Tāmaki, parenting in the face of change

Auckland house prices have been skyrocketing in recent years, and the more central, the more astronomical the cost. Tāmaki (comprising Glen Innes, Panmure, Point England), however, has been something of an anomaly. Although only 12 kms from the city’s centre, the area is a pocket of comparative social deprivation, crime, gangs and state-owned housing, nestled beside affluent suburbs such as Remuera and Mission Bay.

Now, for many Tāmaki families, there is increasing uncertainty about the future. The Tāmaki Redevelopment Company is giving the area a makeover, with sub-standard housing being replaced by healthier, drier homes. While good news for some, long-term residents already struggling to find affordable housing are wondering where their place is in the planning, particularly those who are on short-term tenancies. Many families depend on benefits to make ends meet. Even those who bought their homes off Housing NZ years ago are now facing rates increases and the higher cost of living.

What we did

In 2013 SKIP supported a cross-community initiative led by HEART parenting based within the Glen Innes Family Centre. The first step was getting a deep understanding what families, particularly those with young kids were currently experiencing in Tāmaki. The insights were gathered at a large whānau dinner, followed by more in-depth parent-to-parent interviewing.

"My house is on a three-year contract, which finishes next year. I don't know what happens then. I don't know if I'll get kicked out or whether they'll renew it. My situation's the same as when I went in, but a bit worse because of the drama with their Dad [ex- partner].” Single mum

The data was collated and analysed then the findings were then presented back to the community in a ‘series of walk-throughs ’ using a local container space.

What we found

Unsurprisingly many families were experiencing a cocktail of toxic stress. Many were facing a combination of issues – uncertainty about the future, lack of money and stable housing, not feeling safe, overcrowding leading to inter-generational tension, and co-parenting challenges (particularly where parental separation was due to addiction or violence). Most felt there was little for teenagers to do, which led to drinking in the parks and crime. Concerns about safety kept many families with young children inside their homes.

Another strong theme was that parents prefer to seek advice from friends and families rather than organisations or services. In some cases, locals felt services only provided limited support and in some cases after a negative experience, parents gave up and didn’t go back.

Many parents had a tough time growing up and wanted to do things differently from how they were parented.

What happened next

As a result of the findings an overarching community-wide approach to addressing the issues identified in Tāmaki was launched. Led by HEART Parenting the strategy is comprised of five ‘Waka’ each with different areas of focus– conscious parenting, safety and security, wellbeing and support and services. Everyone in the community has been invited to contribute a paddle to one, or more of the Waka.

What’s happening now?

SKIP has since funded The Whānau Awhina Project which feeds into all five Waka. The Whānau Awhina are six local parent champions based in six different community organisations. Their role involves strengthening connections between Tāmaki families and encouraging them to get help and support when they need it.

Each of the six Whānau Awhina has been supported to carry out their own whānau-centred co-design processes over the past year. While the resulting six prototypes are still being refined and tested, there are some promising results.

“I often hid behind a façade, felt isolated and was lacking in motivation and confidence. Now, I am able to approach strangers confidently. I can’t isolate myself anymore, I have to get out and about”.  Whānau Awhina Champion

One idea involves promoting breathing spaces to reduce toxic stress (different spaces around the community such as the local park and library) where parents can meet up and get support from each other, while their kids entertain themselves safely. The prototype has been tested and is currently being refined to make sure it reaches the families that need it most.

Another idea being tested is co-parenting workshops which originally focused on helping single parents to co-parent calmly and consistently with their ex’s. The concept is now being expanded to include intergenerational co-parenting and how to reduce conflict where extended families are living together. There is also a whānau support group designed to reduce social isolation for parents with teenagers and pre-schoolers (recognising that when you’ve had a tough time with your first lot of kids, it’s harder to ask for help when you become a parent all over again).

One dad is building other local dads’ confidence to be more hands-on parents, through a series of ‘how to videos’ for social media. There is also a circus-themed event to encourage stressed parents to spend more quality time playing with their under-fives, and an improvisational performance showing families how to build confidence within themselves as parents, ask for help when needed, and to keep asking.

While the changing face of Tāmaki seems inevitable, these SKIP-supported initiatives aim to strengthen local parents’ wellbeing, their relationships with each other and their kids - so they can better cope with the challenges ahead