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Te Kākano o te Whānau

1986 – 1996

This essay written by Tania Rei was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993.

Update coming soon!

Unlike most national organisations set up to maximise their possible lifespan, Te Kākano o te Whānau was an incorporated society which aimed to achieve exactly the opposite – being made redundant as quickly as possible. Te Kākano was a Māori women's organisation which strove to bring about communities which were free of violence and abuse, by working with abuse victims and their families.

Te Kākano arose out of the Rape Crisis organisation. In March 1985, a hui was held by women from Rape Crisis centred to discuss the existing arrangements for government funding to groups working against sexual abuse. The hui was facilitated by members of the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges. Māori women attending proposed that a portion of the government funding for rape and sexual abuse preventive work be tagged for Māori purposes. The proposal was put before Ann Hercus, Minister of Social Welfare. Though it was not accepted in its totality, the Minister supported the concept of Māori self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) being expressed in this area of social work.

In line with their proposal, the Māori women affiliated to Rape Crisis set up a steering committee convened by Betty Sio. It identified Māori women's groups working in the area of rape and sexual abuse counselling – by 1985, these groups were established in such places as Kaikohe, Hamilton, Hastings, Whakatāne, Waitara, Waiuku, and Westport – and provided them with support and advice, particularly about accessing government funding. The formation of an umbrella organisation which would unite these groups emerged from the work of the steering committee; this organisation was later to become known as Te Kākano o te Whānau.

Prevailing Māori political attitudes at that time centred on concepts of Māori self-determination, self-management and ownership. The proposal that these Māori women's groups were seeking to implement was very much in step with changes that were occurring within the Māori Affairs portfolio and Māoridom generally. Parallel development had already begun to take place within the women's refuge movement. All these factors contributed to a sense of confidence, which enabled the groups to unite and adopt a Treaty partnership role in their work of providing a safe environment for Māori women and their children who were victims and survivors of rape, sexual abuse and related violence.

On 10 June 1986, Te Kākano o te Whānau became a legal entity, comprising both groups and individuals working in the areas of sexual abuse and related violence. Its initial objectives were to help Māori and non-Māori groups get access to government funding; to disseminate information about other sources of funding, and about the ethics of and entitlements to funding; and to develop an education and training module on incest, rape and sexual abuse.

By 1989, there were nineteen affiliated groups; two others had disaffiliated. Liaising with other groups and individuals was seen as essential: included in Te Kākano's network were groups such as the Māori Women's Welfare League, Te Kōhanga Reo, marae, tribal, hapū and whānau groups, refuge and rape crisis groups, and the Pacific Islands Women's Project.

Local branches of Te Kākano operated and responded to clients in a fairly uniform way; their work was concentrated on restoring self-esteem and pride for the Māori women and their whānau. The culture of the organisation focused on whānau, hapū and iwi development. This meant that women and girls were not isolated from the rest of the community, nor was the issue of sexual abuse dealt with in isolation from other issues affecting them.

In the 1990s, Te Kākano continued to identify related issues affecting whānau when responding to sexual abuse and violence. Many groups were therefore involved in providing support services beyond counselling, for example work in housing, health, and finance.

Tania Rei

Unpublished sources

Merekaraka Roberts and Te Wairingiringi Mitchell, interviewed by Tania Rei,  Wellington, 1992

Te Kākano o te Whānau, executive records 1986–1992, National Office, Wellington