What is whānau ora?

Whānau ora is an inclusive approach to providing services and opportunities to families across New Zealand. It empowers families as a whole, rather than focusing separately on individual family members and their problems.

Whānau ora is not a one size fits all approach. It is deliberately designed to be flexible to meet family needs.

It requires Government and other agencies to work together with families rather than separately with individual family members. It will be available to all families in need across New Zealandi.

What is the Minister of whānau ora saying?

Minister Turia has said that “whānau ora is about whānau being empowered to develop a plan for our future; and to trust in our own solutions” ii.  She believes that whānau ora represents a major transformation in the way services are designed and delivered, contracts arranged and the way providers work together.

The outcomes that we seek are for whānau to be:

  • lving healthy lifestyles
  • self managing
  • participating fully in society
  • confidently participating in Te Ao Māori
  • economically secure and successfully involved in wealth creation
  • cohesive, resilient and nurturing.

Is whānau ora a new model of health and wellbeing?

There have been a number of similar or related models of whānau ora that have been developed over the last twenty five years.  These models have provided the foundations for holistic health care from an indigenous perspective, and include the Royal Commission of Social Policy Ngā Pou Mana model, Professor Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā and Te Pae Mahutonga models and Dr Rose Pere Te Wheke modeliii.  Whānau ora has evolved as an inclusive approach to providing services and opportunities to families across Aotearoa New Zealand.

How does whānau ora fit with nursing practice?

Nurse have quickly adapted Professor Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā holistic model of health and wellbeing into their everyday nursing assessment and practice.  Te Whare Tapa Whā has become familiar to nursing and health care in Aotearoa New Zealand.  The model is based on the four dimensions of life: Taha Wairua (spiritual health), Taha Tinana (physical health, Taha Hinengaro (psychological health) and Taha Whānau (family health).iv   If one dimension is unbalanced the individual or collective may subsequently become unwell.

Leading nurse educator Dr Denise Wilson believes that ‘nurses have the potential to positively contribute to the development of whānau and individual members'.

She emphasises that whānau ora requires nursing and nurses to revisit the way in which they work with Māori in order to keep whānau as the central concern in their practice. It requires being aware of the holistic health needs of the whānau and their capability and resources to optimise their health and wellbeing’v.

What does whānau ora mean to nurses already working in primary health care?

Tracey Morgan (Ngāti Raukawa)

Tracey is currently the Hawkes Bay representative on Te Poari o Te Runanga o Aotearoa, New Zealand Nurses Organisation and an executive member of the College of Primary Health Care Nurses Committee.

Tracey has been working in the community setting for five years, and thinks that while her job titles may have changed, her practice has always focused on whānau ora.

Tracey believes the role of a whānau ora nurses is to use a holistic approach to embrace the whānau, focusing on more than the individual while maintaining the mana of the whānau involved.

It is very rewarding to work with whānau, ensuring they receive the quality care they need and deserve. Unfortunately there are times when the smallest process can be missed and can cause havoc for whānau. For example, it’s not uncommon for families to have repeated trips to the general practitioner for the same health issue before being hospitalised, then discharged sometimes without a discharge summary or communication about follow up referrals or community services.   This can make a substantial difference to health and wellbeing of whānau.

Our task as frontline nurses is to ensure that our system structures are not barriers to providing effective health services. This is something that we must all work hard at, to ensure our whānau receive the best care available every day of the week.    Whānau ora nurses play an essential role in ensuring that our whānau are well informed and comfortable with their care and that all avenues are covered to maintain good health outcomes.

Working in the community is hard work; it is a lot different from working in a hospital setting. There is more autonomy, but fewer support systems to rely on.

Tracey is passionate about educating our whānau so they have the strength to stand up to agencies, and advocate to ensure our whānau receive the care, education and appropriate services they need.

i Te Puni Kōkiri. 2010. Frequently Asked Questions about Whānau ora. Wellington: Te Puni Kōkiri.
ii  BPAC NZ. 2011. Whānau ora: the theory and the practice. Issue 37. Dunedin: BPAC NZ.
iii Palmer, Stephanie. Homai te Waiora ki ahau: a tool for the measurement of wellbeing among Māori-the evidence of construct validity. New Zealand Journal of Psychology. Vol 33. N0.2. 2004.
 iv Ministry of Health. 2011. Māori Health webpage http://www.maorihealth.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagesma/445
Accessed 8/11/11.
v Wilson. D. Whānau Ora: Rethinking the way in which health services are delivered to Māori. Nursing praxis in New Zealand inc.25(3):2-3; 2009 Nov.

Further Information

NZNO Papers

April 2010

NZNO analysis of the report of the Taskforce on Whānau centred initiatives - whanau ora (PDF)

October 2011

Brief overview of whānau ora development from policy to implementation in our regional communities (PDF)

Websites and links

Whānau ora policy documents

Ministry of Health. 2002. He Korowai Oranga: the Māori Health Strategy. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health. 2002. Whakatātaka: the Māori Health Action Plan. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 

Ministry of Health. 2006. Whakatātaka Tuarua 2006-2011: the Māori Health Action Plan. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health. 2007. Whānau ora Health Impact Assessment. Wellington: Ministry of Health.   http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/indexmh/whanau-ora-hia-2007

Whānau ora frequently asked questions




Whānau ora providers






Whānau ora publications





Whānau ora hui 2011 presentations


Whānau ora in nursing practice






Whānau ora press releases





















Scholarly papers on whānau ora