Whanau Group is an important component of treatment at Higher Ground. It’s open to anyone who wants to join and often two thirds of the house take part. Twenty five percent of residents are Maori, and their treatment needs to be consistent with the values and views of Maori. “Higher Ground, specifically through the Whanau Group, has implemented this approach and my research has identified that in doing this, there has been a level of success for Maori who have participated,” says Simon Waigth, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Auckland.
Simon is Ngati Makino and Ngati Pikiao of Te Arawa (Bay of Plenty) and grew up in Manurewa, South Auckland. He initially interviewed 18 people who identify as Maori and who successfully completed Higher Ground and stayed in recovery for at least a year. In Whanau Group they spent time on various Maori cultural activities such as powhiri to welcome newcomers; kapa haka; karakia. In addition, there is a marae noho, a weekend stay at a local marae.
Most importantly, Whanau Group is set on a foundation of values that are important to Te Ao Maori. Maori programme leader Matua Rawiri Pene summarises those values as ‘wairua focused, whanau driven’.