Whānau Pūkenga—Survive, normalise, flourish: Peer support for Indigenous academic social workers


  • Hannah Mooney Massey University
  • Ange Watson Massey University
  • Deacon Fisher Massey University
  • Paul'e Ruwhiu Massey University


Indigenous, peer support, academic, social work, Tangata Whenua, Māori


INTRODUCTION: Indigenous and minority groups experiences of barriers in the academy are well documented (Calhoun, 2003; McAllister et al., 2019; Mercier et al., 2011; Walters et al., 2019). Therefore, it is no surprise that Tangata Whenua academics encounter challenges in the Aotearoa New Zealand university setting. There are systems and processes that do not align with Māori worldviews and can be tokenistic. Globally there is a need for decolonisation, growth and inclusion of Indigenous epistemologies, pedagogies and liberatory spaces in the academy (Kensington-Miller & Ratima, 2015; Ruwhiu, 2019; Walters et al., 2019; Zambrana et al., 2015).

APPROACH: In these environments it is essential that Tangata Whenua academics can support each other to flourish through the power of the collective. In 1993, Tangata Whenua academics teaching social work at Massey University formed a peer support group, now recognised as ‘Whānau Pūkenga’. This article focuses on the advent of this peer support model and how it has changed over time. Key issues are discussed that highlight how this model enhances the experiences of Tangata Whenua academics and students to contribute to a robust social work programme. Discussions are framed around the themes survive, normalise and flourish. In this article ‘Māori’ and ‘Tangata Whenua’ have been utilised interchangeably. Tangata Whenua is the preferred term because it acknowledges our Indigenous connection to the whakapapa whenua, whakapapa tangata.

Author Biographies

Hannah Mooney, Massey University

Ngāti Raukawa ki te tonga, Te Āti Awa, Ngā Rauru, Te Āti Haunui a Pāpārangi.

Ange Watson, Massey University

Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Mutunga, Taranaki Tūturu.

Deacon Fisher, Massey University


Paul'e Ruwhiu, Massey University

Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou.


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How to Cite

Mooney, H., Watson, A. (Andrea), Fisher, D., & Ruwhiu, P. (2024). Whānau Pūkenga—Survive, normalise, flourish: Peer support for Indigenous academic social workers. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 36(1), 9–18. Retrieved from https://anzswjournal.nz/anzsw/article/view/1114



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