In traditional Māori culture, family is called whānau. This term conceptualises the family to include all extended family through blood ties and in-laws. Family plays an arguably more central role in Māori life than it does for New Zealanders of non-indigenous descent. Māori tradition links individuals and families intricately with the land and each other. They often gather for informal/formal occasions. Extensiveties provide an environment within which certain responsibilities and obligations are maintained. When living in Australia, Māori tend to adopt other Māori who are not directly related to become ‘one big family’ and continue their culture of .
It is widely believed that men and women’s roles were both equally valued and respected in traditional Māori society. Perhaps the most powerful indication of this lies in Māori language, as both the personal pronouns (ia) and the possessive personal pronouns (tana/tona) are gender-neutral.1 However, a genderemerged following , with men gaining more influence and respect in the household and society. Today, authority in the household tends to be a continued norm. Nonetheless, Māori women hold important and leading roles in community and family structures.
Elders are to be treated with great courtesy and respect in Māori culture. Meanwhile, children are not just the concern of the biological parents but the entire community. Everyone shares the responsibility of raising, caring for, educating and disciplining children regardless of gender or age. However, this cultural tenet is much harder to maintain in diverse modern cities.
Whāngai is the custom in Māori culture by which children may be raised by adults who are not their birth parents. This second set of parents may be related to the child (e.g. grandparents) but not necessarily. Whāngai commonly occurs if birth parents cannot adequately raise their child for various reasons. In some cases, the birth parents and second set of parents may take turns raising the child. Traditionally, the custom of Whāngai would strengthen cultural community ties, and also provide people who were unable to give birth the opportunity to have a child.
1 Mikaere, 1994