Whānau Ora & Whānau Centred Approach

‘Whānau Ora’ and ‘whānau-centred approach’ refer to a culturally grounded, holistic approach focused on improving the wellbeing of whānau (families) and addressing individual needs within a whānau context.

Government health and social services for Māori have not typically been designed to take a whānau-centred approach, focusing instead on individuals and single-issue problems.

As a result, delivery of services to whānau has often been fragmented, lacking integration and coordination across agencies and social service providers, and unable to address complexities where several problems coexist.

Whānau Ora and Whānau centred Initiatives will address these challenges, by placing whānau at the centre of service design, delivery and evaluation and empower whānau as a whole.

Refer to Te Puni Kokiri:  https://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/whakamahia/whānau -ora/   and Ministry of Health for Whānau Ora policy and initiatives: http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/populations/maori-health/whānau -ora-programme

Whānau Ora Workforce Development Summary

This is a summary of Te Puni Kokiri findings[1] of Whānau Ora Provider Collectives evidence in regard to Whānau Ora Workforce Development:

  • Whānau centred approaches prove effective in improving whānau wellbeing, with immediate and long term benefits for whānau. 
  • Whānau supported by Whānau Ora Providers experience complex social and health challenges including mental health and addiction related problems.
  • Factors that lead to improvements for whānau are: effective relationships that benefit whānau; whānau rangatiratanga; a culturally competent and technically skilled workforce; services that place whānau at the centre; and funding, contracting and policy arrangements based on whānau priorities.
  • Of the total workforce in developing whānau-centred approaches – Whānau Ora practitioners were the face of all services and programmes.  
  • Although ‘expert practitioners’ existed before the Whānau Ora Collectives - Navigators became the ‘new experts’ in Whānau Ora and were essential  in demonstrating and enhancing whānau-centred practice.
  • Whānau Ora Navigators were the main contacts and guides for whānau in their journey, and helped identify aspects of services that could be delivered in a whānau- centred approach.
  • Overall, the way that all practitioners worked with whānau and others for the benefit of whānau constituted a large part of a capable workforce.
  • The Whānau Ora Collectives developed holistic and kaupapa Māori service models through programmes of action.
  • Most Collectives initiated training in whānau-centred practice for their workforces and in some cases practitioners in other agencies, to better understand and implement whānau centred practice.
  • Commonly used training modules included Dynamics of Whānaungatanga, Takarangi Competency Framework and the Whānau Ora Practitioner Training Programme. 
  • Training programmes focused on: 


  • Understanding the practitioners role in the Whānau Ora Collective,
  • Māori concepts of wellbeing and the whānau unit
  • Increasing staff knowledge of the underlying issues regarding social and health problems  for whānau in their region
  • building capability for implementing a holistic approach to working with whānau
  • strengthening relationships with other providers and agencies to improve outcomes for whānau
  • developing standards of practice for those working with whānau.


A Capable Whānau Ora Workforce was viewed as being characterised as:

  • Cognisant of and committed to Whānau Ora
  • Culturally Competent
  • Holistically focused and responsive to whānau needs.
  • Equipped with comprehensive skills to support whānau.


Growth of a culturally competent and technically skilled workforce able to adopt a holistic approach to supporting whānau aspirations.

Features contributory to a competent Whānau Ora Workforce

  • A workforce trained in whānau-centred approaches, and coordinated for the benefit of whānau (rather than services). 
  • Workforces who attain competencies that ensure the engagement and building of trusting relationships with whānau.
  • Inclusive of Navigation roles and models of practice.
  • Joint workforce development approaches with mainstream services and in other key initiatives, to ensure practitioners build trust and stabilise whānau, mobilise services and resources in response to whānau realities, also build whānau capability and support whānau to plan for sustainable change.
  • A training emphasis in cultural competency that includes fostering rangatiratanga of whānau, of building whānau direction, leadership, identity and capability.

Cultural Competency

97% of Whānau Ora Collectives displayed a commitment to cultural competency and whānau centred practice by practitioners.   Cultural competency was viewed:   

  • A core competency of all practitioners supported by active participation in Te Ao Māori. 
  • With an emphasis on Whānaungatanga.
  • Also focused on Rangatiratanga, which supported practitioners to encourage whānau direction, leadership, identity and capability.
  • As enabling the workforce to share cultural values when engaging with whānau and extending cultural knowledge to support whānau aspirations and connections to Te ao Māori. 
  • Enabling whānau centred practice to ensure change focused on whānau wellbeing and was grounded in whānau realities.
  • Inclusive of tikanga of the region.
  • As increasing staff understanding of the importance of whakapapa, and traditional values to support whānau achievement.
  • As offering a Māori lens to service practice.
  • As promoting a positive shift in attitude, an increase in knowledge and confidence, an increase in the use of Te reo Māori and a ‘sense of pride’ among staff. 

Barriers to building the workforce capability in Whānau Ora included:

  • Sectoral Isolation in building relationships across practitioners. 
  • Workforce capacity across sectors was limited in understanding and being able to work in a whānau-centred way.
  • There were ongoing barriers with mainstream services, in particular, in understanding how to work in a whānau-centred, rather than service-centred, way.
  • Silo’s and issues with contracts, service criteria impeded features such as time needed in engagement with whānau, and the provision of whānau centred practice.

[1] Te Puni Kokiri Report (2015) Understanding Whānau-centred Approaches. Wellington: Te Puni Kokiri.  

Baker, M (2015). Summary of key points from Te Puni Kokiri: Understanding Whānau centred approaches. Wellington: Te Rau Matatini.  

Whānau Ora Framework

Download the framework pdf file.