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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/core-practice/working-with-maori/how-to-work-effectively-with-maori/whakapapa-research/
Printed: 18/07/2024
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Last updated: 11/11/2019

Whakapapa research

Whakapapa research focuses on researching and identifying people, places and events that will provide tamariki with access to important cultural connections for their sense of belonging, wellbeing and identity.

Upcoming changes for this guidance

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach

Definition of whakapapa

Whakapapa refers to the genealogical kinship relationships of a Māori person and often extends to their relationship with the environment and with cultural values.

It has been described in section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989: 'whakapapa, in relation to a person, means the multi-generational kinship relationships that help to describe who the person is in terms of their mātua (parents), and tūpuna (ancestors), from whom they descend.'

Duties of chief executive in relation to Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) — section 7AA of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

What is whakapapa research

Whakapapa research focuses on researching and identifying people, places and events that will provide tamariki with access to important cultural connections for their sense of belonging, wellbeing and identity. This research also supports tamariki and whānau decision-making.

Kairaranga ā-whānau or relevant practitioners will consult with whānau Māori about how the findings of the research will be shared with tamariki and other significant others. The information recorded is to be treated with sensitivity and respect. After we have completed the purpose for which the information was gathered, only the genogram (3 generations of information) is kept within Oranga Tamariki records and all other whakapapa information is returned to whānau. Whakapapa searching may be guided by the Te Toka Tūmoana framework principles.

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Whakapapa research is an extension of whānau searching. Primarily the research is to identify, verify and support the connection of tamariki to their genealogical lines, connections to significant historically relevant sites of engagement, relevant values and beliefs and systems of whanaungatanga.

Whakapapa research strengthens tamariki in their identity and self-esteem and identifies whānau resources to enhance decision-making for tamariki. In this way whakapapa research makes an important contribution to decision-making at various points during their engagement with Oranga Tamariki including assessment, family group conferencing, care placements and transitions.

Whānau searching

When to do it

A whakapapa research process is instigated in a variety of situations including:

  • to support whānau engagement with disconnected whānau
  • to prevent tamariki coming into care by supporting and preferencing whānau placements
  • when a hui ā-whānau is unable to proceed effectively without further research of whakapapa
  • when there is a need to increase cultural connections for te tamaiti and to support their sense of belonging, identity, self-esteem and overall oranga.

Who does it

Whakapapa research is a specialist role carried out by kairaranga ā-whānau, experienced Māori practitioners or iwi/Māori who have Te Ao Māori knowledge. They are highly skilled in applying tikanga Māori and using Māori models of practice to explore and validate whakapapa kinship relationships in order to consolidate and strengthen the whanaungatanga connections, identity and belonging of tamariki Māori.

Each site will have a process in place to refer to their kairaranga ā-whānau that social workers will need to follow when requesting a wider whānau search or whakapapa research.

If a kairaranga ā-whānau isn't available

If a kairaranga ā-whānau isn’t available at your site you can:

  • seek guidance from a kairaranga ā-whānau at another site
  • seek support from a senior Māori practitioner with tikanga expertise
  • seek support from a competent bicultural practitioner
  • seek support from mana whenua and/or other iwi/Māori organisations – this would occur if your site has formalised a relationship with these groups for this purpose.

How to do it

There are 5 phases of whakapapa research that make up best practice in working with tamariki/mokopuna Māori and their whānau:

  1. Mahi whakatuwhera – beginning the exploration.
  2. Whakapapa rangahau – research genealogy.
  3. He kanohi Hōmiromiro – making sense of the information.
  4. Hui ā-whānau – gathering and sharing whakapapa with whānau.
  5. He huarahi whakatika – a pathway forward.

1 Mahi whakatuwhera – beginning the exploration

Firstly it is important to gather, review, validate and consolidate any whānau search information that has already been gathered. The referral and consult process helps to prepare for the whakapapa research. It’s a process of gathering all relevant information inside Oranga Tamariki and with partners to provide a clear picture of what is known and what isn’t known about te tamaiti. For example, you could gather information from:

  • casenotes
  • All About Me plan
  • genograms
  • consult notes
  • completed whānau searching mahi.

