New Zealand families hold us to te Tiriti o Waitangi

Written by Keri Morris

The independent report Te Taniwha I Te Ao Ture-ā-Whānau released this week which outlines the experiences of 36 people through the family court process is not dissimilar from the findings in Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau, written by the Independent Panel who examined the 2014 family justice reforms in May 2019. 

It is disappointing that one year on from the Independent Panel’s report it appears that little has changed for Māori families and again we have another report highlighting deficiencies.  New Zealand families are challenging us to have an unwavering commitment to te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Yet there are changes happening and many voices calling for change - let’s not lose sight of these.  At the 2019 Te Tai Tokerau Family Law intensive event Justice Joe Williams delivered a hard-hitting message to participants with the overwhelming message that a child’s wellbeing - which is intimately linked to their relationships within whanau, hapu and iwi - must be promoted.[1]  This is not optional.  All of us engaging with children in New Zealand need to understand tikanga, whakapapa, and whanaungatanga rights and obligations.

Family dispute resolution (FDR) mediators have set requirements under the regulations with regard to being culturally aware and being aware of Māori values and concepts.

How is this applied in a FDR mediation?  Firstly, we check that the mediator is the right person for the family. Secondly, we design a process with the people involved in the FDR mediation which is going to encourage participation, partnership and reconciliation. Thirdly, we assist parents, guardians and those who have a significant relationship with the children to reach agreements which promote the children’s wellbeing as well as their welfare and best interests. 

Acknowledging the capacity of the people who want to mediate and taking the time to assist them to make decisions for their children, families, tamariki, mokopuna, whanau or hapu is so important.  We can work at the pace and timeframes that the families need. 

Ngarongo Ormbsy developed Fair Way’s Tumeke Whānau Whanui, a family dispute resolution approach for Māori based on traditional Māori values and drawing on ancient stories of wisdom and analogies. It’s respectful of tikanga and kawa, collective culture and protocols. In the whānau, parental guardianship is a collective responsibility and it’s good to understand how what happens in the whānau currently will make a difference to the generations yet to come.

Let’s all respond to the challenge to change our practice.

About the author

As a mediator, Keri is passionate about empowering parties with coaching and tools to help them move forward.
Keri is Head of Fair Way’s Family Services, including Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) which helps parents and guardians to design their own practical parenting agreements focused on the needs of their children.
If you would like to get in touch with Keri, please contact her by email at