Disrupting Family Group Conference practice in Aotearoa New Zealand: A learning project


  • Raewyn Nordstrom Ngāti Hine, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Whakaue and Tainui
  • Deb Stanfield Independent Practitioner




Family Group Conference, social work education, interprofessional education, integrated learning, critical reflection, P?ao-te-?ta-t?


Participation in, or facilitation of, Family Group Conferences (FGCs) and hui-ā-whānau (family meetings) are key social work practice activities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Social work students are expected to graduate with the cultural competence necessary to work ethically with whānau Māori according to the bicultural practice principles of Te Tiriti ō Waitangi. This competence includes skills in the facilitation of joint decision making, shared responsibility and the use of Māori engagement principles, all of which are fundamental to the traditional and professional practice of hui (meetings).

We argue that, for social work students to enter the profession with the ability to work effectively in a statutory setting, and with whānau Māori, learning must go beyond the processes of the FGC as set out in the Oranga Tamariki Act (1989)—originally the Children, Young Persons
and Their Families Act, 1989—and embrace the historical and cultural intent of this practice. It must encourage students to be mindful of their cultural selves in the process and to reflect on the tensions arising from how the FGC sits within a statutory, managerial, and neoliberal policy framework. This article applies concepts of Māori and Western pedagogy to a learning strategy developed by the authors over a period of four years. The Reality FGC Project began as a way of assisting students to develop skills and apply theory to practice, and unexpectedly became an opportunity to reflexively and iteratively consider the role of social work education in re-thinking FGC practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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How to Cite

Nordstrom, R., & Stanfield, D. (2021). Disrupting Family Group Conference practice in Aotearoa New Zealand: A learning project. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 33(4), 82–88. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol33iss4id916



Practice Notes