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Recommended reading Tuakana/teina

On page 7 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1 it explains that tuakana and teina are Māori terms describing relationships between siblings and cousins. The tuakana are the elder siblings and the teina are the younger ones. Tuakana can have a powerful impact as role models and there’s an expectation that they look out for their teina. Traditional roles on the marae, such as whaikōrero and karanga, are tuakana responsibilities. However, this can be determined by the whānau.

An example of an iwi leader taking on tuakana roles is Ngāti Toa rangatira (leader) Te Rauparaha. Although he wasn’t the most senior chief of the tribe, he became the head of his iwi due to his leadership and strategic military skills.

The concept of tuakana/teina can be related to more experienced parents acting as tuakana to support parents who are new to or less experienced in their parenting role.

Tuakana/teina is important in traditional Māori whānau and society as it defines roles and responsibilities within the whānau. These days it is often used in education settings, whether in early childhood environments, classrooms at school or in adult learning situations. It’s also related to ‘ako’ where learning and teaching are happening simultaneously within a relationship.

As a family worker you will be noticing the relationships within the whānau. You have a role in supporting and promoting positive relationships. This includes relationships between parents and their tamariki, between the parents themselves and those with the wider whānau and community. You will be looking for ways to help connect the parents with others who are more experienced and who may be able to provide that tuakana support.

Page 10 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1 mentions pretend play as a fun way to share whānau values and routines. Pēpi is at an age to enjoy all sorts of activities, especially alongside others. Pretend play is often enjoyed by siblings together as they experiment with and practise adult roles. This is a perfect vehicle for parents to encourage tuakana/teina responsibilities.

‘Play is a rehearsal for the complexities of life.’

Further information

Tatari, tautoko, tauawhi - Watch this short film showing tuakana/teina relationships in a primary school setting.

Tuakana teina - Listen to Tamati Waaka and Phil Kane talking about traditional tikanga and how they translate into today’s world.

Tūranga i te hapori — status in Māori society - This article explains the place of tuakana/teina in the creation story.

Whānau — Māori and family - Read this explanation of tuakana/teina relationships within the wider whānau Māori.

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