A few weeks ago on 26 October, during a moving powhiri at the Ministry of Social Development, we bid farewell to staff involved in some of our key work programmes. I’d like to thank everyone at the Ministry for their hospitality. We know our work programmes have gone to very good ‘homes’ but it’s still tough to look around the office and no longer see the people or feel the buzz that they brought. It’s good to know that buzz is alive and well ‘across the road’.
For those of us left at Superu, it’s onwards and upwards! There’s plenty left for us to do. We continue to support Len Cook, the Families Commissioner and Chair of the Superu Board, as he advocates for the wellbeing of families and whānau. We’ll also continue our work with the broader social services sector around evaluation planning and using evidence. It’s an interesting and challenging time for the social sector, and we’ll be working hard to keep families and whānau at the forefront of the discussion.
Over the past 40 years there have been enormous changes in New Zealand society and the makeup of families and whānau. It’s highly likely that the next 40 will bring changes of a similar magnitude. A major driver of change highlighted by the Families and Whānau Status Report 2016 (and an At a Glance subsequently published in 2017) is Aotearoa New Zealand’s growing cultural diversity. There is also an associated continuum between individualistic (independent) and collectivist (interdependent) perspectives on family and whānau wellbeing.
It is almost inevitable that over the next four decades different forms of families and whānau will develop, some of which will flourish while others will be more at risk of negative outcomes.
Yet policies and practices often remain predicated on the traditional nuclear family model. This model may still be appropriate in some cases, but it is clear that broader, more flexible conceptions of families and whānau will be needed to inform the design of future policies and programmes, and to build resilience in the face of whatever emerges in the future.
These issues will be explored in next year’s Evidence to Action conference on 10 April 2018. We hope you’ll join us there. The programme and speakers are being finalised now, and in the meantime, you can save the date in your calendars.
Dr Malcolm Menzies
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