Māori charity in Melbourne helping hundreds in need of kai

By Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters

Kai parcels prepared by volunteers at Melbourne Tautoko Whānau / Facebook.

Melbourne Tautoko Whānau is a registered charity helping to give a hand up to whānau in Victoria who have been struggling during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state of Victoria and is home to 6.5 million people.

The state is currently experiencing its fourth lockdown due to a recent outbreak, which has reached 69 positive Covid-19 cases.

The lockdown imposed on May 27 was to last for seven days but was extended for another seven days on June 2.

Lots of hardship

Melbourne Tautoko Whānau custodian John Wickham (Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Rangi), says there has been a "massive" rise in the numbers of whānau needing food and many others who are on the verge of homelessness since Covid-19 lockdowns struck Victoria.

"There is a lot of hardship going on right now," he says.

"A year and a half ago we had 24 families who we were serving every week."

Wickham says in the middle of last year's eight-month lockdown in Victoria, Melbourne Tautoko Whānau was supporting more than 150 whānau with kai.

He says, "As we've come out of lockdown number three, that dropped down to around 75 (families). And just in the last week, I'm back over 100 (families)."

Wickham says, even though it is a Māori-run charity, it opens its doors to whānau from all cultures.

Support packages 

Today, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Covid-19 disaster package where a payment of $500 can be claimed for those who work more than 20 hours in a week, and $325 for those who work less than 20 hours a week.

Wickham says the Melbourne Tautoko Whānau would not be able to provide the support it does without the help of its volunteers and organisations such as Foodbank Victoria, Oz Harvest and Fair Share as well as support from Melbourne's consulate general for New Zealand Vanessa O'Neil and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia, Dame Annette King.

For whānau in Victoria who are in need of assistance, but may not know where to turn - every Tuesday and Saturday, Melbourne Tautoko Whānau provides kai parcel drop-offs or opens up its warehouse pantry by appointment at Te Whare Punga in Brooklyn.

Those seeking support or those who would like to volunteer, are encouraged to get in touch with Melbourne Tautoko Whānau on Facebook or on their website here.