Marchers call for uplift halt - effective immediately

By Tema Hemi

Hundreds turned out for the "Hands Off Our Tamariki" march in Wellington, in protest against the child uplift practices of Oranga Tamariki. 

Demonstrators gathered on the grounds of parliament hoping to ensure a safe future for tamariki Māori. 

Dame Tariana Turia, who attended the march, says, "I always feel really, really angry actually that our people have to come here stand in front of politicians and really not get the response they have a right to."

However, Minister for Children Tracey Martin says that response has come, with a $1.1bil new operating model for Oranga Tamariki.

Martin says, "This government, on the first of July, only twenty nine days ago, put $1.1 billion into the new operating model for Oranga Tamariki to make it what it was always supposed to be via the expert advisory panel."

Despite some cases warranting an uplift, Māori would like to see the wider whakapapa of that child be utilised as the next best option before state care. 

Turia says, "What I am saying is, you have no right to place these children outside of their whakapapa."

Dr Moana Jackson says, "The first step is for the Crown to acknowledge that tamariki mokopuna need to be with whānau, need to be within whakapapa."

And it seems the government has taken that on board. 

"Everything they are asking for with regard to the fact that the government department cannot raise children, the fact that the best place for children is in loving families, all those things we don't disagree with," says Martin. 

Research shows that this has been an ongoing struggle for Māori since the early days of colonisation. 

Dr Jackson says, "Our people have been concerned since 1840 actually. The records we've researched, the first Māori baby was taken in October 1840.  To remove it from the 'evils of the pā' was the phrase used."

Turia says she doesn't want to see any more Māori children and whānau suffer at the hands of government.    

"And probably the biggest message is, the government needs to listen to the people.  Because if they don't, you and I are going to keep watching our kids go down the tubes and I'm for one not prepared to."

The 'Hands of our Tamariki' petition, with over 40 thousand signatures, was handed to the Greens co-leader Marama Davidson to table in parliament.