Ardern wanted to 'get on' with passing Oversight Oranga Tamariki bill

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today said the government didn't wait till the Royal Commission into Abuse of Children in State Care reported before changing the governance of Oranga Tamariki because it wanted to "get on" with things.

Last week the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People's Commission Bill passed its third reading in Parliament. But Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) told Te Ao Tapatahi this week she was worried why there was a rush to pass the bill before the recommendations from the royal commission had been made.

This morning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a 2018 report had already asked the government to put in the changes, “to create a more comprehensive oversight function for Oranga Tamariki”.

“Our view is that we just need to get on with making sure we have that oversight but we know that the royal commission has a bit longer to run – let’s check in again after the royal commission has finished and given us their recommendations, and give ourselves another chance then to see if there are any changes to be made.”

New voices

Ardern said having a board wouldn’t necessarily undermine the Children’s Commissioner. Rather it would enhance the support around her, and she doesn’t think that anyone in the role “would be any less than an advocate than every other Children’s Commissioner”.

Looking at the last Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft’s mahi, Ardern said he was concerned Māori did not have a voice until he had bought in support.

“Our reference point was that we were seeing the Children’s Commissioner wanting to bring in the voices of others. So this allows a Chief Children’s Commissioner to have Māori, Pacific, disability and young people with lived experience work alongside them.”

Ardern said the Ombudsman was already investigating complaints in Oranga Tamariki.

“One of the points that have been made to us is having the person that investigates and having the advocate – there’s many that believe that should be separate functions.”