Systemic change the only way to improve outcomes for tamariki Māori

By Kereama Wright

Without systemic change to Oranga Tamariki and the Family Court system tamariki Māori will continue to suffer.

This is one of many urgent calls put to Ministers and Government representatives following the release of a Māori led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki.

Many issues and concerns were highlighted, including a distinct need for legislative change.

Chair of the governance group overseeing the review, Dame Naida Glavish says the report confirms systemic failure, discrimination and inexplicable breaches of human rights towards Māori.

“We can clearly see from the volume of evidence - and the heavy handed approach inflicted on  whānau - that something is so systemically wrong. This entrenched behaviour is plain unjust.”

 Over five weeks those who led the inquiry spoke with 1100 people across the country who outlined harrowing experiences with the agency.

Whānau directly impacted by experiences with Oranga Tamariki told their stories in the inquiry and were referred to as Pā Whānau.

One mother told researchers her attempt to seek help while suffering from post-natal depression led to her children being taken into state care.

“CYF breached court orders that returned custody to me and continued to undermine our relationship and place him with previous CYF open home carers. During this period sexual abuse was known to the carer who tried to tell the social worker, but this was blocked…. The damage was done.”

The Māori governance group presented its findings to Iwi Chairs at Waitangi yesterday and all representatives endorsed the findings.

Earlier this year the Children’s Commissioner released a report detailing further indiscrepencies for Māori and he urged the state agency to enhance its efforts in partnering with Maori.

At least 60 percent of children in Oranga Tamariki care are Māori and in July 2019 Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act came into effect which bound the agency through legislation to work more collaboratively and cooperatively with iwi.

While the agency has established relationships with a number of iwi, representatives involved in the inquiry claim the initiatives established barely scratch the surface and the government has a long way to go.