Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Tamihere shuns family aid service

John Tamihere criticised schools principals at the Families Commission workshop. Photo / Natalie Slade
John Tamihere criticised schools principals at the Families Commission workshop. Photo / Natalie Slade

West Auckland Maori leader John Tamihere has told other social service agencies to "get out of the way" if they are not willing to co-operate with his Te Whanau o Waipareira Trust.

Mr Tamihere has refused to join a group, led by the Methodist Mission's Lifewise agency, which last month launched a new service for Maori families involved in police reports of family violence in the west.

"We don't participate with any group unless there is some convincing reason overriding why we would spend so much money on hoardings," he said.

He also criticised West Auckland school principals yesterday at a Families Commission forum on "working with vulnerable whanau and children".

The Waipareira Trust, which he has led since soon after leaving Parliament in 2005, is a partner in one of the first eight consortiums approved for funding under the Government's new "Whanau Ora" scheme, which aims to provide "wrap-around" services to families - not separate "silo" services for issues such as domestic violence or alcohol addictions.

Mr Tamihere said the consortium received a "letter of offer" a week ago and expects to get the first tranche of funding this month. Others in the consortium are the National Maori Urban Authority, Manukau Urban Maori Authority and Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa (Hamilton).

He said Waipareira knew the Maori families with problems in West Auckland and had built a computerised database linking the services they received from the trust's health, welfare and education arms.

He said Waipareira took referrals of men who had been involved in family violence, but it aimed to work with the whole whanau. He refused to work with the new Lifewise-led group partly because it would not share information.

"My books are open. They don't want to disclose where the money is going," he said.

His trust bought the West Auckland franchise for the Kip McGrath tutoring service 14 months ago because it was not happy with local schools.

"We are sick and tired of hearing that it's our solo mothers that are failing the schools, it's low-income families that are failing the schools," he said.

"We know it's our schools that are failing the families.

"We can't have our babies hitting secondary school and not being able to participate in the secondary school curriculum because they can't read and write and at no stage were we advised that it was a problem. So we support National Standards."

He said that stance "doesn't enamour us to the Principals' Association in our area".

"They say we are being judgmental on them. We have to be. We can't allow this spate of Maori boys, in particular, to fall out of secondary school without even level 1 NCEA."

The trust has also bought a private training company, Learning Post, to pick up young people who drop out of school. Its biggest programme is a Microsoft-sponsored certificate of computer essentials.

Mr Tamihere said the trust wanted to build on people's strengths.

"We don't look at a violent man. We look at a person in terms of where are they going," he said. "We are not policemen.

"We want to look at our people where their strengths are. We will have a conversation about how we can lift them off a strength base rather than regulate them ..."

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- NZ Herald

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