Supporting whānau after the Earthquakes

The 2010/11 Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes and ongoing aftershocks have had a profound and lasting effect on the city, particularly in the Eastern suburbs which suffered the greatest housing and land damage.

Six years on, and still dealing with the traumatic experience of the quakes themselves, Eastern suburbs residents are now feeling the effects of the rebuild - including noise, roadworks, broken footpaths and overcrowded housing. For families with young children, this all adds to the everyday stress of parenting, and increases risk of abuse and neglect.

“For those that were finding things hard before the earthquakes, things are much harder now.” Tania Mataki, Te Puna Oranga.

What we did

SKIP had previously funded research into the effects of the Earthquakes on parents with pre-schoolers which found many were highly stressed and finding it hard to spend time with their kids. We subsequently collaborated with the All Right campaign on ‘Tiny Adventures’ and other resources to support local families to spend more quality time together.

But we needed to understand the problem the hardest-hit suburbs were facing, to co-create solutions with the parents most in need. SKIP started meeting with local community organisations in 2014 to plan for a whānau-centred design process in Linwood. The project scope widened to include all Eastern Suburbs, with a specific focus on Maori whānau, and now sits within the local Canterbury Earthquake Appeal Trust (CEAT) Parenting Package.

The design process kicked off in May 2015, with a hui facilitated by Te Puna Oranga involving local organisations, parents and whānau. Everyone there was open about the challenges they were facing, and committed to keeping pepe and tamariki safe.

At this hui, the project vision was createdand a whakatauki gifted:

Our pepe and tamariki are taonga:
loved unconditionally,
know where they belong and feel valued.

He kakano ahau
I ruia mai I Rangiatea
E kore koe e ngaro

I am the seed that has grown
I will never be lost.

Following the hui, a group of local parents and grandparents were trained in peer-to-peer interviewing techniques. They then listened to a range of whānau caring for under-fives in Linwood, Aranui, New Brighton and Phillipstown.

Those interviewed included six dads, three grandparents (all caring for kids removed by CYF) and 17 mums. The majority of those interviewed were Māori and ages ranged between 16-38. Many shared care of their kids with extended family, one caregiver had six children and nine were parenting alone. Most were struggling financially and many had no driver’s licences or cars. Many of those interviewed were affected by past trauma, including family violence.

What we found

One common problem was a lack of safe, affordable activities for whānau with pre-schoolers after the earthquakes. Coping with the rebuild was taking up all their time and energy – footpaths were damaged making it difficult to use prams and buggies and local parks and playgrounds also damaged or felt unsafe. Many parents felt guilty about not spending enough quality time with their kids. Some found it easier for to stay home, leading to families becoming isolated.

I’ve lost my whakawhanaungatanga with wider whānau.” Hui participant – parent.

Lack of undamaged, affordable housing had led to overcrowding. The stress of dealing with the after-effects of the earthquakes had significantly impacted on mental health, especially for single parents and grandparents raising whānau. There was a marked difference in sense of ‘safety’ for parents. Those who had lived in the area a short time felt much less safe than those who had roots in the community.

Some grandparents felt ignored and unsupported by services. Some of those interviewed spoke of the challenges of no family and friends to help out. Many expressed a loss of pride and respect in the area, and wanting to feel more like they belonged, and were a part of their community.

What happened next

Key themes from the interviews were analysed, and an ideation workshop involving whānau was held in late 2015. Priorities identified included increasing opportunities for affordable activities for whānau with pre-schoolers, supporting whānau to spend more quality time together, making Māori culture more visible and easier for residents to connect to, and increasing pride in, and respect for the Eastern Suburbs.

The community wanted to be involved in making change happen – rather than having it “done to” them.

Themes included:

  • longing for a marae space - somewhere to go where they felt at home and like they belong as Māori,
  • not feeling physically and spiritually safe in parks (particularly in Aranui) and wanting their own community to be involved in cleaning them up,
  • water for kids to play in and cooking facilities in parks (BBQ or hangi pit),
  • feeling paru about their neighbourhood - wanting to feel proud instead, and to help make that happen.

The design team then consulted with more local whānau via community events, the local market and Kohanga Reo. This consultation process confirmed the key themes, as well as highlighting the need for somewhere to go with tamariki when it’s raining.

What’s happening now?

A local whānau champion from Te Puna Oranga is identifying and supporting volunteer parent leaders to try out activities in their street and neighbourhood - to make the ideas generated through the design process come to life.

A core group of local parents and organisations who’ve been involved in the design process from the beginning will support this next phase as it unfolds.