Why it’s important
Many whānau Māori may have suffered intergenerational trauma and/or experiences with Oranga Tamariki or other official systems which can impact on our ability to engage them. Therefore the hui-a-whānau process using tikanga engagement is important to support their early participation in discussions about their tamariki wellbeing that may be confronting and challenging.
The Oranga Tamariki cultural competency framework, Te Toka Tumoana framework and Te Kete Ararau tool may assist in how to apply Māori principles such as ‘tikanga’ in practice. Hui-a-whānau contribute to achieving the objectives of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 for improving outcomes for Māori.
What is hui-a-whānau
A hui-a-whānau is different to a family meeting and given it uses Māori cultural practices requires a level of cultural competence (Māori practices using customs and language to facilitate).
Family meetings can be arranged by social workers and also play an important part in sharing information and engaging with whānau but should not be confused with or take the place of the hui-a-whānau process.
The aim of hui-a-whānau is to support and enhance the rights, participation and decision-making of tamariki and their whānau, hapū, iwi and support network as early possible. Hui-a-whānau are best led or co-facilitated by whānau themselves with support from community and/or Oranga Tamariki representatives. The process can be used to support a range of purposes including:
- engage whānau to share information about a concern and seek their participation to share their views, engage the right people, find solutions and resources
- ensure whānau understand the Oranga Tamariki processes so they are well informed to actively participate
- proactive planning around the safety and protection of tamariki and other needs they may have
- preparation for the family group conference
- transitions out of care
- sharing information or seeking resolution on particular matters
- supporting an application to be a caregiver.
Hui-a-whānau are guided by tikanga Māori (cultural practices). Hui-a-whānau will help better inform the whānau and practitioners, to ensure they have the opportunity to involve wider whānau support networks such as hapū, iwi and friends to participate in finding meaningful resources and interventions within a more informal setting to assist with the wellbeing of tamariki.
The hui-a-whānau model of Māori practice provides tamariki and whānau with the appropriate cultural mechanisms to engage comfortably in a forum to support their understanding of often confronting and traumatic issues. Therefore this process is important to ensure they are well informed to participate.
When to do it
Hui-a-whānau is most effective when used early in the process of responding to concerns about tamariki. It can however be used at numerous points, from report of concern throughout assessment, intervention and transition.
Hui-a-whānau provide opportunity to gather together to explore and identify resources and protective factors to keep children safe. It allows all parties attending to convey issues or concerns, to coordinate support and resources preventatively where possible with tamariki and whānau Māori. It is a vehicle that social workers can use proactively to mobilise whānau support to create tamariki safety when risks are present.
It’s important to remember that the hui-a-whānau process is all about working with whānau as their participation is essential in building their wellbeing aspirations for te tamaiti. Trust and transparency is paramount in utilising this engagement process of hui-a-whānau.
The approach is mana enhancing where one advances the values of tika, pono, mana, aroha, manaaki and whakapapa in the engagement process. The Te Toka Tumoana framework and Oranga Tamariki cultural framework can assist in applying these principles into practice.
Who can hold and facilitate hui-a-whānau
Initiating or facilitating hui-a-whānau can be undertaken by a whānau member (with a social worker attending to providing information) or a social worker. It can also be facilitated by an individual who is able to responsively apply Māori models of practice. This could include:
- a specialist Māori practitioner such as kairaranga-a-whānau
- another culturally competent Māori practitioner internal or external to Oranga Tamariki
- a culturally competent bicultural (non-Māori practitioner).
As the facilitation of a hui-a-whānau requires cultural competency this is best done by kairaranga-a-whānau, senior Māori practitioners or bicultural practitioners (non-Māori practitioners with a level of cultural competence who are able to facilitate a hui using te reo me ōna tikanga).
However, on sites still building this cultural capability engagement with those in the local Māori community (iwi/Māori NGOs to support this activity) may be necessary.
You can use the competency tool (Te Kete Ararau) and other Māori models of practice and tools to build confidence in applying tikanga Māori engagement within hui-a-whānau.
How to do it
A hui-a-whānau process can be metaphorically viewed like the shape of He Ika (a fish):
- Te Upoko — it has a head (Tīmatanga — opening protocol).
- Te Tinana — a body (Ngā kaupapa — the purpose of the gathering).
- Te Hiku – the tail (Whakamutunga — concluding protocol).
There may well be some slight variances to the processes laid out because of regional or local mana whenua tikanga but this pattern of hui engagement is well known to Māori.
1 Te Upoko (Tīmatanga)
When planning the hui-a-whānau you should have gathered information about the cultural capability of the whānau, such as if they have anyone attending who is able to facilitate the hui or lead/conduct whānau tikanga processes.
Begin with karakia by either inviting someone from the whānau to open with a karakia or be prepared to do that yourself. Then continue with a mihi formally welcoming participants to the hui-a-whānau and moving through common acknowledgements within mihi whakatau. Have a brief kai break.
2 Te Tinana (Ngā kaupapa)
When everyone is back from the break, have a whānaungatanga process that all participate in. This is a round of introductions where people describe their whakapapa connection/relationship to te tamaiti and how they have come to attend the hui-a-whānau. Ice breakers may be used to facilitate this part of the process. Ensure all whānau are able to participate comfortably.
The next phase is to facilitate/negotiate the tikanga to be used within the hui (rules of engagement) to help everyone interact with each other in a meaningful, respectful way. Modelling that tikanga, introduce the kaupapa/purpose for the hui.
The body of the hui-a-whānau will be determined by the kaupapa:
- Outline the kaupapa (purpose of the gathering) clearly and invite whānau first to share their understandings. The kaupapa may be difficult for whānau so allow time for their reactions and responses.
- Identify the key issues (current as well as historical/intergenerational) and invite whānau perspectives to broaden and deepen these understandings. Give clear messages and talk to the issues. Don’t make it personal.
- Explore the options (solutions/barriers/resources) to address those key issues, ensuring to obtain expertise/input from all present.
- Identify who else may need to be involved and if more whānau/whakapapa searching is required.
- Negotiate a way forward, for example, an oranga plan of care and support, or establishing a network.
3 Te Hiku (Whakamutunga)
The facilitator will clearly summarise the agreements reached at the hui and confirm with the hui. It is very important to verify agreement of the outcomes, and ensure they are recorded and everyone receives a copy. Everyone present has the opportunity to share their reflections.
The plan is confirmed, affirming each person’s role in supporting tamariki and their whānau, and a date is set for the next hui.
The hui-a-whānau ends with mihi, waiata and karakia whakamutunga.