The pursuit and realisation of self-determination for Māori communities has been intimately bound up with – among other things – the revitalisation of Māori philosophies. The capabilities of Māori communities to be able to define who they are, and to pursue and realise lives they value is bound up with the extent to which Māori are able to articulate and appropriately apply and reapply their concepts and values to their lives and futures. One of the ways that Māori have set out to articulate, pursue, and realise their self-determination in the area of health is through the Whānau Ora policy. This lesson explores whānau ora and can be used in a range of ways for a range of philosophy courses.

Courses and Texts


Māori Philosophy, Practical Ethics, Justice and Equality, Health and Well-being, Development Ethics


  • Mutu, M. S. (2013) Te Tiriti o Waitangi in a Future Constitution: Removing the Shackles of Colonisation, 2013 Robson Lecture, 22 April 2013, accessed:
  • Jackson, Moana. (1992) The Colonisation of Māori Philosophy, in Graham Oddie and Roy Perrett (eds.), Justice, Ethics, and New Zealand Society, Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • Krushil Watene, Tim Rochford, Natalya Tamariki. (2017) Whānau Ora: Transforming Health and Well-Being in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in Stephen Chadwick (ed.), Ethics and New Zealand Society, Auckland: Massey University Press.
  • Watene, Krushil. (2016b). Valuing Nature: Māori Values and the Capability Approach, in Oxford Development Studies (Special issue: Indigenous Peoples and Human Development), published online 5 Jan 2016.
  • Robeyns, Ingrid. (2016). Capabilitarianism, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, vol. 17, issue. 3, pp. 397-414.

Secondary Texts for Instructor

  • Barcham, M. (2012). Thinking about Māori development in terms of the capability approach: The shift towards the adoption of the Māori potential approach. In F. Panzironi & K. Gelber (Eds.), The capability approach: Development practise and public policy in the Asia-Pacific region (pp. 55–67). Oxford: Routledge.
  • Boulton, A., Brannelly, T., & Tameha, J. (2013). Whānau-Centred Health and Social Service Delivery in New Zealand: The Challenges to and opportunities for, innovation. MAI Journal, 2(1), 18-31.
  • Durie, M. (1998b). Te mana, te kāwanatanga: the politics of Māori self-determination, Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • Durie, M. (2003). Nga Kahui Pou: Launching Maori Futures. Wellington: Huia Publishers.
  • Taskforce on Whānau Centred Initiatives (Taskforce) (2010). Whānau Ora: Report of the Taskforce on Whānau-Centred Initiatives. Report produced for Hon Tariana Turia, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector. Wellington. Ministry of Social Development.
  • United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). (2007). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Available from:
  • Venkatapuram, S. (2011). Health Justice: An argument from the capabilities approach, Cambridge: Polity.
  • Waitangi Tribunal. (2011a). Ko Aotearoa Tenei: Te Taumata Tuatahi (Wai 262), Wellington: Legislation Direct.
  • Waitangi Tribunal. (2011b). Ko Aotearoa Tenei: Te Taumata Tuarua (Wai 262), Wellington: Legislation Direct.


Possible discussion questions

  • What is the relationship between Whānau Ora and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples?
  • How does Whānau Ora resonate with, and differ from the Capability Approach?
  • Are mainstream theories of well-being helpful for understanding whānau ora? why/why not?


  • Compare Martha Nussbaum’s list of capabilities with Mason Duries list of whānau capacities
  • Compare Whānau Ora with health policies elsewhere

Author Information

Dr. Krushil Watene (Massey University)