Whanaungatanga – positive and meaningful relationships within the community
Whanaungatanga = Relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary)

Whanaungatanga values a wide range of relationships, like family and friendships, and points to feelings of belonging and inclusion. Whanaungatanga captures the belief that the more relationships people have in their lives the happier and healthier they are.

Relationships come in many shapes and forms: they may be a regular friendly chat with someone based on a shared interest or a long-term loving intimate relationship. Each relationship is unique, because every person is different. And, having a wide range of relationships is important. A diverse social network made up of relationships with a variety of people enriches people’s lives.

Relationships are the heart of the community. And a sense of being connected to the community through relationships is at the core of the good life. In fact, the community provides endless opportunities for the creation of relationships.

The community is a fantastic resource, rich with possibilities for developing and growing relationships through jobs, volunteering, and recreation. Relationships help us connect to the community, and this connection provides more opportunities to get to get to know a range of people and expand our social networks.We believe people with disability should have the same opportunities to be involved in their community, meet people and develop friendships as anyone else.

Natural and Formal Supports

Natural supports describe the naturally occurring or informal relationships experienced in the community, for example, between neighbours, within cultural groups, and through working lives. We believe natural supports are the most effective way forward in terms of support for people with disability to achieve a good life in the ordinary spaces of the community.

One of the great things about natural supports is that they aren’t associated with any financial cost! People are not paid to offer support, instead they do it because of a shared interest or connection. Natural support can come in many forms, for example, it may be a ride to the supermarket, assistance filling out a form, or help with meeting new friends.

Experience shows us that people with disability are more likely to be included in the community if natural supports are encouraged around their participation. This is because it is difficult to become part of a community from the outside. It is much easier if it happens from within the community. A good example of this is when someone has an interest in joining a particular club or group. It is better to have a member of that group introduce the person, because they will be known by the rest of the group already, and they will know how to introduce the person in a way that fits with the group.

In saying this, we also know that for many people with disability and their whānau, paid services and professionals, also known as formal supports, play an important role in their lives. Formal supports may usefully be part of people’s search for the good life, but care needs to be taken to make sure it does not over-ride the authority and power of the person and their whānau. Paid services and supports should complement, not take over or exclude the natural supports that already exist or could be developed.

Janet Klees, Resourcing Families, an initiative of Family Advocacy; NSW, Australia.
http://www.resourcingfamilies.org.au/
http://www.family-advocacy.com/