Some exciting changes and lots to do

Cultural competency and the Oranga Tamariki reforms –

are you ready?

Earlier this year, we listed some changes coming your way with new legislation. In this post, we look at Oranga Tamariki reforms relating to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We’ll update you about other changes in subsequent posts.

The context

As we know, the youth justice and care and protection systems have had a disproportionately adverse effect on tangata whenua.  Those impacts reverberate today in inequalities across key areas of life like health, education and wealth.

But we also know about the strength and survival of Māori; that despite colonisation, Māori culture, identity and practices survive and flourish; and that access to identity, whakapapa and culture is integral to the wellbeing of tamariki and whānau Māori.

Addressing inequality

The reforms tackle the inequality between Māori and non-Māori in the care and protection and youth justice areas head on.  Under the new legislation, the kāwanatanga (governance) responsibilities of Oranga Tamariki, as a Crown agency, will include:

  • setting goals to reduce disparities
  • measuring progress on this for tamariki and rangatahi Māori
  • publicly reporting on progress at least once a year
  • having regard to Māori culture and values (tikanga Māori), in particular to mana tamaiti (tamariki), the whakapapa of Māori children and young people, and the whānaungatanga responsibilities of their whānau, hapū and iwi.

The Ministry is expected to up its game and has been reporting progress. So how can the rest of us, as government-funded organisations, also play a part?  Reducing inequalities requires our collective effort:

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive.

How culturally competent are we?  

This will, of course, be different for everyone. But like any other competency, there are some basics that need to be met.

These are set out for funded agencies in the cultural competence standard of the Social Sector Accreditation Standards – Level 2, which is the equivalent of Standard 8134.1.4 of NZ Health and Disability Standards applied to Ministry of Health-funded agencies.

The basics  

The cultural competence standard is comprehensive. Organisations must have policies and procedures in place to ensure work is carried out in a culturally competent and culturally safe manner.  Treaty concepts of partnership, participation and equality of outcomes are core.

Agencies must meet requirements like:

  • collecting data about the cultural identity of clients and using this to help service planning and development
  • providing access to cultural supervision and cultural advice
  • cultural diversity in staffing
  • using Māori practice models and tools to support connection with whānau, hapū and iwi
  • having cultural networks and relationships eg with iwi and kaupapa Māori, Pacific services.

Can we up our game?

There’s always room for improvement. No matter what our competency level, there’s always more ways in which we can learn and grow and become more responsive and inclusive.

Where to start?

A good starting point is to review and reflect on our values and performance. Even better, if we can join others in on it. Questions like the following can help:

  • what does data tell us about who is accessing the service and who are applying for and being recruited to staff roles
  • what’s indicated by feedback and complaints from tamariki and whānau Māori
  • what’s the state of our relationships with mana whenua and kaupapa Māori organisations
  • could cultural advice and supervision be used more
  • what do we know about practically applying the concepts of mana tamaiti / tamariki, whakapapa and whanaungatanga
  • could tikanga practices and reo become more part of our BAU and how can we make this happen.

The next step is to act on what’s identified from the review. It doesn’t have to be big. It’s just important to keep moving forward.

And keep the end goal in sight: ending the injustice of inequality, of honouring every child and young person’s right to be safe and thrive.


Although the majority of children in care identify as Māori (69%), the Ministry reports that only 21% of its funded services are Māori organisations[1]. The new legislation looks set to change this.

It requires the Ministry to take steps to develop strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Already, partnership agreements have been made with  Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi.

It is a time of opportunity, for more services by Māori for Māori and for new and different ways of working, planning and investment in care and protection and youth justice services. It is exciting, will undoubtedly be challenging and gives us all the opportunity to learn and grow.

[1] Oranga Tamariki. Improving outcomes for tamariki Māori, their whānau, hapū and iwi. Engagement and feedback document. Dec 2018

In our next post…

In our next post we will update you on the age change provisions in the Oranga Tamariki legislation. This is another positive change, likely to have significant implications for agencies.


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.