Thriving Ōtara

Since 1998, the Ōtara Health Charitable Trust has tackled Ōtara community's health and social issues and has a vision of breaking intergenerational effects of poverty. Funded jointly by the Trust and MIT, the Thriving Ōtara project was created in 2016 to ascertain the key issues that are preventing Ōtara from thriving and to consider what can be done differently to make a change.

Dr Melanie Wong, Niukini Hendrikse, Huhana Mason, Fuatino Petelo, Kamaline Pomare and Leechin Heng from MIT's School of Social Work conducted the research by way of interviews and focus groups, and wrote the research report which can be found at

1,003 Ōtara residents participated in this research, and the findings showed the majority of the residents in Ōtara are Samoan, Cook Island, Māori and Tongan. Most participants had a sense of belonging and commitment to Ōtara and had a love for their community where they and their whānau have lived for a long time. Most believed everyone in Ōtara had a personal responsibility to be part of driving the change, alongside the support of government, churches and communities.

Nine indicators of local social issues were identified: health, housing, safety, education, employment, income, neighbourhood, economy, recreation. Health and housing were the two most highly rated concerns: health issues stemming from cold and damp housing conditions is common, especially for the elderly and also for children which can also contribute towards poor educational outcomes. Education was perceived as a means of lessening poverty in Ōtara and as a conduit out of youth crime and gangs.

Community-led initiatives are successful when they have a shared vision and are supported. Currently, the Ōtara community faces many issues with no imminent rescue in sight. Many families struggle, and support and resources are limited. The Thriving Ōtara project identified tangible outcomes, provided appropriate support, and participated in the design and implementation of such initiatives within the Ōtara community.