A Social Worker with a Mission

By Lucy Summers | Posted: Thursday November 22, 2018

Tribute to former Anglican Family Care Board Member Danetta Viviane Stringer (above, right) who passed away earlier this year, written by Mere Montgomery (MSW).

Danetta was born in Temuka, TeWaipounamu of Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Waitaha descent. She had a varied career and made a significant contribution to social work in Dunedin and Otago. She joined the Maatua Whangai Team in the Department of Social Welfare in 1988 and became supervisor in late 1989. She was a Maatua Whangai caregiver for 12 years, and also fostered in the Department of Social Welfare system.

She gained her understanding of Maatua Whangai from her family. She was raised by her father and aunties after her mother died. She remembered her father saying "Maatua Whangai starts at home." Danetta supported Maatua Whangai’s strong advocacy of Maori children, their families and Maori caregivers. She believed in building up children and returning them to their families.

She worked tirelessly with the five Maatua Whangai geographical whanau groups in Brockville, Corstorphine, Pine Hill, South Dunedin and a Baby whanau. She loved attending the monthly whanau meetings, which were held in the caregiver’s homes. These whanau members were very strong people and supported each other.

The Maatua Whangai referrals came from many sources such as Social Welfare, schools, police, youth justice and the courts. It was a heavy workload and funding for care of Maatua Whangai children was meagre, and was insufficient for clothing and educational needs. However Danetta’s greatest disappointment was the closure of the Matua Whangai Programme in 1991. She said that losing Matua Whangai left her with an empty feeling.

Danetta went on to become the Acting Supervisor at the Puketai Residence at Elliot Street while the permanent supervisor was on study leave. During the mid-1990’s Danetta was in poor health and eventually she left Child, Youth and Family on medical retirement. Not to be kept down, Danetta set about establishing her dream of an iwi social service in Dunedin. She worked closely with support people to write policies and was approved by Child, Youth and Family as a registered service. In the late 1990’s Pikiake te rito, a Kai Tahu social service, was started in South Dunedin. They provided assistance to families and children, help with family disputes, oversight of custody of children, counselling, food parcels, toys and clothes. When the service folded in 2003, she continued to work from home.

In the mid-2000s Danetta became a member of the Maori and Pacific Island Advisory Group to the Anglican Family Care Board and eventually became a Board member until the end of her tenure in 2014. She was a life member of the Otepoti branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. Danetta was staunch, loved a challenge and had wide networks in the community.