Johnnie and Kerrie – A doubled-hulled waka at Oranga Tamariki

Published: February 16, 2024

Johnnie and Kerrie and the role of kairaranga ā-whānau at Oranga Tamariki.


Johnnie and Kerrie – A double hulled waka

Video transcript

Kerrie: Greetings. I’m Kerrie Blackmore Freeland. I work at Reconnect Family Services. I’m a cultural leader for the organisation. 

My role in the organisation as the cultural leader is to support the staff, to better meet the needs of the young people that we’re caring for, and also to ensure that we as an organisation are doing things in a way that is tika and pono for our whānau. 

I got into foster care when I was around 7 or 8. A concerned neighbour noticed my mother leaving our house with some suitcases so she rung the police and I got uplifted, myself and another young girl. Back in those days there was no domestic purposes benefit so she was just a solo mum. She came home later that night to find out that we were taken. 

One of my newest achievements and one that I never thought would ever happen to myself personally was I have just graduated for my Masters in Applied Indigenous Knowledge through Te Wananga o Aotearoa and honestly I stood on stage just a few months ago very proud considering I haven’t even got my School C. 

Yeah so I dropped out of school really young and had a child really young so to achieve this Masters was a real big deal and there were lots of tears, there was lots of doubt. But on the other side I can say it was the hugest sense of accomplishment.

The beautiful thing about completing the Masters of Applied Indigenous Knowledge, it was a team effort. My husband and I were able to journey together and we actually described ourselves as a double hulled waka lashed together on the kaupapa of Te Whai Oranga (living life). Each hull had its own mana and we were able to journey the academic ocean together in that way.

Johnnie: My name is Johnnie Freeland, I’m the Pae Arahi Huanga Māori o Tāmaki Makaurau. Greetings. I’m what we describe as the Māori Navigator for Oranga Tamariki within the rohe of Tāmaki Makaurau. 

Yeah we found ourselves in what we call this Whai Oranga space in serving our tamariki and mokopuna. I serve from the waka of Oranga Tamariki and Kerrie serves from the waka of Reconnect Children and Family Services. So it’s been a new and exciting space for us as husband and wife. 

Kerrie: What also has occurred is I’ve actually run a foster home as well in later life so that lived experience has really helped me understand sort of where some of our people are at the time that they come into care. 

Johnnie: I grew up in an environment where mum and dad were emergency foster care parents going back to our mātua whāngai days you know, 1980s so it was common for us to wake up in the morning and have a new brother and sister with us in our home. The police or social welfare or even Māori Affairs would bring whānau, tamariki home in the middle of the night. It’s just part of our upbringing.

So the mahi within what Kerrie does with Reconnect and my mahi within Oranga Tamariki is an extension of that service. 

I think that lived experience offers us two things: real great humility and an understanding what our whanau and tamariki are going through and also brings the ngākau (heart) to the mahi. 

In my experience the need hasn’t changed in 30 years from when I was a kid through to what I’m witnessing now and something that mum and our kaumatua have sort of put us in those roles since we were kids. 

Lived experience is so important and certainly in the way we are as a couple and those role models around us. 

Within the last six weeks we also have been really privileged to take on our mokopapa with Kerrie and her Moko Kauae (Chin Tattoo) and my Mataora (Facial Tattoo). It’s been part of our Whai Oranga journey together and around the regeneration and celebration of whakapapa (genealogy).

Johnnie Freeland and his wife Kerrie Blackmore Freeland both experienced foster care during their childhood.

Kerrie entered foster care when she was just 7 years old. Later in life she also managed a care home. She says her lived experience has helped her to understand why tamariki and rangatahi come into care.

Johnnie’s parents were emergency caregivers in the 1980s. So, he says it was common for him and his siblings to wake up in the morning to a new brother or sister.

Today they're proud employees of Oranga Tamariki.

Their mahi with Oranga Tamariki

Johnnie is the Site Manager at Pukekohekohe for Service Delivery in South Tāmaki Makaurau. He is of Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua, Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Apakura, Ngāi Tuhoe and Ngāpuhi descent. 

“Being in this role gives me an opportunity to work alongside local iwi and hapū in a way that acknowledges and upholds tikanga of the people in the area.” Johnnie says.

Johnnie was also the Pae Arahi Huanga Māori o Tāmaki Makaurau between 2017 and 2021.”

His role aimed to help shape the future of how Oranga Tamariki works together with Māori in achieving better outcomes. 

Kerrie, of Ngāti Whātua and Ngāti Rangiwewehi, is a Kairaranga ā-whānau, a specialist Māori role. The literal meaning of the term is: a person who is a weaver of family connections.

Kerrie says "the most rewarding part about my role is when I see whānau reunited and we can step aside to let them have their own mana motuhake and determine for themselves what's the best pathway forward."

Kerrie has also been a Cultural Leader at Reconnect Family Services in South Auckland, which works in partnership with Oranga Tamariki. She worked with young people and whānau to inspire positive modelling and influencing through mātauranga Māori.

The role of a kairaranga ā-whānau

Their role includes:

  • identifying and engaging significant whānau, hapū and iwi members in decision-making for their tamariki (as early as possible).
  • supporting and/or facilitating hui ā-whānau and assisting Oranga Tamariki staff to integrate appropriate cultural knowledge and practice into the decision-making processes, such as in the case consult etc.

Early involvement of kairaranga ā-whānau ensures that tamariki Māori have their right to whānau, hapū and iwi Māori connection met. Oranga Tamariki based kairaranga ā-whānau work towards achieving the objectives of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 for improving outcomes for Māori and are guided by Te Toka Tūmoana Indigenous and Bicultural Wellbeing Principled Practice Framework, our Māori cultural tool and other Māori models of practice.

While this role primarily has a care and protection focus the functions can assist in youth justice and other practice within Oranga Tamariki.

Bringing the ngākau (heart) to the work

The couple say their lived experience offers 2 things, great humility and understanding of what whānau and tamariki are going through when they become involved with Oranga Tamariki.

As part of their journey the couple made a decision to pursue a Masters degree together and graduated this year.

They also received their Moko Kauae (chin tattoo) and Mataora (Facial Tattoo) to celebrate the regeneration of whakapapa.