Report on experiences of takatāpui & rainbow rangatahi in care

Published: June 16, 2023 · Updated: July 11, 2023

Making Ourselves Visible is a report commissioned by Oranga Tamariki on the experiences of takatāpui and rainbow rangatahi in care, delivered by a community design team of researchers, counsellors, rainbow advocates, and care-experienced rainbow rangatahi.

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Making Ourselves Visible.

In 2021, Oranga Tamariki commissioned a community insights project to make visible the lived experiences of takatāpui and rainbow rangatahi in care, a part of our care population we knew very little about at the time.

We made a deliberate decision to hand over design and delivery to an independent community design team of researchers, counsellors, rainbow advocates, and care-experienced rainbow rangatahi. The community design team were supported by an external Project Navigator from Point and Associates.

Care-experienced rainbow rangatahi from the community design team were supported to carry out peer-to-peer interviews for this project. This helped create a safe space for rainbow and takatāpui rangatahi to talk about their experiences with people they could identify with and trust.

Insights from the project have now been shared in a report called Making Ourselves Visible published on the Te Ngākau Kahukura website, one of the many rainbow community groups that were involved in this project.

Making Ourselves Visible details the experiences of 9 takatāpui and rainbow rangatahi aged 14-23 years who are, or have been, in our care.

What we’ve learned from Making Ourselves Visible

The report identifies significant challenges experienced by rainbow and takatāpui rangatahi around their physical and mental safety whilst in care and makes 46 recommendations for how we can improve their experiences and uphold their rights.

Findings from the report also share examples of rangatahi who had positive experiences with social workers, caregivers and peers, and the difference that made for them. These rangatahi identify that feeling understood, respected, and loved for who they are was life-changing for them.

Information gathered in this report is critical to our mahi as it provides insight into experiences and outcomes for takatāpui and rainbow rangatahi in the care of Oranga Tamariki and what needs to change.

Getting the right tools, resources and training in place

This project has been a small but important step in building trust between rainbow communities and Oranga Tamariki.

Our Tumu Tauwhiro, Chief Social Worker Peter Whitcombe is now leading the development of a work programme to respond to the recommendations made in Making Ourselves Visible.

Peter says 'Our work programme will support social workers, youth workers and carers to engage, understand and meet the holistic needs of young people who identify as takatāpui and rainbow.

'This mahi will be supported by 3 new dedicated rainbow roles and the establishment of a takatāpui and rainbow external advisory function for Oranga Tamariki. We will also continue to work closely with our internal employee-led Rainbow Network.'

'In the coming year we will work closely with the advisory group to review and consider changes needed to practice policies and guidance and establish specific learning opportunities as part of our professional development offer.'

Supporting a broader response

Oranga Tamariki can’t make all the changes needed alone and is committed to working alongside rainbow communities and our partner agencies to address the recommendations and shape up the work programme. 

There is an enormous opportunity to provide a cross-government response that prioritises and supports takatāpui and rainbow tamariki and rangatahi through the multi-agency Oranga Tamariki Action Plan.

Social workers and carers need to ensure that the safety and wellbeing needs of tamariki and rangatahi are met, but as an Action Plan partner, we have an additional responsibility to ensure access is available to the right kinds of specialist supports that they might need, including specialist health services.

Useful resources

Part of our rainbow work programme will include developing further guidance to support delivering better experiences and upholding the rights of takatāpui and rainbow rangatahi in care.

While this work is underway, there is a wealth of community sources of information and research to help build awareness and understanding of rainbow and takatāpui:


Community resources

  • Supporting Aotearoa’s Rainbow People was developed as a guide for the mental health sector, but is a good introduction to rainbow identities and experiences.
  • Takatāpui: Part of the Whānau shares stories and information about takatāpui identity, wellbeing and suicide prevention.
  • Rainbow Youth work towards creating social change by providing support, information, resources and advocacy for queer, gender diverse, takatāpui and intersex young people across Aotearoa. 
  • Tīwhanawhana – a takatāpui community group based in Wellington that welcomes people of diverse sexualities and gender identity. 
  • Te Ngākau Kahukura work across a range of kaupapa and sectors to build understanding, embed rainbow-competent practice and grow the capacity of people who are making change. 
  • OutLine – an all-ages rainbow mental health organisation providing support to the rainbow community, their friends, whānau, and those questioning.
  • Rainbow Rights in Aotearoa has a short guide to childrens' rights at home, including if they’re living in state care.