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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/working-with-maori/how-to-work-effectively-with-maori/practice-for-working-effectively-with-maori/kairaranga-a-whanau/
Printed: 14/12/2019
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Last updated: 11/11/2019

Kairaranga ā-whānau

Kairaranga ā-whānau is a specialist Māori role. The literal meaning of the term is: a person who is a weaver of family connections.

The role of a kairaranga ā-whānau

Their role includes:

  • identifying and engaging significant whānau, hapū and iwi members in decision-making for their tamariki (as early as possible)
  • supporting and/or facilitating hui ā-whānau and assisting Oranga Tamariki staff to integrate appropriate cultural knowledge and practice into the decision-making processes, such as in the case consult etc. 

Early involvement of kairaranga ā-whānau ensures that tamariki Māori have their right to whānau, hapū and iwi Māori connection met. Oranga Tamariki based kairaranga ā-whānau work towards achieving the objectives of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 for improving outcomes for Māori and are guided by Te Toka Tūmoana Indigenous and Bicultural Wellbeing Principled Practice Framework, our Māori cultural tool and other Māori models of practice. 

While this role primarily has a care and protection focus the functions can assist in youth justice and other practice within Oranga Tamariki. 

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

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Our Māori cultural framework

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
  • 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.

Other names for this role

The kairaranga ā-whānau role may have different names depending on the tikanga or customs of mana whenua (the local  whānau, hapū and iwi in the area). Some of the names used now include kairaranga-a-whānau, kairangahau-a-whānau, kaitiaki or kaiwhakawhanaungatanga. The general sense of meaning across these names is that of a person who weaves and connects together families, whānau, hapū, iwi and whakapapa (people, places and values).

Context for the role

Tamariki and whānau Māori participation in decision-making is critical for all of our work with tamariki Māori. It’s an expectation set through legislation and is reinforced by our knowledge of best practices in working with tamariki and whānau Māori generally. The Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 also reinforces the right for all tamariki Māori to be connected to whānau, hapū and iwi Māori.

Section 5 provisions put emphasis on mana tamaiti and the protection of the wellbeing of te tamaiti through recognition of their whakapapa and the whanaungatanga responsibilities of their whānau (family), hapū (tūpuna/ancestor based family groups), and iwi (nation based genealogical groupings).

Section 7AA requires the chief executive to recognise and provide a practical commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and ensure that policies and practices are reducing disparities.

The National Care Standards and many of our operational policies focus strongly on the need for connections to be made for tamariki with their whānau (wherever possible), their hapū, iwi and wider communities. This requires the leadership of staff with specialised cultural knowledge, skills and lived experienced.

The tikanga-based practices of kairaranga ā-whānau naturally demonstrate and contribute to the section 7AA legislation and bring to life the practice principles of Te Toka Tūmoana, for example:

  • whakapapa (identity and belonging)
  • wairuatanga (Māori values and beliefs)
  • kaitiakitanga (protection and safety roles)
  • tikanga (skill sets and processes for engagement)
  • whakamanawa (identifying barriers to navigate).

They also give expression to the Oranga Tamariki practice standards, including:

Whakamana te tamaiti: Practice empowering tamariki Māori

See and engage tamariki

See and engage whānau, wider family, caregivers and when appropriate victims of offending by tamariki

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

What a kairaranga ā-whānau does

Kairaranga ā-whānau have a unique role in working closely with tamariki and whānau Māori who have most often experienced historical, intergenerational and present-day trauma (trampling of mana and violation of tapu). 

They have the expertise to connect with them in ways that are trauma responsive, supportive of healing and restorative of mana (mana-enhancing practice). They bring specific cultural skills, knowledge, wisdom and experience to help them establish strong, trusting and culturally responsive relationships.

Kairaranga ā-whānau help tamariki to strengthen their whanaungatanga relationships with their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Kairaranga ā-whānau also identify whakapapa connections that affirm positive identity, cultural connectedness, belonging and self-worth for tamariki with:

  • people, such as whānau treasures, stories and genealogy
  • places, such as sites of historical significance to te tamaiti
  • values/beliefs, such as Te Ao Māori, the Māori world
  • events, such as whānau reunions, birthdays, unveilings, hui a tau, sports or cultural iwi events, te Matatini.

