Warning: The following story is about child abuse, and some viewers may find this topic distressing.
The Māori hearing for the 'Abuse in Care' Royal Commission of Inquiry has closed but for many of those who came forward to speak over the past two weeks, their horrifying experiences in state care continue to haunt them.
A panel of Māori experts heard from 25 witnesses. Among the panel was Paora Moyle (Ngāti Porou) who spoke to Te Ao Tapatahi today about the overarching themes during the inquiry.
“I've heard about human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, genocidal practice. I’ve heard about the enslavement of tamariki, torture, child rape resulting in pregnancy by caregivers. I've heard of whakapapa dislocation. I've heard of the broken hearts and desolation, loneliness from those children,” she says.
“I’ve heard about government denial, cover-ups across multiple ministries and the shutting down of tamariki Māori, survivors who are now adults telling their stories.”
As a survivor herself, Moyle says it’s heart-breaking when hearing other people’s stories, “because these things happen to them but they happen to them as small children”.
It's still happening
“It's really difficult for New Zealand to get an understanding that these things happened and are still happening.
“It's very triggering for survivors to tell their story. I listened to them. I myself felt validated because everything that they were talking about resonated with my own experiences. You have to be very brave because you're often not believed.
“Often you get sidelined and people come back to you going ‘Oh, you just want compensation, don't you?’ No child in the care of the state ever put themselves forward to be abused to get compensation later on in life. That just doesn't stand out. That doesn’t make sense, yet every survivor is saying the same thing.
“It's not about compensation. They’re wanting the monstrosity of the wide oppression of child protection in this country to stop harming our tamariki.”
Asked if the government has taken enough responsibility and done enough, Moyle says no.
“When Carmel Sepuloni comes out and she hasn’t even read the redress report that came out at the end of last year, when you hear Kelvin [Davis] referring to survivors as 'grizzlers', when you've got the oversight of Oranga Tamariki, which is a very important thing to have happen being reduced or whitewashed out.
“The oversight is a really important feature of seeing how our children are feeling and the cure of the state and when you reduce that, you strengthen the strength of the oppression of Oranga Tamariki over that, then it puts children and whānau at risk, more risk, than what they are at the moment.”
Moyle says she wants the “whole of child protection dismantled” and to start again with a by Māori, for Māori approach.
“We’ve got really good examples of how to work in this country already. You only have to look at the Te Whāriki Manawāhine o Hauraki [Hauraki Women’s Refuge]. They’re an award-winning service that is already working with local people, with whānau, learning what they want, [what] their needs are, and they've got a crew of really good people who already carry that work out.
“You don't have to be a qualified registered social worker to help tamariki be well in their own communities, their own environment.”
However, the Minister for Children, Kelvin Davis, says his comments about grizzlers was not directed at survivors of abuse "but at certain individuals who are using the select committee process for the Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill to raise their criticisms of the reform of Oranga Tamariki itself.
"The amendment bill is being led by Minister Carmel Sepuloni separate from me, as it should be, because it is about the monitoring the oversight of Oranga Tamariki and the Minister for Children should not have influence over that.
"It is completely separate from the reform of Oranga Tamariki and how it operates. This work is progressing rapidly and will lead to resources and power shifting to communities and iwi/NGO groups.
"I encourage those who criticise from the sidelines to play a more constructive role in that process."