Creating a home away from home

03 September 2021

When kaimahi found five teenage boys cleaning Takanini Library’s dedicated public kitchen, they knew they had created something special. 

It’s the result of extensive research and change being led by The Southern Initiative Specialist Advisor Tamariki Wellbeing, Roimata Taniwha-Paoo, in partnership with Auckland Libraries.

The Creating Home initiative came out of insights from a report on The Early Years challenge, which focused on the first thousand days of tamariki lives.

“The overall question was how can we create better outcomes for whānau in South Auckland,” says Roimata.

Mum and daughter reading book at the library
Mum and daughter reading book at the library

Safe spaces to parent

“Whānau told us they needed somewhere they could parent outside of their home because their home wasn’t always safe, was cold or they were living with people who weren’t great with their babies during the day.”

Roimata, who used to work for Ōtara Library, is no stranger to creating comfortable spaces for whānau, having previously made changes to that library’s ‘age-old system’.

We work within a system that says ‘you can’t eat in a library’ and there are so many rules. But we chucked all those out to do what was needed.

Tikanga Māori and whānau voice at the heart

“It was important that whānau felt they were part of the change-making process and that they could see their kōrero being prioritised.”

Roimata and her team worked with people from outside of the library system, with the only prerequisite being they had to be a parent.

"We were intentional about working with whānau who were disconnected, struggling or who were isolated."

The team sat in waiting rooms at Work and Income to connect with whānau, as well as meeting with those who use their local library.

“The insights told us that whānau wanted to be in a space with people who looked like them and who knew what they had been through.”

Achieving systemic change within community facilities

As a result, there is now a recruitment drive to ensure those working at the library “look like the community” and Auckland Libraries is implementing the ‘five minimums’ as core components in new builds. They are:

  1. a warm welcome
  2. somewhere to feed baby
  3. access to baby changing space
  4. a space to connect with others
  5. access to a kitchen.

Roimata says the basis of this initiative was and aroha.

When staff demonstrated manaakitanga for each other, this manaakitanga could then be extended to whānau who together would infuse manaakitanga into the space.

Takanini Library is an embodiment of ‘Creating Home’, says Roimata. The dreams of whānau have been made into reality – right down to the māmā who wanted a slide.

“A lot of our māmā said ‘how cool would it be if the first thing you see when you walked in was a kitchen instead of a reception’. So that’s now the first thing you see at Takanini and it’s open to everybody.”

Do you have a great idea?

This community project was made possible with support from the Tākai Local Initiative Fund. Get in touch if you have a great idea to make positive change for whānau in your community.

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