The privilege of working with whānau to support them through the FDR process

Written by Christina Tay

He aha te mea nui o te ao?  He tāngata, He tamariki, He whānau

I have the best job in the world! I get to care for, respect and support people who are moving through a change in their whānau situation.  As a Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) mediator, I get to work with individuals who may be going through a separation or perhaps they were never in a relationship but through their connection they have become parents.

I have had the privilege of working with people across the motu and sometimes that is because they may specifically ask for a mediator who is able to support them as Māori. One individual said they wanted a Māori mediator because of the knowledge around the wider context of whānau and that the pain experienced by this individual was shared through their whole whānau going back two or three generations. 

The most important thing, from my perspective as FDR mediator is to always work in a way that is mana enhancing.  We find ourselves working with people who may be experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety and a sense of feeling overwhelmed by their situation.  Being in conflict can be an exhausting experience for people and it is about understanding that, caring deeply for them and where they are at in life – manaakitanga is one of the necessary tools in our kete as dispute resolvers.  The way in which I practice, I sometimes don’t say much or anything at all.  I recently sat alongside a client who was releasing a lot of emotion and she looked over at me and I said to her “I’m just a wāhine sitting with another wāhine.” These are the things I saw growing up amongst my whānau.  The nannies and the aunties that surrounded me were my greatest source of strength and my greatest teachers. They would say so much, when they said so little.  They were just there, nodding gently and musing.  It was all in the eyes, all in the peacefulness of just being there, and of course the humour that would see my spirit soar after.

As practitioners we must always be mindful of making everyone feel included and honoured. One way of achieving this could be through the inclusion of te reo. I recently met with a person (in my capacity as a membership assessor) and we had a very brief kōrero about whether he felt comfortable using te reo in his mediation work.  I explained how recently I had worked with a Māori client and through my use of te reo and doing my pepeha the client was able to really relax into the process.  He expressed his concern about working with someone that didn’t understand the te ao Māori world.  I know we all bring our whole selves to our mahi as dispute resolvers and in doing so we work in a way that ensures the people we work with can be cared for, respected and supported in our best possible way.  It is an absolute privilege to be involved in this work and I feel grateful and blessed.

About the author

Christina is a Resolution Practitioner with Fair Way.

She holds a masters in mediation and conflict resolution from Strathclyde University in the UK. Prior to completing her masters, Christina gained accreditation as a restorative justice facilitator. She is a member of the NZ Media Council which adjudicates on complaints against the media. 

In 2019 Christina was awarded the New Zealand Law Foundation Young Practitioner Scholarship, a Scholarship towards a Master's Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies through Otago University, and she became an AMINZ Membership Admission Assessor.

If you would like to get in touch with Christina, please contact her by email at