3 Apr 2017

Whānau 'vital' to Māori wellbeing - leaders

8:00 pm on 3 April 2017

Māori leaders say whānau relationships have a huge impact on the wellbeing of Māori people.

Sir Mason Durie

Sir Mason Durie spoke at the hui today Photo: RNZ / Leigh Marama McLachlan

More than 250 people attended Te Ritorito 2017, a conference on iwi, hapū and whānau wellbeing, in Wellington today.

The hui was led by the Māori Development Ministry Te Puni Kōkiri and the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (Superu).

Superu chief executive Clare Ward said whānau wellbeing was a broad concept and not just about how well-off people were.

Psychiatrist and Māori studies professor Mason Durie said many factors influenced hapū, iwi and whānau wellbeing.

He said it was challenging to measure.

"The wealth of an iwi is not by itself a reliable measure of a well iwi.

"And a beautiful marae is not the sole determinant of a well hapū. And a whānau who are rich in te reo Māori is not always a sign that the whānau is well."

Sir Mason said the success of Māori events such as Iron Māori and Te Matatini were good indicators of Māori wellness.

High Court Justice Joe Williams told the hui that original Māori law centred on a concept known as whakawhanaungatanga, which is about relationships with family.

He said the importance of whakawhanaungatanga had been lost in time but it was still vital to Māori wellbeing.

"A Māori without whanaungatanga is like an American capitalist without a dollar."

He said it is important that iwi and government worked together to put more emphasis on whanaungatanga, because it has the power to improve outcomes for Māori.

That aligned with the viewpoints of former Māori Party leader Tariana Turia, who was expected to speak at the hui tomorrow.

Mrs Turia spearheaded the Whānau Ora approach, a cross-government work programme that seeks to put families at the centre of service delivery in health and social development.

She has always been an advocate for strengthening whānau ties and enabling families to find their own solutions.

"I would be hard put to find a whānau, no matter how weak somebody else might think they are, to not actually know what is best for themselves long term. I have found that even working with the gangs.

"If the government was bold, it would trust our people to know what is best for themselves."

She said the Crown should forego contractual relationships and enter into true partnerships with Māori organisations, whānau, hapū and iwi.

"I believe that if they took a step back and gave the resource and entrusted us to get on with doing what we know is best that will be the best opportunity we can have."

Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite said the government often focused on individuals alone, and that needed to change.

She said she wanted to see more focus on individuals in whānau or collectives.

"I hope that you will develop the courage, the strength and the hope to trust in whānau. To trust in whānau's relationship with their hapū. To trust in whānau's relationship with their iwi."

She urged the crowd to take their learnings into their workplaces and to find practical ways to improve whānau, hapū and iwi wellbeing.

Superu published a study at the hui looking at why some whānau say they are doing better than others.

The study analysed data collected in Te Kupenga, the first nationally representative survey of Māori wellbeing, which was undertaken by Statistics New Zealand following the 2013 census.

The new report found 94 percent of whānau were doing moderately well or better, with 74 percent doing well or very well.

It also found the quality of relationships within whānau were a huge factor in Māori wellbeing.

"The findings suggest that supporting and strengthening whānau wellbeing is complex and needs a multifaceted approach that includes a range of factors," Mrs Ward said.

The conference will conclude tomorrow at Pipitea Marae.

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