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Te Roopu Waiora Trust – Tāmaki Makaurau


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

Te Roopu Waiora Trust and its Whānau Ora Awards entry Project Karere was a clear ‘People’s Choice’ in 2008.

Project Karere, assisted by initial funding from the Ministry of Health, JR McKenzie Trust and the ASB Trust, had been in development and refinement since 2005 with an aim to use technology platforms that would help improve access to health services for whānau haua, whānau with disabilities.

This included enabling ‘real time’ access to interpreters for whānau turi in hauora hui and whānau ora activities and increasing the methods of communication and range of information available to whānau with various impairments. 

Three years after the win the trust’s chief executive Tania Kingi remembers the Whānau Ora Awards dinner as launch night for Project Karere.

‘It was the first time we’d “gone live” and learned what more we had to do technology-wise,’ she said.

‘The awards also gave us a chance to talk with other providers about how they were engaging whānau haua in the delivery of their services.’

Tania said the awards forum was also an opportunity to tell health providers that Te Roopu Waiora would work with anybody to ensure that their services were accurately targeted and appropriately delivered to whānau haua.

‘It doesn’t matter who the provider is, or what services they provide,’ she said.

‘We can play a role in enhancing services to a population that includes Māori with disabilities.  A very good example of this was ensuring sign language interpreting was present during the Christchurch earthquake and our ongoing support for whānau there.

‘Te Roopu Waiora is a kaupapa Māori service founded and governed by whānau haua.  Our communities are often hit with a double whammy. It is a population that identifies as Māori first. Then there is the additional struggle that impairment brings. “I’m also blind”, “I’m also deaf”, “I’m also a member of a whānau that need to be able to support me but simply doesn’t have the resources”. Our task is to hold agencies, government departments and providers accountable, helping them improve their response to our people, ensuring they feel valued, respected and in control.’ 

Project manager Sione Pasene said: ‘We’re at a point where we can say to the deaf community, wherever you are, whatever you need, choose which interpreter you want to use and we’ll make the service work for you.’

Yet over the eight years of development Project Karere has been through a huge technology evolution. The team’s own understanding of what is possible with Project Karere and what would work more effectively for Māori with disabilities has also evolved. 

‘What started as an initiative for Māori deaf now has application for Māori with different challenges,’ said Sione.

‘We have seven groups representative of the community.  We believe if it works for one, it will work for all.  Project Karere can work for those who are paraplegic, for the elderly …’

Another project started around the same time as Project Karere involved whānau with disabilities designing the ‘ideal marae’. 

‘The architectural plans for a fully inclusive marae emerged from the ideas of different whānau groups.  Now we can go to existing marae and share the ideas,’ said Tania.

Project Karere is a feature of it.  The waharoa entrance of the marae has a screen with sign language interpreted in real time telling the kaupapa of the hui and the current activities on at the marae. There is brail on different sized rails so that the kāpō community can feel which way to go to different buildings, and round tables for people who lip read.

Te Roopu Waiora has whānau steering groups on each of its project.

‘Project Karere had its own steering group made up of whānau and the marae concept had its own steering group made up of whānau. It’s through these processes that we get to become truly accountable to the communities we represent,’ Tania said.

‘We also run monthly whānau hui to inform anyone who wants to know what’s going on – and that can be a mix of providers and whānau.  It’s actually turned into a “this is what we want you to do” forum where whānau can talk directly to providers.’

Sione comments further on a voice for the trust’s community.

‘When Tania goes out to talk to select committees for example, she goes with a rōpu of six or seven, representative of all of the whānau, and they all speak. When we go out on our own we’re conscious that we’re able-bodied. Even though the concept of whānau haua encompasses all the whānau, there is the kōrero that we just don’t have. We can communicate articulately, but we don’t have the real authority of the consumer.’

Te Roopu Waiora Trust ( is governed by whānau with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities. It provides disability information and advice and assists whānau access Māori communities, providers, agencies and government. Large projects are jointly guided and evaluated by partners Tāmaki Ngāti Kāpō and Mana Tangata Turi.