Developing effective Māori centred social work practices

Published: April 16, 2021

Oranga Tamariki's Professional Practice Group commissioned research to support their efforts to transform social work practice towards operating from a Māori centred space, where Te Ao Māori world views are prioritised.


The two evidence briefs, Assessment models, methodologies and approaches and Māori centred social work practice, had a common focus on evidence of best practice, and what was known to work for Māori, but took different approaches. The approaches sought needed to be able to deliver benefits specifically for Māori, as well as tauiwi (non-Māori).

Both reports will inform the development of practice guidance as appropriate. This is in keeping with a mana-enhancing paradigm where knowledge from differing worldviews is considered for the benefits it may bring to Māori.

Key findings

Assessment models, methodologies and approaches found a wide range of decision-making frameworks and tools were being used within child welfare and protection contexts. This report found that structured empirical tools are best used in combination with more qualitative approaches, such as shared decision-making and practice experience

The report also found that there are many factors that play a part in caseworker decision-making, including having adequate time and resourcing, and organisational support, and caseworkers’ own beliefs and attitudes.

Māori centred social work practice found the following were key components of a Māori centred approach to social work practice:

  • A philosophical foundation grounded in Te Ao Māori concepts
  • Recognition of the rights and obligations Māori possess under te Tiriti
  • Māori centred approaches occur in a relationship space between Māori and Tauiwi 
  • Recognition that control largely resides in the mainstream system.

Mana-enhancing social work practice modelled mutual respect and commitment and was considered applicable for all social workers and people working in service design. In terms of a quality assessment model, key components included:

  • Embedded mātauranga Māori and tikanga
  • Meaningful whānau involvement
  • Knowledge of Whānau Ora philosophy and whānau-centred best practice
  • Recognition of the diversity of Māori realities and identities.