base; cultural gains including participation in te ao Māori and collective gains.   It is proudly indigenous; it is around mana motuhake, collective in its scope.

These are strengthened by reciprocal commitments between and across generations and between the ambitions of individuals and the shared hopes of the whānau.

In the last session on Whakaoreore / mobilise we were told not to forget our history.   At that time around 2011, the headlines from Government were relentlessly positive.   We need to remember that.

Whānau Ora must be shaped by te Ao Māori.   The cultural distinctiveness of whānau – cultural traditions, heritage and cultural norms are what distinguishes Whānau Ora from the previous approach of development programmes or whānau-centred initiatives.   The philosophy of placing whānau at the core.

In Te Waipounamu, this was what prompted the iwi to stand strong – to be firm that the Whānau Ora approach is not about replicating services and programmes; they did not want the status quo; more of the same would not suffice.

They were willing to suspend control – to let whānau decide for themselves.  They spoke not of co-design, but co-decision.

They believed that whānau have the courage and inspiration to transform

That whānau see opportunities and have ideas

That whānau wellbeing creates the capability to aspire

I mihi to the nine iwi – all settled – who came together and demanded that Whānau Ora be owned, inspired, driven and accountable to Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Koata, Te Ātiawa,  Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Rangitāne ki Wairau and Ngāti Rārua.

They demonstrated diligence in their faith in upholding Whānau Ora; their discipline in challenging conventional grant-holders.

Whānau Ora must have a Māori heart.   It is about whānau wellbeing – more than the sum total of individual measures.   It is about self-determination; and ongoing intergenerational transfer.   By whānau, for whānau, about whānau.

170 initiatives across 8 waves!

Initiatives such as Kanohi ki te kanohi – Ruth Jones and Gary Williams – who demonstrate that authentic social connection is about strengthening whānau to strengthen themselves.

When you invest directly in whānau, whānau:

•      use their experience and maximise the opportunity to make a difference in an area which they have knowledge and skills

•      work in a strengths-based way to bring about change for whānau

•      create opportunities for social and cultural connection

•      make a difference for their tamariki and mokopuna

•      create a Māori way of living by realising cultural aspirations in daily life

Janice Lee Koha Kai – who lives the reality, nothing about us without us.

By giving voice to those unheard and marginalised in society, these grassroots initiatives stimulate critical reflection on the current system.

The initiatives counter the trend towards individualisation and social isolation; instead building social capital and the capability to create inclusive communities.

This is about sustainability evidenced through a holistic approach – this is about intergenerational legacy building.  

We see this beautifully written in the work at Omaka Pā : Pā Wānanga; Manaaki condiments; Rangatahi wānanga (Mau Rākau); Pā Kids; Toa Fit

Aspirational activity empowers individuals to overcome the barriers to success as they see and experience them.

We see through our research that shifting the paradigm of social service from support to self-determination makes the difference.

It is emancipatory and deeply rooted in a communitarian approach emphasising compassion, social obligation and mutual determination.

There is an intrinsic link to whenua and whānau as we see through the innovation of Hikoi Waewae.

We see difference being carved and created by initiatives such as Bros for Change.  Not straight out of Lambton Quay or Show Place – but in their own terms, their own place.

The return on investment is significant.

There is a profound social return on investment as we see in the evaluation undertaken on He Toki ki te Rika by Professor Paul Dalziel.   The total potential economic benefits were $5,500,000; the total economic costs (2015 - 2021) were $   780,000.   The potential economic benefits outweigh total economic costs by more than seven to one.

There is a powerful focus on whakawhanaungatanga between whānau, rūnanga, maata waka, iwi, government, philanthropic trust and communities.  These collaborations could support and reinforce the pathways we are walking with whānau.

The burdens carried by whānau today must be addressed.  But they must not obscure the vision for tomorrow – to inspire the nation and act as a beacon of hope for indigenous peoples across the globe.

Navigator is more than a name, a flash job title.  

Navigators walk the path with whānau and then get out of the way.   It is a radical shift from ‘embedded despair” and the data of deprivation.   This is about reframing whānau from being positioned as “other” to instead being core in their capacity to be an agent of change.

 ‘Judge [X] looked at the young man from the bench and said “I have been seeing you come before me for years and although I said that you would be looking at yet another jail term, I can see from the planning that you have done with Whānau Ora, that you have changed some things”.’

We want the conversation; we need to have brave conversations.   We must trust in the capacity of whānau to be innovative, to create meaningful responses that they can own.

The review tells us some of the key barriers to applying Whānau Ora come from:

  • The Terrace culture including a lack of trust in innovation and systematic racism

  • The singular focus that agencies tend to take, characterised by a siloed approach to government service delivery

What we have witnessed as a nation over the last ten days is another perspective on state of emergency  - not a natural disaster but a human-designed one which gave rise to Islamophobia; xenophobia; racism and hate crime.

The times are ripe for a conversation that’s long overdue since the Faces of Racism were articulated thirty years ago in Puao te ata tū.

The review also gave us some clear messages that Government needs to raise its collective ambition, to:

  • Establish a stronger set of expectations

  • Agree on what form of commitment they provide to Whānau Ora

  • Reflect requirements through levers available within the machinery of government

Finally, the Whānau Ora commissioning approach creates positive change for whānau by whānau.

We must keep the terminology of Whānau Ora.   The concept of development can be tainted by a sense of being developed; being shaped by another agenda; converted; changed.

What the panel tells us is that the approach is relatively new and it must be given the opportunity to bed in.   We are accountable, we are transparent – as we know only too well through the layers of reporting.

We have three unique interpretations across Aotearoa.   But what connects all three of us is that our approaches are culturally grounded, whānau-centred, and strengths based.    It is the philosophy that is paramount; a committed and passionate workforce; and robust relationships within whānau and communities.   I acknowledge today the trail-blazers of Te Pou Matakana, and Pasifika Futures for your leadership.

I want us to hold on to the view that we need to place faith in our whānau.  Just as we may have participated in the Haka for hope; March for Love; Call for Prayer; and Vigil please remember the conclusions of the panel’s review:

  • We believe that the intentions of Whānau Ora, aiming to build resilience and capability within whānau to be self-managing, and to be the architects of their own solutions, create the conditions to achieve sustainable change

Like we say on the t-shirt – Whānau Ora Works!

Let’s have the conversation.

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