Analysis of the Characteristics of Whānau in New Zealand

Publication Details

This report was commissioned in early 2005 by the Ministry of Education. Its intention is to give an understanding of what the concept of whanau means within Aotearoa, and specifically what such meaning may have with regard to the educational learning of children/tamariki who reside in whanau.

Author(s): Chris Cunningham, Brenda Stevenson, Natasha Tassel, Research Centre for Māori Health and Development, School of Māori Studies, Massey University. Report Commissioned for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: May 2005

Executive Summary

Whākapapa-based whānau are a diffuse unit based on a common Whākapapa, descent from a  shared ancestor or ancestors, and within which certain responsibilities and obligation are maintained. Customary concepts of Whānau are founded on a set of underlying principles which together compromise a whānau model. The Whānau model can be transported outside of the Whākapapa group to other social grouping to give rise to the kaupapa-based whānau.

Kaupapa-based whānau share a common bond, other than descent, it may be geographical location or a shared purpose. Kaupapa-based Whānau are important in their contribution to Māori educational outcomes, perhaps through provision of social support, peer tutoring or through support of the Māori language. Further, Whākapapa-based whānau are distinct in that all Māori have connections to a Whākapapa-based whānau which has links to the land and is a potential source of health promoting resources, the Whākapapa-based Whānau has been identified by Māori as an appropriate vehicle for Māori development, and, the Whākapapa-based Whānau is recognised in both Government policy and in law.

Whānau in contemporary New Zealand are diverse, yet there are a number of distinguishing characteristics. Section 4 has four whānau vignettes which describe Whānau.

Finally two analytical frameworks are given. Founded on a Whākapapa-based definition of whānau are Whākamatauranga whānau and Whākapiripiri whānau. Whākamatauranga Whānau is a framework to conceptualise education outcomes in relation to whānau practices, whānau interactions and Whānau economic arangements. Whākapiripiri whānau is a framework to conceptualise Whānaungatanga and locates education and learnining outcomes as a function of whānau.

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