A referral may include:

  • the iwi affiliations of te tamaiti/whānau
  • the purpose and outcome of any hui ā-whānau that have been held – for example, to support the assessment phase, to support intervention such as a family group conference or a care placement
  • a genogram of both paternal and maternal relationships up to 3 generations from te tamaiti
  • demographic information – whānau, hapū, iwi and community (whanaungatanga links)
  • the voice of te tamaiti – using tools such as the Three Houses engagement tool
  • the use of Te Toka Tūmoana principles guiding this engagement
  • identifying any Māori model of practice used
  • a summary of current case activity showing what the social worker has done so far
  • any known barriers to engaging whānau
  • the current supports — for example, whānau, friends, teachers, NGOs.

The Three Houses engagement tool

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

You will use a consult (huihuinga) process with the social worker and their supervisor to consolidate the referral information and identify other relevant information. It’s also helpful for you to attend other consults that may be occurring for te tamaiti as a way to receive and contribute relevant information that will support tamariki and whānau decision-making.

2 Whakapapa rangahau – research genealogy

Kairaranga ā-whānau and relevant practitioners use Māori models of practice to gather the pūkōrero (stories) and whakapapa that trace the genealogical lines of te tamaiti back to their eponymous ancestors who led the development of hapū and/or iwi.

Kairaranga ā-whānau and relevant practitioners use tikanga processes to guide how the whakapapa is researched, such as kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face), and how and what information gathered is used for. These processes preserve the integrity of whānau whakapapa and safeguard wellbeing within the process.

Kairaranga ā-whānau and relevant practitioners will facilitate a journey to identify for te tamaiti:

  • their hapū, iwi, waka, marae, maunga, awa, roto, ngahere, papakāinga, moana and wāhi tapu connections and affiliations
  • their living and deceased whānau, including kaumātua up to 3 generations from te tamaiti
  • their eponymous ancestor or tūpuna – tracing back to hapū or iwi eponymous ancestors
  • the events of significance that have impacted on the current-day situation for te tamaiti, for example, where interruptions to whānau connections occurred.

All information related to whakapapa must be treated with respect. It’s important that we:

  • refrain from casual discussions with other staff about the whakapapa of te tamaiti
  • refrain from entering into discussions about whakapapa information in places where food is consumed, such as the staff tearoom
  • observe tikanga rituals, such as karakia, to protect and uphold the mana of whakapapa
  • keep all information secure in an appropriate file where it can't be read by others
  • ensure all information relating to the whakapapa of te tamaiti is accurate and recorded in ways that are mana enhancing.

3 He kanohi Hōmiromiro – making sense of information

Analyse the information to identify the nature and quality of relationships, whānau dynamics, intergenerational impacts that are affecting the current situation, whānau traits/strengths and other key indicators and potential protective factors.

Identify significant resource people/whānau champions, whakapapa or kaupapa connected, who could be significant in providing support, care or knowledge directly from the whakapapa line of te tamaiti. Informing significant others about concerns raised should be done individually kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face), preparatory to gathering in progressive and/or large hui ā-whānau.

4 Hui ā-whānau – gather and share whakapapa with whānau

Use hui ā-whānau to share the whakapapa information gathered and collectively make sense of how it can assist and support resolving the issues impacting on the wellbeing needs of te tamaiti and the whānau. Explore wellbeing options with te tamaiti and significant whānau representatives. Discuss with the whānau how the whakapapa is returned to them.

Hui ā-whānau

5 He huarahi whakatika – a pathway forward

Whakapapa research information gathered is used for a range of purposes, to enhance the connections and identity of te tamaiti and whānau, especially if they are disconnected from their culture. It's also used to engage the right people to participate in meaningful dialogue together to arrive at well-informed decisions and an oranga (wellbeing) plan supporting te tamaiti.

This phase is also about making sure that there are well thought-through plans for the use of the whakapapa both within and on completion of the process.

For example, the kairaranga ā-whānau may be able to:

  • identify whānau members who are able to continue to strengthen whakapapa relationships into the future
  • provide the whakapapa information to te tamaiti and whānau to continue their own exploration
  • develop a pepeha journal containing photographs and supporting narratives that will support te tamaiti to understand their whakapapa (age based).