Māori leaders demand dismissals - ‘this is the last straw’

By Taroi Black

Some of the most prominent wahine Maori have come forward calling for the immediate sacking of Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss and Minister for Children Tracey Martin. 

Leading the governance group for the Maori Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki is Dame Naida Glavish followed by other notable figures such as Dame Tariana Turia, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Dame June Mariu, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Merepeka Raukawa Tait who are calling for "immediate dismissals."

They were reacting to a Newsroom six-month investigation, which found qualified social workers admitting they were replaced by unqualified youth or care workers; social workers who had been targeted if they complained; the department paying only lip service to Te Ao Maori; major issues with staffing at youth justice facilities.  

The governance group to initiate the Maori-led Oranga Tamariki review was supported by 250 attendees representing Iwi and hapu  around Aotearoa at the Iwi Chairs Forum at Waitangi earlier this year. Its purpose is to overhaul the system and undertake a structural analysis and review of Oranga Tamariki systems, policies, processes and practices. 

The governance group wants better solutions by Maori for Maori to ensure state agency collusion and discrimination against Māori mums and babies was over. 

Now its members are calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to act swiftly as they claim the Ministry for Children is out of control.

'Heartbreaking dysfunction'

This call comes just hours after the resignation of Health Minister David Clark after controversies over his handling of the coronavirus response. 

“We’re all mothers, aunties and grandmothers who love our babies deeply, so to be confronted with yet another reminder of the systemic dysfunction of Oranga Tamariki is heartbreaking," Dame Naida said. 

Earlier last month Dame Naida, chief advisor Tikanga Māori with He Kāmaka Waiora, Māori Health, for the Waitematā and Auckland District Health Boards, helped stopped Oranga Tamariki from taking children into state care at Waitakere Hospital. This follows the Waitemata DHB's position last year to not support the state removal of babies from any of its hospitals.  

"Enough is enough, it’s time for a total rehaul if we value our children in this country."

Dame Iritana agrees: “This is an absolute indictment on the ministry.”

Newsroom published its investigation on June 26 and July 1.   

Investigation sought

“The evidence in both news items impugns the integrity of the organisation, the leadership, and the ministry, as it evidences the dark shadow of Oranga Tamariki,” says Merepeka Raukawa-Tait.

“This organisation not only fails tamariki and whānau, it also fails its own social workers and, ultimately, it has failed our nation - for years and this is totally unacceptable.”

The leaders are calling for a full investigation by an independent body given the mounting evidence of misrepresentation, unethical conduct and abuse of power fueled by a government-sanctioned $1.1 billion budget.

The same issues were recently echoed by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft reporting that “the child welfare system is dangerous, brutal and racist.”