Kilgour, Jonathan Timatanga (1); Mikaere-Most, Erena (2) (2017). 'Whenua framework: An inclusive approach for indigenous-led, whole-of-community development' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


We tend to treat indigenous development as either asserting indigenous models/values within a dominant system (as a mode of healing) or applying indigenous concepts in within the frame of the dominant culture (as a mode of integration at best or assimilation at worst). Often development of indigenous peoples within integrated communities is considered in isolation of other parts of the community. Sometimes, but rarely, it is done in a way where the indigenous people lead the development and create a conversation where community diversity is valued and accepted for the benefit of the whole community.

This poster presents a case study that uses a collaborative approach that emphasises indigenous values, is indigenous-led, is inclusive of the wider community, and empowers both the indigenous people involved and the communities in which they are part of in a virtuous cycle of development.

The Ruapehu Whānau Transformation Project (RWT) is a collaborative initiative to positively transform and regenerate three rural towns in New Zealand. Ngāti Rangi, an iwi (Māori tribe) in New Zealand, initiated RWT as an approach to improve the wellbeing of its people. It did this by developing a model based on indigenous values that created cohesion and belonging between members of three rural communities within its tribal territory.  Using this as a basis, RWT engaged the three communities, mobilised their collective vision, and challenged the government funding system. Through RWT the communities secured government funding to undertake a series of 23 bespoke solutions that have reinvigorated the communities, focusing on improving the capabilities of families within those communities. Four years on, RWT is a leading initiative in community development in New Zealand, and leaders in those three communities remain highly committed to the success of the project.

Through this poster presentation of this case study, we challenge those involved in indigenous development to reconsider how indigenous development is designed and implemented, particularly in relation to the wider community. We encourage practitioners to consider how indigenous standpoint, agency, systems and design thinking can create development models that are both inclusive of community and appropriate to indigenous peoples – leading to virtuous cycles of development. We also pose the question of how virtuous cycles of development can become sustainable models over the longer term, in ways that recognise and empowers indigenous peoples to achieve intergenerational sustainability and flourishing.

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