Growing identity and culture in tamariki

10 June 2022

The team at Birthright Levin, Frances, Pera and Emma have joined forces to support whānau who are led by one parent in the townships of Ōtaki and Foxton.

One of their first steps was to hear directly from whānau about their parenting challenges and how to best support them.

"The initial interviews helped us to develop closer relationships with a cross section of whānau. They shared both the challenges and the great things about living in a small town," Pera said.

Ōtaki may not have all the support services at our doorstep, but many feel it is a protective and supportive community in which to live. The ready access to te taiao, the natural world, is a real asset.

Girl taking young girl on shoulder ride
Girl taking young girl on shoulder ride

Many whānau did share their worries, particularly the lack of affordable and suitable housing available locally. Others had suggestions such as establishing a local ‘time out space’ for parents where they could bring their tamariki along and take a short break with another trusting adult.

The COVID-19 lockdown highlighted the concerns of parents who are leading a young family on their own. It can be hard enough some days but when you add in the complications the pandemic brought, many whānau had a really tough time.

"We saw mums giving birth without any whānau alongside them, tangihanga being delayed, and tikanga disregarded due to the restrictions of lockdown. Parents were feeling isolated, worried about finances and job losses. Monitoring tamariki and supporting their home schooling was really overwhelming for some," says Pera.

Just having a friendly face at the gate dropping off kai or on the other end of the phone was a real life saver for many whānau.

Nā to rourou, nā taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi

Emma said in Foxton Beach a school based kapa haka group that was initially set up to help keep tamariki safe and offer them something to do after school, grew into something much deeper and wider.

As the interest grew, they saw whānau coming along to the school who hadn’t done so before. The kapa haka leaders not only saw tamariki learning waiata and te reo Māori, but also saw their growing sense of identity and appreciation of their culture.

Emma said the tamariki discovered there was more to being part of the group than just their performance. There were expectations on their behaviour – the need to respect others was part of the of the group.

Some students really blossomed in this environment and were evolving as leaders rather than being seen as naughty or wayward as they may have been previously.

Other schools in the town showed an interest in setting up similar groups. As a result a ‘Foxton Kids’ kapa haka group was set up, bringing tamariki and their whānau from across the other local schools all together.


Poipoia te kākano, kia puāwai

Through whānau coming together other ideas for collaborative support emerged. A group called was set up for kaumātua, many who were raising mokopuna or had experience raising their mokopuna. It was clear that many of these kaumātua were putting the needs of their moko before their own, particularly their health needs.

Held at the local health centre, in the hopes of encouraging further engagement with the health services, the space was set up to pamper these grandparents. They could have pedicures, and share a kai and a kōrero all while relaxing and enjoying some old school waiata Māori.

Another local mum with expertise in fitness and postnatal rehab led exercises for other new mums who’d recently given birth. Meeting in a local school allowed them to bring their tamariki along too.

These are just some of the kaupapa that local whānau are leading to create a thriving village raising children together. Birthright Horowhenua are keen to further explore where and how other ideas that are given a little nurturing can also blossom and continue to grow.

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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