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The tuakana/teina relationship is important in traditional Māori whānau. Tuakana are the elder whānau members and teina the younger, but it is extended in other ways. A whānau worker can foster those relationships.

On page 7 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1, it explains that tuakana and teina are Māori terms describing relationships between siblings and cousins. The tuakana are the elder siblings and the teina are the younger ones. Tuakana can have a powerful impact as role models, and there’s an expectation that they look out for their teina. Traditional roles on the marae, such as whaikōrero and karanga, are tuakana responsibilities. However, this can be determined by the whānau.

An example of an iwi leader taking on tuakana roles is Ngāti Toa rangatira (leader) Te Rauparaha. Although he wasn’t the most senior chief of the tribe, he became the head of his iwi due to his leadership and strategic military skills.

The concept of tuakana/teina can relate to experienced parents acting as tuakana to parents who are new to parenting or less experienced.

Tuakana/teina is important in traditional Māori whānau and society as it defines roles and responsibilities within the whānau. These days, it is often used in education settings, whether in early childhood environments, at schools or in adult learning situations. It’s also related to ‘ako’ where learning and teaching are happening simultaneously within a relationship.

As a family worker, you will be noticing the relationships within the whānau. You have a role in supporting and promoting positive relationships. This includes relationships between parents and their tamariki, between the parents themselves and between the wider whānau and the community. You will be looking for ways to help connect parents with others who may be able to provide that tuakana support.

Page 10 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1 mentions pretend play as a fun way to share whānau values and routines. Pēpi is at an age to enjoy all sorts of activities, especially alongside others. Pretend play is often enjoyed by siblings as they experiment with and practise adult roles. This is a perfect vehicle for parents to encourage tuakana/teina responsibilities.

‘Play is a rehearsal for the complexities of life.’

Other resources

Tatari, tautoko, tauawhi | Vimeo(external link) Watch this short film showing tuakana/teina relationships in a primary school setting.

Tuakana teina | Ako Aotearoa(external link) Listen to Tamati Waaka and Phil Kane talking about traditional tikanga and how they translate into today's world.

Tūranga i te hapori | Status in Māori society(external link) This article explains the place of tuakana/teina in the creation story.

Whānau | Māori and family(external link) Read this explanation of tuakana/teina relationships within the wider whānau Māori.