In new research published this week, the significance of New Zealand’s Whānau Ora policy is examined. The analysis appears in the latest issue of MAI Journal: A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, published by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga. Dr Amohia Boulton, Jennifer Tamehana and Dr Tula Brannelly in their paper titled “Whānau-centred health and social service delivery in New Zealand” offer their observations on how important this new policy approach has been, and will be in the coming years. Whānau ora is an inclusive and culturally anchored approach based on a Māori view of health that assumes changes in an individual’s wellbeing can be brought about by focusing on the family collective and vice versa.

It is not a new viewpoint, but became further entrenched in New Zealand’s health and social delivery sector with the 2010 introduction of the “Whānau Ora Approach to Social Service Delivery”, say the paper’s authors. “The introduction of this approach to social service delivery has the potential to radically transform the way health and social services are delivered to some of the most vulnerable people in New Zealand,” says Dr Boulton. Prior to the Whānau Ora initiative, Māori community-based service agencies were constrained in their ability to work with whānau as a whole.

In many ways, say the authors, its introduction has simply formalised the way in which Māori health providers have operated since the early 1990s. The authors argue the approach can only be successful if local communities are engaged and determine their own outcome measures, as one of the most pressing challenges is the extent to which concepts of whānau ora may differ across regions, organisations, funders and providers. “The overall improvement of health and wellbeing for whānau will prove a major challenge for this innovative policy,” says Dr Boulton. “Arguably, it is beholden upon those same stakeholders who are disposed towards the success of this policy, to help ensure that the investment that has been made in the future of whānau, is maximised.” MAI Journal publishes multidisciplinary peer-reviewed articles around indigenous knowledge and development in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. The journal is published online and all content is free to access. 

For more information, contact:

Gretchen Carroll, Communications Coordinator Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand's Indigenous Centre of Research Excellence Tel: +64 9 923 4217 Email: