The number of Māori staff employed by Oranga Tamariki compared to the high number of Māori children in state care has raised concerns at the New Zealand Māori Council.
Māori children make up between 60 and 70 percent of all children in state care and around 25 percent of staff employed by the organisation are Māori.
New Zealand Māori Council chairman Matthew Tukaki says, “There's a huge lack of Māori staff within Oranga Tamariki and I would argue at every level of Oranga Tamariki. Keep in mind that if 70 percent of all children in state care are Māori then 70 percent of all employees of Oranga Tamariki should, in theory, be Māori.”
Recent statistics from the Ministry for Children show 24 percent of social workers were Māori, 65 percent were Pākehā, 11 percent were Pacific and 11 percent were Asian.
But the figures didn’t include workers contracted by Oranga Tamariki who also deliver services for children in state care according to the Minister for Children Tracey Martin.
“There are other providers that we contract to provide services to those children and I don't have the percentages of what their employees are with regards to Māori employees, but 58 percent of our contractors at the moment are Māori and iwi organisations.”
Deputy Chief Executive Services for Children and Families Glynis Sandland says Māori representation at all levels of Oranga Tamariki is hugely important for the organisation.
"About a third of our senior leadership team are Māori and just over 20 percent of staff who hold senior roles identify as Māori. We’re working hard to grow this ratio across the entire organisation with a particular focus on the positions that have the greatest interaction with tamariki and their whānau."
Finding more Māori staff
Sandland says Oranga Tamariki has a number of strategies in place to find more Māori staff including culturally appropriate attraction and recruitment approaches, a focus on growing the cultural competency of the workforce and fostering strong partnerships with iwi and Māori providers.
"We are already seeing an increase in the number of Māori social workers we employ as well as other core roles such as FGC [Family Group Conference] coordinators. We’re developing a partnership with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa that will support more of their social work students on placement with us and into our workforce through their bi-cultural work degree," says Sandland.
"Of course, we’re also mindful of not removing Māori expertise from their communities and ensuring Māori social workers are available for iwi and Māori organisations as well so we are working closely with these groups to consider the broader across-sector children’s workforce."
As part of this year's Budget announcement, the organisation has been allocated more than $500mil over four years to invest in 350 frontline staff, including new social workers.
Tukaki says there will be plenty of Māori workers qualified for the job.
"We've got to stop talking about the fact that the talent's just not there- well, the talent is there. There are a huge number of Māori across New Zealand who are doing great things that given the opportunity could take us in possibly a brand new direction."