A whanau is a social construct of Maori society in Aotearoa/New Zealand that is
likened to an extended family. This thesis describes principles and practice that whanau
utilise in decision processes from the findings of a retrospective qualitative case study
of three whanau, who decided to participate in genetic research into a medical condition
affecting their health.
Four elements of whanau decision processes emerged from the data. Hui,
rangatiratanga, manaakitanga and kotahitanga are Maori constructs that emphasise the
collective nature of whanau decision making, and substantiate philosophical, theoretical
and anecdotal evidence that Maori have distinctive ways of reaching decisions,
underpinned by unique philosophical conventions.
The results of this research place greater significance on the process of decision making
than actual decisions, an incidental finding that has not been articulated by previous
studies of Maori health and whanau.
Contrary to western theoretical knowledge of decision making, whanau decision
processes are collective activities. Individual decision making is closely linked to and
depends on the collective, because individual identity manifests from the collective, and
individual wellbeing is closely linked to that of the collective.
When decision processes are familiar to members of a whanau, they are more likely to
engage in decision making because they have a greater sense of knowledge and thus
control of the processes, and they feel more able to contribute meaningfully to achieving
aspirations for their own health.
This thesis provides evidence that the New Zealand health sector, health legislation and
policies are largely unfavourable for guaranteeing whanau engagement in decision
processes. Yet, whanau decision making is an overall objective of the Government’s
Maori Health Strategy: He Korowai Oranga, to address inequalities in health between
Maori and other New Zealanders that have unacceptably become the norm.