About Me

Wanganui, New Zealand
Personal motto: no-one is free until we all are free. HOMETRUTH: The quest for a peaceful sustainable society begins at home. It begins with us. It begins in our hearts and minds before it can inform our actions. It begins with our cultivating our connectedness, compassion and sense of mutual responsibility, and teaching our children about these. When we habitually think of social justice as a matter of personal responsibility for one another, then we create the conditions for our young people to feel a sense of belonging and a desire to participate responsibly in social life. As teachers we need to be constantly learning, not only because there is always so much new research to engage with, but also for that precious understanding of the fragile subjectivity of the learner that enables the committed teacher to nurture the nascent spirited imagination of an emergent young adult. I HAVE A DREAM ..... TO FILL THEM WITH A LOVE OF LEARNING, A FEEL FOR THEIR POSSIBILITIES, RAMPANT CURIOSITY, TOOLS TO FIND, DISCRIMINATE, AND CRITICALLY EVALUATE INFORMATION, FINDING THE CONFIDENCE TO DISCOVER THEIR VOICES, THEIR IDENTITIES- AS INDIVIDUALS, AND AS CITIZENS.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Whanaungatanga: ITS Assignment 2


Whanaungatanga is a key principle of Maori social organization and cohesion characterized by a deep sense of connectedness between related groups of people and an ethic of mutual responsibility. As such, whanaungatanga is about inter-relationship, ’belonging’ and reciprocity and is the “basic cement that holds things Māori together” (Ritchie 1992, 67).

To make sense of whanaungatanga, we first have to understand that we are dealing with a collective model of identity. Traditionally, whanaungatanga is meaningful in the context of whakapapa (the core component of Maori identity), and the cultural practices that sustain and strengthen kinship ties.

The core framework of Maori identity and culture is a hierarchical structure of Iwi (tribe), hapu (extended family) and whanau (immediate family) held together by kinship rights and obligations. As a consequence, in Maori society, it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between the individual and the group, between self-interest and altruism. Thus whanaungatanga serves as a enduring principle of social well-being and sustainability.

"Whanaungatanga establishes the protocols for collective responsibility as the base of the kinship network which defines where, and to whom, these responsibilities lie. For Maori, a person obtains their nature and their wealth from their communal environment, their kin group, their whakapapa. Without kin past and present, we are nothing" (Tiwaewae, 2000).
Whanaungatanga belongs to the cluster of values that constitute the ‘beating heart’ of Maori culture, and indeed, of being human. (Henare, 1998; Pere, 1982; McNatty, 1992). This value cluster is nested in the larger context of Maori metaphysics which is holistic in its emphasis on the way in which all life is inter-related, inter-dependent and intrinsically sacred. (Orbell, 1985; Walker, 1990; Henry, 1998)
Thus human and social identity is made meaningful in the context of a sacred cosmic web of connection. Genealogy links individuals through their ancestors to the gods Rangi, Papa, and their tamariki atua, and ultimately to Io, the Source. This lineage infuses the world with sacred elements and values. In the words of Ella Henry, a Maori academic, these are:
· Mauri – the life essence all things and people are infused with.
· Tapu – the sacredness in all things.
· Hau - the breath of life, upon which our political 'economy of affection' is predicated.
· Mana - the embodiment of all these things, which can be either enhanced or diminished by our behaviour.
“From these core elements and concepts spring the behaviours that we traditionally deemed to be good and right, tika and pono, upon which our tikanga are founded:
· Whanaungatanga - the ethic of belonging
· Wairuatanga - the ethic of spiritual connection and spirituality
· Kotahitanga - the ethic of solidarity
· Kaitiakitanga - the ethic of guardianship.
Underpinning the tikanga is the recognition that we live in Te Ao Marama, the world of light, and are thus bound to continually seek 'enlightenment'. We do this in Te Ao Hurihuri, the turning world, a world which is dynamic and ever-changing, even though it is bound together by ancient traditions. “(Henry, 1998)
This dynamism is reflected in the evolving nature of Aotearoa/New Zealand as a bi-cultural nation state, and the emergence of whanaungatanga within research methodology and social policy discourses, particularly in the areas of health and education. (Bishop, 1996; McNatty, 2001) Its meaning is moving beyond its traditional Maori cultural context to being applied to processes among groups which are not kinship-based in order to foster a sense of connection and belonging, and a concern for each others well-being, i.e. ’whanau-like’. (Wihongi, 2002).

To conclude, while whanaungatanga is central to the Maori world-view, it is also valuable as a contemporary bi-cultural construct as it activates our awareness of ourselves as social beings and directs our attention to the interdependent nature of social reality. In doing so, it makes the concept of collective moral responsibility more meaningful to those generations brought up in a culture dominated by the constructs of individualism and consumerism.

