Oranga Tamariki community-led partnership launched in Kaitāia

By Tumamao Harawira

Iwi will take on a more prominent role within the child welfare sector under Te Atatū - Oranga Tamariki's first community-led partnership strategy with four community groups, collectively known as Te Kahu Oranga Whānau.

The Kaitāia community gathered today to celebrate the announcement alongside Oranga Tamariki Minister and Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis. But just what difference will the new strategy make?

"For a long time, Oranga Tamariki has wrongly assumed that it has the answers to the problem while the community has always said that it has the solutions."

At the moment there are 4,800 tamariki in Oranga Tamariki care. Katie Murray of Waitomo Papakāinga Development Society, one of the four groups of Te Kahu Oranga Whānau, says there is a range of issues that contributes to child welfare statistics in the community, such as the meth problem in the North.

"That has been compounded by the lack of employment, which has then created the lack of finances going into homes, and not having your own home, not even your own rental home, sharing your rental home with two or three other families up here."

Kaitāia & Oranga Tamariki working together for tamariki.

'Who better than whanaunga?'

"Those people who are engaged or involved in Oranga Tamariki, in whatever way shape, or form, are ours."

Community groups such as the Waitomo Papakāinga Development Trust and Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri Trust make up Te Kahu Oranga Whānau, and Te Atatū is an initiative that seeks to give the responsibility of child welfare into the hands of the community.

But how does partnering with community groups help tamariki Māori?

"They are my whanaunga. Who better to work with them than their whanaunga? Who understands them, who understands the environment that they were brought up in, and live in? Who better than those on the ground?"

Oranga Tamariki Minister Kelvin Davis says these types of partnerships must be widely explored in other areas of the country.

"Those discussions are taking place. But I agree with the idea that this initiative isn't just for Kaitāia. The hope is that this type of initiative will be rolled out around the country."

"Those groups will have the mana to decide what will be done for taitamariki of the region. Oranga Tamariki's job will be to support the dreams and aspirations of those groups."