Whakamana te tamaiti: Practice empowering tamariki Māori

Indigenous theory

Trauma-informed practice

Core activities

There are 5 core activities in the kairaranga ā-whānau role.

1. Whānau searching for tamariki

The purpose of whānau searching is to widen the network of whānau who can be involved in making good decisions for their own tamariki. Usual practice is to identify 3 generations for the genogram recorded on CYRAS (tamariki, mātua, koroua/kuia) then extending out to aunts, uncles, cousins and others.

In the first instance whānau searching is the role of the social worker and coordinators. A referral to a kairaranga ā-whānau is made for whānau searching when the social worker is unable to identify whānau connections or there is a need to search more widely.

Whānau searching

2. Whakapapa researching for tamariki

Whakapapa research focuses on identifying all of the iwi affiliations (both maternal and paternal), people, places, values/beliefs and events that will provide tamariki with access to important cultural connections for their sense of belonging, wellbeing and identity. It becomes a taonga/treasure for te tamaiti and also their whānau. Whakapapa research is undertaken by a specialist cultural role such as kairaranga ā-whānau. Sometimes a degree of whakapapa research is needed to inform a whānau search.

Whakapapa research

3. Hui ā-whānau

Hui ā-whānau are a whānau gathering or hui facilitated using Māori methods of engagement and protocols (te reo me ōna tikanga). They are initiated and facilitated by either whānau themselves or Oranga Tamariki staff. The aim of hui ā-whānau is to support and enhance the participation and decision-making of tamariki and their whānau, hapū, iwi and support network (whanaungatanga).

A hui ā-whānau coud be used to prepare for an event which could be a larger hui ā-whānau, family group conference, transition from care, transition to independence or any other event where we need whānau and tamariki participation in decision-making.

More than 1 hui ā-whānau may be held with various whānau members for a range of purposes, including:

  • sharing and/or clarifying information
  • helping to address tensions that may prevent some significant whānau from attending an event
  • growing the trust of whānau to support them to meaningfully participate in decision-making. 

Hui ā-whānau

4. Whānau hui

Whānau hui is the prerogative of whānau and is initiated and run by the whānau. The role of kairaranga ā-whānau in this situation is to ensure that whānau Māori have access to the right information. Sometimes the kairaranga ā-whānau may enter into a stronger role at the request of whānau who may lack the resources and capability to effectively use whānau hui. In this situation the aim of a whānau hui is to strengthen and build whānau capability and capacity to facilitate, determine and run their own whānau hui in a way that magnifies participation and decision-making of tamariki and their whānau, hapū and iwi.

5. Addressing barriers to whānau engagement

Kairaranga ā-whānau can assist in overcoming common participation barriers experienced by tamariki and whānau Māori. 

Common barriers may include:

  • post-colonisation impacts, such as marginalisation from whenua, tikanga, te reo, whānau, hapū and iwi Māori, which could inhibit tamariki from engaging with their whānau, hapū and iwi
  • distrust of Oranga Tamariki
  • living out of their tribal area
  • estrangement from their whānau and culture
  • previous engagement with Oranga Tamariki, working with whānau who are historically resistant to Oranga Tamariki
  • whakapapa being viewed as a taonga and as a result there could be restrictions to sharing with people outside of their whānau.

Additional activities

Additional activities may be carried out by kairaranga ā-whānau and these should be negotiated with the site manager to ensure these do not impede the core role of the kairaranga ā-whānau. This may include support to strengthen Oranga Tamariki relationships with hapū and iwi.

When to refer to kairaranga ā-whānau

Kairaranga ā-whānau can be engaged to support any of these parts of the process for tamariki Māori. If a kairaranga ā-whānau isn’t available, you should still consider how relevant cultural knowledge and expertise can be brought into each of these activities.