Te Toka Tūmoana: Tangata whenua and bi-cultural principled wellbeing framework

Published: October 21, 2021

This suite of three papers describes the whakapapa, or genesis, of Te Toka Tūmoana over the period 2013-2016, and the subsequent documentation of the mana-enhancing paradigm.


These papers describe the evidence gathering and consultation that has underpinned Oranga Tamariki’s more recent commitment to move frontline social work practice to a Māori-centred approach.

1. Te Ao Kohatu – Principled framing of best practice with Mokopuna Māori

The purpose of this literature review was to:

  • Examine the national and international literature on Indigenous theoretical frameworks and their applications to social work practice.
  • Inform the development of an Indigenous and bi-cultural principled framework, in the context of statutory social work, to advance mokopuna and whānau wellbeing.

Key Findings

  • Indigenous children are overrepresented in every phase of child welfare intervention
  • Many Indigenous communities experience high levels of intergenerational trauma as a result of colonisation, with its associated social and economic disadvantage which impacts on the wellbeing of their children.
  • There is scarce literature on Indigenous social work theoretical and practice frameworks within statutory social work. However, Indigenous social work that is guided by Indigenous participation and experiences has, at its heart, human rights and social justice.
  • Kaupapa Māori theoretical frameworks are grounded on the notion that te reo and tikanga Māori are both valid and legitimate, and provide both the conceptual understandings and practices to bring about change for Māori whānau.
  • A bi-cultural approach, which combines the knowledge and practice that both Māori and tauiwi bring to social work practice allows workers to develop culturally sensitive and responsive practice.
  • The notion of self-determination, partnership and indigenous rights that underpin contemporary culturally responsive social work practice in Aotearoa New Zealand can be traced back to the essence and spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi.

2. Te Toka Tūmoana - Tangata Whenua and Bicultural Principled Wellbeing Framework

This paper provides an overview of how Te Toka Tūmoana - Tangata Whenua and Bicultural Principled Wellbeing Frameworkwas developed by Child, Youth and Family (CYF) for internal use by practitioners. Grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi (1840), Pūao-Te-Ata-Tū (1988) and the Child, Young Persons and Their Families Act (1989), Te Toka Tūmoana responded to CYF’s priority to “work together with Māori” embedded in their Mā Mātou, Mā Tātou Strategic Plan (2012).

The paper describes the engagement approach used to develop this bi-cultural framework, which was intended for use both at a strategic and practice level. The four key phases to the work were:

  • A bicultural approach to developing Te Ao Māori wellbeing principles

The process to agree the eight principles is described: Tikanga, Te Reo Māori, Whakamanawa, Wairuatanga, Kaitiakitanga, Whakapapa, Manaakitanga and Rangatiratanga. The final draft was accepted by Te Pōtae Kōhatu Māori on the 11th of October 2013 and all eight guiding principles were approved by agency leaders later that year.

  • Meeting at the Border

At the border of engagement are tangata whenua and tauiwi who have an obligation to work together for the core purpose of protecting and safe-guarding tamariki/mokopuna Māori. In the past, Māori have entered border relationships with tauiwi from positions of deficit and marginalisation. Engaging parties must address inequitable power relationships, hidden agendas and historical patterns of behaviour, if tamariki/mokopuna and whānau Māori wellbeing is to be fully addressed.

  • Co-construction

Co-construction refers to tangata whenua and tauiwi CYF staff along with external stakeholders including whānau, iwi and hapū forming relationships and building knowledge about the framework with each other. To co-construct is to construct with others.

  • Triangulation

The indigenous and bi-cultural principled framework that emerged was tested with internal stakeholders, external stakeholders and against the literature and data.

3. Development of the Mana-Enhancing Paradigm for Practice

This short paper traces the history of Te Ao Māori values and tikanga that culminated in the development of the mana-enhancing paradigm for social work practice.

The purpose is to inform a statutory social work practice paradigm shift for Oranga Tamariki from a western/Eurocentric position to a Māori-centred position. It draws from academic discourse, oral narratives and research relating to Te Ao Māori and social work.