'They have ignored us' - state care survivor slams Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill

By Whatitiri Te Wake

A teenager who has been in the care of Oranga Tamariki since he was seven months old is disappointed young people's views have been disregarded in the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People's Commission Bill.

The bill was back before the House today for its second reading. It seeks to change the way the state monitors Oranga Tamariki and handles complaints against the child protection agency.

Ihorangi Rewiti Peters, 16,  says he has experienced life in the system, both good and bad.

“I have been in 21 different placements throughout New Zealand. About six of those is where physical and emotional abuse happened from caregivers,” he says.

As an advocate for rangatahi like him, he arrived at Parliament in the hope of raising awareness of the flaws of the legislation.

“It makes me feel hurt that we're not been listened to and our concerns around legislation are not being taken into account by Minister Carmel Sepuloni.” 

He says one notable change that’s of concern is the weakening of the role of the Childrens Commissioner and the new independent monitoring system.

“The independant monitor needs to be actually independent and not in a government department like ERO. It needs to be a new Crown entity,” he says.

But Sepuloni is confident the legislation reinforces the independence of the monitor. “It’s all written there,” she says.

Peters is fearful that tamariki will no longer have the Childrens' Commission, known for its advocacy work for young people, in their corner.

“We will be losing the barking dog and the commissioner who we call on when we need her and her office's advocacy.”

Peters also says he is frustrated that the legislation was pushed through before the outcomes and recommendations from the Royal Inquiry into Abuse in care are known.

Sepuloni says the five-year review period will allow for any necessary changes to be implemented.

“If something comes out of the Royal Commission of Inquiry report that clearly impacts on what we need to do with the oversight system, then the review can take place and incorporation of what is recommended,” she says.

Te Pāti Māori and the Greens are to vote against the bill. Both National and Act voted yes at the first reading to allow the select committee to proceed. But both parties confirmed they would  vote against the bill at its second reading.