National | Māori

'We can achieve wonderful things' - Reducing child poverty for Māori whānau

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairperson Merepeka Raukawa-Tait says Ngā Tini Whetu lays out a blueprint to help reduce the child poverty crisis in Aotearoa. (file image) Photo: 123RF

By Pokere Paewai, RNZ

A whānau-centered programme has had a positive effect in reducing child poverty among Māori, according to two reports.

Ngā Tini Whetū is a prototype which has provided support to 800 whānau to improve the safety and wellbeing of tamariki, especially in their early life.

The two reports from Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency were released on 11 May at a ceremony at Ruapōtaka Marae in Glen Innes.

Minister of Whānau Ora Peeni Henare said the reports were validation for the work of the agency.

"These reports will show how with whānau-centered approach we can often curb, or even stop in many instances, some of the bad things that happen to whānau in caring for their tamariki, and that's why I'm probably the most excited about it."

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairperson Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said Ngā Tini Whetu laid out a blueprint to help reduce the child poverty crisis in Aotearoa, and the outcomes had been amazing.

A different approach from the status quo was required to ensure Māori children did not continue to live in poverty for the next 20 to 30 years, Raukawa-Tait said.

"I think the challenge initially from government agencies was, first of all, they've got to be prepared to look at it in a different way, that they don't have all the answers," she said.

"So that means consulting more, engaging more, understanding that our whānau - given the right support - will be able to step up and start to think about a better future for their families."

Henare said he would like to see more support for whānau-centered initiatives from other agencies.

The kaupapa of Ngā Tini Whetu showed devolution brought benefits to Māori communities, he said.

"What this report will show is that actually when agencies, Crown agencies, work together, and in some cases relinquish authority, and they allow community and whānau to meet their aspirations and to halt the pathway for tamariki into state care then we can achieve wonderful things."

Ngā Tini Whetu was jointly funded through Te Puni Kōkiri, ACC and Oranga Tamariki, providing just over $42 million over two years.

Raukawa-Tait said reducing child poverty required cooperation from various government organisations.

"This is really another form of people working collaboratively, whether you call it co-governance, whether you call it different partnerships, it's really about the opportunity for systems change to occur," she said.

"Because if we continue to use the same old systems, you know, do a tweak here and a tweak there, you won't have the enduring change that we require."