Whānau Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Whānau Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (pdf)
01 Aug 2011

Whānau Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow draws on Māori knowledge, cultural practices and methods to research stories of whānau success. Informed by the integrated nature of Māori knowledge, this paper addresses social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of whānau development.

The report concentrates on the period often referred to as the time of the Māori renaissance, 1975 to the present. This was a period of significant cultural, social and economic development.
The report includes chapters on:

  • explorations of whānau
  • a demographic and statistical profile of whānau from 1975 to the present
  • research design, methods and issues
  • whānau as custodians of culture: the Winitana whānau and the story of Ahorangi Genesis
  • whānau as kaitiaki of the environment: the Maranga Waitaha project
  • the role and status of Māori language and knowledge in economic transformation: case studies of Boy, Kia Kaha, Kaitaia Fire and Raukuri
  • Māori women as advocates of whānau development: interviews with Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Dr Rose Pere, Areta Koopu, Barbara Greer, Moe Milne, Naida Glavish, Dr Katerina Mataira, Dr Paparangi Reid, Mereana Pitman, Dr Khyla Russell and Ngaropi Cameron.

In the concluding chapter the findings of the research are analysed in the context of the changing role of the Families Commission. The question ‘what is Māori about whānau?’ is explored in the socio-political context of Aotearoa’s journey towards nationhood. An analysis of Māori development during the Māori renaissance is presented which identifies critical success factors for whānau development and whānau ora. Matemateone, a profound driver of Māori development, provides the concluding exploration of mātauranga Māori in this report. This concept helps to understand the connection that whānau have with the past, their engagement in the present and the hope created amongst them about the future and planning for it.


Whānau Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow has been designed as kaupapa Māori research, informed by Māori epistemology (Māori cultural theory), Māori methodology (Māori cultural methods) and Māori ontology (Māori cultural practices). Taken together, these bodies of knowledge comprise the Māori worldview that authentic Māori cultural options are selected from. That said, this report aims to be descriptive of possibilities informed by the Māori worldview not prescriptive of what form they should take.

The Families Commission Act (2003), section 11a, requires that the Commission, in exercising and performing its powers and functions, has regard to the needs, values and beliefs of Māori as tangata whenua. This legislative mandate creates a kaupapa Māori space within which strengths-based pathways for whānau, hapū and iwi development can be created. This project has been positioned with a strong emphasis on Māori epistemology, Māori cultural knowledge, in response to the legislative mandate set out in the Families Commission Act.

This research was positioned as endogenous development (development from within), an approach also known as ‘inside out research’. Penetito has described the successful approaches to Māori education that emerged during the Māori renaissance in ways that resonate with ‘endogenous development/inside out’ as “by Māori, for Māori, about Māori and in Māori”. A 2010 report by Te Puni Kōkiri has described this kind of approach as “Māori developed, designed and delivered” as a result of successful research it completed with Māori providers in the justice area.

The research design draws from a range of methodologies, both qualitative and qualitative. Chapter 6 uses structured interviews with a group of leading Māori women. Chapter 7 uses a narrative methodology  to tell the story of a whānau and hapū through their journey to revitalise and reclaim te reo Māori me ōna tikanga. Chapter 8 uses narrative methodology to tell the story of an iwi rethinking and reclaiming their future~based on their ancestral past. Chapter 9 explores a number of Māori businesses using case study methodology.

Key Results

In Issue 32 of Te Ao Hou (September 1960), the late Professor James Ritchie published an article entitled, “The future place of Māori culture in New Zealand society”.30 The article starts with a section suggesting useful ways to think about culture. He identifies four: “culture as a way of life; culture as a set of traditions, customs, or practices, perpetuated and/or cherished by a group; culture as a creative process; and culture as a personal sense of difference”. In recent decades whānau, hapū and iwi Māori have actively engaged in a cultural revolution in the terms that Ritchie spoke of. In that journey Māori have been supported and resourced by what can be termed a Māori cultural infrastructure. The Māori cultural infrastructure has been able to support the Māori renaissance when the machinery of government did not and has been a major factor in the paradigm shift that has occurred in New Zealand from 1975 to the present.

Definition of ‘infrastructure’:

  1. The ‘underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organisation).
  2. The permanent installations required for military purposes.
  3. The system of public works of a country, state, or region; also: the resources (as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for an activity.

Infrastructure is usually thought of in terms other than cultural: energy, road systems, telecommunications. Taking the first meaning from the definition above, ‘the underlying foundation or basic framework’, how could the Māori cultural infrastructure be described? The most significant features of the Māori cultural infrastructure are: Māori people; the Māori worldview; the marae (both as a cultural institution and as a national network); the whānau, hapū, iwi collective social structure; the epistemological relationship Māori people have with the environment; and broadcasting and IT.

The Māori Renaissance in Aotearoa has been a movement of heart; of courage; of purpose; and of determined intent. Māori people have never given up on themselves, their past, their present or their futures. The will of the people, the love of the people for their traditions, their tipuna, their whānau, hapū and iwi narratives has kept alive the means to create change and the motivation to do so. As well as providing a framework for the development of identity, the whānau/hapū/iwi collective social structure has provided a framework for social, cultural and economic development. Future takers? Future makers? Māori have shown their response, by walking their talk. The integration of Māori cultural knowledge, Māori cultural practices and Māori cultural methods into the ‘Māori worldview’ has been a platform for transformative change throughout the Māori renaissance. It has created a paradigm shift which has not only transformed Māori economic, social, cultural and political realities in the national context; but has also excited the world.

The Māori renaissance created new pathways for Māori to live successfully as Māori in both the private and public spheres of life. The movement, and the organisations which gave expression to it, were driven by a vision which had the revitalisation, and maintenance of Māori language and culture at its core. Te reo Māori me ōna tikanga were identified as critical components of Māori identity, and social and economic wellbeing

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018