Lakeview School celebrated the historic opening within its gates on Friday of the first multi-agency and Maori-based community support centre of its kind in New Zealand.
Principal Ed Hodgkinson said the school and Maori health group Te Hauora Runanga Wairarapa were lead partners in the Ka Rewa Centre, which also partners Rangitane o Wairarapa and Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa iwi authorities, Whaiora Maori health service, the Supporting Families agency, and Regional Public Health.
Mr Hodgkinson was aware of only one other similar programme, which is running out of Victory School in Nelson, although the Ka Rewa Centre was uniquely "rooted in kaupapa Maori" and followed Maori precepts and principles of health, welfare and well-being.
Community representatives at the opening sat alongside the entire school roll of 410 pupils, from new entrants through to Year 8, and included Lakeview School trustee Nevin Broughton, Masterton District councillor Jonathan Hooker, Rangitane o Wairarapa kaumatua Mike Kawana, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa chief executive PJ Devonshire, Te Hauora manager Louise Ihimaera, Regional Public Health manager Peter Gush and scores of parents and school community members.
Mr Hodgkinson said the centre had been about four years in the making and was the culmination of the $60,000 Ka Rewa programme that had initially brought together Te Hauora and Lakeview with the aim of "building resilience in our Maori children".
He said the school roll was almost 60 per cent Maori, and about 10 per cent Samoan, and the Ka Rewa centre aimed to take all pupils under its wings "from a Maori perspective".
He said two rooms within the centre were set aside for the ongoing delivery of the Ka Rewa programme, and "the other side will house complementary programmes running hand-in-hand" with the foundation scheme.
"Children are not islands. They are surrounded by whanau and it is them that we will be reaching out to through Ka Rewa -- our whanau, our community," he said.
"This type of community centre inside a school that is working to support its children, whanau and community really is amazing and very important for us," he said.
"We know as staff and students we can do only so much but we can't do it all and for our tamariki to succeed we need support from their whanau and this is a way to help our whanau to be the best they can be.
"We're all invested in making this work because we believe that it could make such a big difference to our community."
He said the centre's focus runs wider than just health and will also provide support "for example, around gambling addiction, budgeting, and mental health issues".
He said prospective centre users are able to self-refer "for budgetting, say, or advice and support for looking after their child at home or help with health issues" or the school will refer people in need of support.