Community lays down wero - "There is a better life than drugs and alcohol, whānau"

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

As part of the national 'Save our Tamariki, Save our Future' campaign, in Gisborne, parents are also being challenged to change their ways and fight for the future of their children.

Addressing the public, one speaker says, “I have my two-year-old out there, I have my three-year-old out there so I will continue to fight for my babies to bring them home.”

A social worker for over eight years, Heni Tuhura says, “If what the family is doing is wrong, we the elders must enter- all the families- to help that grandchild.  Bring us the problems affecting Māori we will look after them and care for them.”

Community groups from Kaikohe to Ōtautahi, are sending a message to government and parents alike, to protect the children.

The third Safety of Children in Care report states that in Jan-March 2019, 59% of children in state care were Māori.

Ngaire Aben of Rongomaiwahine says, “This has affected my family so that's [why I] stand up to the government, the ministries, to say to them 'this isn't right', this type of action for our grandchildren.”

Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, which took effect on 1 July 2019, sets out the ministry's responsibilities in line with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, to improve outcomes for Māori children and young people- and their whānau.

Thomas Rangihuna of Ngāti Porou says, “Give us the resources or the funding so that we can care for our own grandchildren.”

Parents are also challenging and encouraging other parents to change their ways, to overcome their addictions and fight for the future of their children.

“You know, there is a better life than drugs and alcohol, whānau, there is a better life than gangs, whānau.  I'm a mother standing here to fight every single day for her babies,” says one community member.

The third Safety of Children in Care report states also states that in the period Jan-March 2019, 76% of the children harmed in state care were Māori.

Tuhura says a Māori response with elder input is required.

“We're talking about iwi, arā rātau, kei reira rātau, they are the iwi.  It's not the people who profess to be 'the iwi', they don't know nothing about what's happening to their own people but for those of us who are real, we're on the ball all the time, kei konei mātau i ngā wā katoa.”

Community members are looking to form their own advocacy group.

“Gather together a register pertaining to each and every one of those individual whānau to identify who are your extended whānau, who can we reach because nō te mea, kāre a Oranga Tamariki me ō rātau social workers e haere ki reira.”

Tuhura says the intention is to keep children within immediate family support systems.