30 Apr 2021

Crown apology, compensation needed for Oranga Tamariki failings - Lady Tureiti Moxon

From Checkpoint, 6:08 pm on 30 April 2021

The Crown needs to consider compensation and a formal apology to Māori whānau for the trauma caused to them by the state's hostility and failings, says Lady Tureiti Moxon.

Lady Tureiti is one of the Māori leaders tipped to be part of a new Māori Transition Authority, with a goal to eliminate state care of tamariki for failing to uphold Māori tino rangatiratanga over their homes.

Oranga Tamariki will stay, but the transition authority recommended by the Tribunal would have the power to recommend the transfer of certain legal functions.

The Tribunal named its pick of foundation members for the authority. Lady Tureiti is one of them.

"We have an opportunity here, and the Minister, if he's brave and courageous enough, should pick up on what the Tribunal has recommended and ensure that our people are able and enabled to do what we need to do for ourselves now," she told Checkpoint

A 'by Māori, for Māori' system would mean a Māori chief executive and governance structure from a Māori cultural perspective, Lady Tureiti said. 

"And recognising that Māori actually have lots of answers for ourselves in what we think should happen in our localities, our own regions, and also what should happen to us in terms of whānau, hapū and iwi. 

"I really think if anyone understands and knows what it means to be Māori and to have lived experience of that, it's us.

"As long as [Oranga Tamariki] devolve to Māori the opportunity to grow and develop and establish a Māori mokopuna authority, or transition authority as the Tribunal put it, I think we can work with anybody." 

Lady Tureiti said the issue she has is a "vision" from within Oranga Tamariki that somehow the organisation can be fixed and it can happen immediately. 

"Actually it can't. And those statutory powers can be removed if the government was of a will to do that - to change that legislation, but they haven't yet. 

"They said they were going to get rid of Section 78 and it's still there. And they're still uplifting subsequent children. 

"It's been very clear, not just from the Waitangi Tribunal report but from the Whānau Ora report, the Ombudsman's report, from the Children's Commissioner's report that something transformational needs to be done. And it cannot be done from within Oranga Tamariki as it is."

She said the reason power has not yet been devolved may be that when people have resources and power they do not want to share it. 

"But we've got a Māori minister there," Lady Tureiti said, but added it remains to be seen if he is brave enough to act on the recommendations. 

"It certainly did in Andrew Little and Peeni Henare's space in terms of the Māori Health Authority, to do it. Because Andrew Little actually understands what it means to be Te Tiriti partnership. 

"So our minister Kelvin Davis needs to take a leaf out of their book and see that Māori have all the resources we need to be able to commission ourselves."

In response to those who would call the proposal separatist, Lady Tureiti said to look at New Zealand's coat of arms. 

"There are two visionary people there. One has a crown, and the other is iwi. 

"And you know what? Never in our whole history in our country have we ever recognised Māori as being on an equal footing as the Crown. Now is our opportunity to do that. It is time. 

"You see it on the coat of arms of the police, various ministries... You have the two standing side by side, together, looking at each other. Not as one less than the other, but as equals. 

"That, to me, has to be the key going forward. That was the intention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and it must be the intention of our intention as equal partners going forward into the future."

Lady Tureiti said the Crown should consider compensation to whānau who have been traumatised by state intervention. 

"It's time. I think the Crown should be looking at an apology and certainly should be looking at compensating a lot of these whānau, and returning children back to their parents." 

She acknowledged that there are cases where pēpi or tamariki must be removed from their parents. But the problem is those whānau often do not get support and the children are never given back.