Whanau Ora is for all New Zealanders

By Maori Party co-leader, Whanau Ora Minister, Tariana Turia

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Maori Party co-leader and Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia shares how empowering families to take care of themselves will help them grow a better tomorrow for the country.

We believe Whanau Ora can transform our communities. It is about restoring decision-making back to them.

E nga mana, e nga waka o nga hau e wha, tena koutou katoa.

I am taking this opportunity to share the Whanau Ora initiative's successes in improving the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. Whanau Ora is a long-term, holistic approach involving whanau or extended families, hapu, iwi, marae, community groups and Government agencies. It is about families taking responsibility for their own lives and determining their own destiny. It is about realising our collective potential to make those changes to participate fully in the social and economic development of our country.

In the long-term, we believe Whanau Ora can transform our communities. It is about restoring decision-making back to them rather than having the State make the decisions for them.

Since its inception in 2010, we have developed Whanau Ora collectives which are developing appropriate services and processes to meet this change in approach.

There are now 34 Whanau Ora collectives representing more than 180 providers. More than 3000 whanau and 33,000 individuals have set their whanau planning activities in motion through involvement in the Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement Fund.

The key to Whanau Ora lies in supporting families to realise the power they have within themselves to change the future. It is about bringing people together, and reconnecting them to their greatest support base, their families.

Families involved in Whanau Ora say the most important part of their planning for their wellbeing is whakawhanaungatanga or being able to rekindle ties with the extended family and discussing the issues facing them which opens up a whole new world of opportunities to both provide and receive support.

Along the way, whanau discover the specialist support required to help achieve goals and have better access to health, social services and education services.

For example, a young couple with a two-year-old child living with extended family asked for assistance. They were struggling financially and the father seemed unmotivated. A Whanau Ora navigator discovered that rather than being unmotivated to find work, the father lacked knowledge about how to gain a heavy machinery licence. Two years on, this family has moved into a rented home and are working their way out of debt.

We believe the collective success of families such as this contributes to a stronger and healthier community. While Whanau Ora is still relatively new, we already see successes with the uptake of stress management workshops, anti-violence programmes and more involvement of elders in their families' lives.

Community and Government policy may seem worlds apart, but Whanau Ora families are developing their own goals, which reflect the Government's goals such as 'Supporting Vulnerable Children', with improved uptake of immunisations, increased pre-school enrolments and caregivers attending parenting programmes. Nationally these seemingly small gains make a huge difference for vulnerable and disengaged families.

I know collective potential is being recognised in other sectors of the community. I acknowledge leading export industry representatives like Federated Farmers for being part of the Maori Economic Development Panel, which is tasked to help realise the Maori economy's potential. A range of opportunities where whanau, collectives, enterprises, Government and the private sector can work together to increase Maori participation in the primary sector has been identified. Eighty per cent of Maori land is under-utilised. The Maori unemployment rate is currently around 15 per cent.

All of this impacts the wealth-generating abilities of whanau and, as such, remains a key priority for our future planning. With your collective knowledge and will to participate, we can begin to reverse these unacceptable statistics.

- Hamilton News

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