Through articulating a model of social relations in which self-interest and the interests of the group are inextricably linked, whanaungatanga makes reciprocal altruism meaningful; those who are co-operative and generous can expect co-operation and generosity in return. Thus it has an important role to play in building a culture of inclusion and a politics of respect in the Aotearoa/New Zealand of the 21st century.
Bishop, R. (1996). Collaborative research stories: Whakawhanaungatanga. Palmerston North: The Dunmore Press.
Henare, M. (1998). Nga Tikanga me nga ritenga o Te Ao Maori: standards and foundations of Maori society. In the Royal Commission on Social Policy (Ed.), The April Report, Future Directions associated papers, III, part 1. Daphne Brasell Associates. Wellington.

Henry, E. (1998). Different Accountabilities For Different Needs, retrieved
23 April 2007 from www.firstfound.org/vol.%202/henry.htm

McNatty, W, L. (2001). Whanaungatanga. Unpublished essay, Psychology Department, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Orbell, M. (1985). The Natural World of the Maori, Auckland: William Collins Publishers.
Pere, R. (1982). quoted in Patterson, J. (1992). Exploring Maori Values, Palmerston Nth: Dunmore Press.
Ritchie, J. E. (1992). Becoming bicultural. Wellington: Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates Press.
Tiwaewae, H. (2000) quoted by Williams, A. (2001). Whanaungatanga, Social Policy Seminar Paper, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University Of Waikato, New Zealand.

Walker, R. (1990) Ka whawhai tonu matou: Struggle without end. Auckland: Penguin Books.

Wihongi, H. (2002). ’The Process of Whakawhanaungatanga in Kaupapa Maori
Research’, Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research, Sixth Biennial Conference: Doing Well, 27 -29 November 2002, UNITEC, Auckland retrieved 6 April, 2007 from www.anztsr.org.au/02conf/anztsrpapers/Wihongi,%20Helen.pdf


Whanaungatanga provides an indigenous ethic for informing teaching practice and content in order to enhance Maori students’ educational experiences and achievements.

The core elements of whaunangatanga – i.e. fostering relationships and a culture of inclusiveness, caring, co-operation, collective responsibility and reciprocity - have all been identified as central to teacher effectiveness with regard to the aim of improving Maori educational outcomes. (Bishop et al (2003,97) .

I would argue that while Te Kotangihanga (Part One) does not use the concept of whanaungatanga, many of the criteria identified in the Effective Teaching Profile are consistent with the elements that make up the ethic of whanaungatanga.

Personally, and as a social studies teacher, I am committed to enabling students to develop the social and co-operative skills and knowledges necessary to be able to participate in a changing society as informed, confident and responsible citizens. My responsibility as an educator includes ensuring that all students are able to access the opportunities available to them. Given that New Zealand educational structures largely reflect pakeha cultural traditions, it is crucial that teachers take responsibility for creating caring, inclusive and respectful learning environments that make Maori students feel at home, valued, and encouraged.

This involves taking the time to develop meaningful relationships with my students and their families and between students, using and promoting co-operative learning processes, having the attitude that all of us in the classroom have something to contribute and that the teacher is also a learner (reciprocity).

Whanaungatanga also can be applied effectively across a range of lessons designed to explore the core concepts of the five strands of the Social Studies curriculum, and through all three social studies processes of Inquiry, Values Exploration and Social Decision Making.

I would routinely use these concepts in lessons dealing with cultural identity, bi-culturalism and multiculturalism, nationhood, ‘belonging’ and ‘connectedness’, social processes, structure and organization, race relations, the Treaty and treaty issues, the environment and resource management, and how government works.


Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Tiakiwai, S., and Richardson, C., (2003) Te Kötahitanga: The Experiences of Year 9 and 10 Mäori Students in Mainstream Classrooms, Mäori Education Research Institute (MERI), School of Education, University of Waikato, Hamilton.

Ministry of Education (1997)., Social Studies in the New Zealand Curriculum, Wellington: Learning Media.


Brad Williamson said...

Hi Pam,

I love this blog post. We are aiming to use whakawhanaungatanga (with restorative practices, class meetings) for a Health Education goal setting unit. This is closely linked to us understanding interpersonal skills in the context of whanaungatanga where we use restorative practices to develop a collective responsibility for developing and using interpersonal skills to enhance relationships in our Level 1 health education classes. There are 8 credits attached to the two units.

Mindy said...

Hi Pam,

I enjoyed reading your blog. I am interested in the Wihongi paper, but the link is no longer active. Do you have the pdf file? I am studying to be a secondary teacher here in Auckland and would like to read this paper for my research. Any assistance would be appreciated.