How we honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Women’s Refuge is deeply committed to parallel development – a belief that is reflected in our structure and our daily work.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. It was a contract made between tangata whenua (people of the land, or Māori) and the British Crown in 1840.

The Treaty is a living document at Women’s Refuge, and we use it to guide us in both theory and practice. Thirteen of our 45 refuges operate especially for Māori, and others also work according to kaupapa Māori. All refuges work under the model of parallel development.

Women’s Refuge was the first national organisation to adopt a model of parallel development to observe the Treaty, leading the way for many other community and government agencies since.


What does parallel development mean in theory at Women’s Refuge?

The model of parallel development at Women’s Refuge is a system based on partnership consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It means that tangata whenua and tauiwi (a Māori term for the non-Māori people of New Zealand) develop equally side-by-side; resources are shared equitably; we offer culturally appropriate services; and we have an organisational structure consistent with our feminist, women-based orientation.

What does parallel development mean in practice at Women’s Refuge?

Parallel development shapes our structure and our services. We have:

  • equal representation of tangata whenua and tauiwi in decision-making bodies such as our Core Group Te Taumata o Te Kōwhai
  • caucusing of our Māori members at local, regional and national meetings, and in some cases having parallel staff positions such as Service Development Māori and Service Development Tauiwi
  • a National Māori Women’s Hui and a separate Tauiwi gathering held each year to allow staff and volunteers to discuss issues within refuges
  • sharing of all donations between general refuges and their sister Māori refuges
  • tangata whenua and tauiwi women both addressing public meetings and facilitating training sessions
  • tauiwi commitment to ongoing training about the Treaty and decolonisation.

At Women’s Refuge, tangata whenua and tauiwi work towards the same outcome with different processes. For instance, the Treaty states that tangata whenua should have tino rangatiratanga or full chieftainship over their land and possessions. Therefore, we have tangata whenua and tauiwi caucuses in which tangata whenua generally deal with issues for wahine and tamariki, and tauiwi with issues for their women and children. We recognise that tangata whenua are the best people to provide support for wahine and tamariki by promoting their safety and empowerment in a holistic way.

The guide Ko Te Oranga o Te Kōwhai Hei Arahi (Women’s Refuge’s Guide for Responsiveness to Tangata Whenua) sets standards for improved responsiveness and service delivery for Women’s Refuge advocates. It guides them in interactions with tangata whenua as users of our services, as members of the public, or as members of the refuge movement.

We also offer culturally appropriate services: we recognise that differing and appropriate support and advocacy is needed for the ethnically diverse groups of women and children in New Zealand that are tauiwi.