Waipahīhī Marae in Taupō yesterday had resounding karanga filling the cool, brisk air as Colleen Morehu and her ope (visiting group) of 100 made their way onto the marae ātea. Morehu was becoming the new pouārahi (site manager) of Oranga Tamariki for the Taupō office and surrounding areas.
In her new role, Morehu will start relationships with Iwi and communities and will allow communities to lead.
“I believe the answers are in the hands of Māori for our tamariki, the safety and wellbeing of our children,” Morehu says.
Under the Oranga Tamariki Act, strategic partnerships with Iwi are vital along with Treaty partnerships “and so it is important that we stand alongside Iwi so that things are done with iwi as opposed to iwi.” Oranga Tamariki regional manager Tasi Malu says.
‘It takes a village to raise a child’
Malu suggests in the past Oranga Tamariki has been trying to lead Māori whānau, tamariki, and young people and that they could have done better with Iwi partnerships.
Now Oranga Tamariki is doing that and Malu says, “My vision from the beginning will come to fruition. I think there absolutely has to be, when you are working with iwi and mana whenua, it means we are a part of the village. Rather than Oranga Tamariki being the village as it used to be in the past, we are now merely part of the village. It takes a village to raise a child.”
Morehu has a teaching background and was principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whakarewa I Te Reo Māori ki Ngāti Tūwharetoa. She has strong iwi connections and has come through the kohanga reo movement, kura kaupapa, Te Aho Matua, and groups within the Taupō community. She is a respected wahine rangatira in the community among Māori and tauiwi, says Ruby Pitiroi who is from the Morehu whānau and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whakarewa i Te Reo Māori ki Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
“Morehu has the answers to helping our people with a Māori lens. She didn’t learn solutions for our people from a school or government ideologies but it is from her Te Ao Māori experience, heart, wairua, and understanding that she is right for the job.”
Iwi to lead Oranga Tamariki to follow
Sir Tumu Te Heuheu and his office of the Whare Ariki proposed and created the agreement between the iwi and Oranga Tamariki so iwi will lead decision and solution making and Oranga Tamariki will follow. Now Te Heuheu and Morehu say they are both delighted with what this will mean for the future of the people and the children and young people going in and out of Oranga Tamariki in the Taupō areas.
Oranga Tamariki says there are 31 children in state care in Taupō, of whom 21 are Māori. Morehu says this isn’t good enough and wants those numbers dropped to zero. “My first job is to discuss with hapū of Tūwharetoa what is best for our people. And from that discussion, we will find out from hapū, families, and marae, that it is all about caring for our children” Morehu says.
The new pouārahi says she is excited to start dreaming big with hapū and making those dreams a reality.