Demands for Oranga Tamariki name change, end to 'uplifting'

3:40 pm on 13 June 2019

A petition to change the name of Oranga Tamariki has been gaining traction online as Māori lawyers, midwives, and social workers call on the government to stop taking Māori children.

Newborn baby feet with identification bracelet tag name.

Photo: 123RF

The former Child Youth and Family changed its name in 2017 under the National government and was amended by Labour last year, to become Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children.

Oranga Tamariki has come under pressure recently over its treatment of Māori, specifically with the uplift of Māori babies.

Three Māori babies a week are being 'uplifted' from their mothers and of the 283 babies taken into care last year, more than 70 percent were Māori or Pasifika.

In less than 24 hours the online petition has gained more than 5000 signatures.

Campaign creator Carolyn Hopa said on the ActionStation page that "oranga" was a word that implied wellness. She said the Ministry used the kupu distastefully.

Those who have signed the petition have left messages in support of the campaign.

One said it did not deserve a Māori title because the organisation hurt Māori, and tikanga and reo did not govern its policies.

"If you use te reo Māori to define your organisation then you must use tikanga Māori to run your organisation. This is not rocket science, it is basic respect.

"The Treaty of Waitangi promises that all things Māori and all things English would be treated the same."

Another petitioner agreed.

"I signed because as a Māori descendant I am disgusted at how they have abused the tikanga of Oranga."

'Disgraced and degraded the name' - te reo Māori expert

Paraone Gloyne describes himself as an 'activator' of te reo māori.

Paraone Gloyne Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

A reo expert said Oranga Tamariki was not living up to its name.

Mātanga reo Paraone Gloyne said the recent actions of the ministry had shown it did not uphold the mana of its name and were in direct opposite of what the words meant - of protecting the wellbeing of children.

"The name of its mana, its tapu and wairua have been disregarded, degraded and disgraced by these actions - those are my thoughts and that's what I feel.

"There are kupu in the Māori language that demand our respect and our commitment to upholding and realising the mana or power of those kupu. They should not be bandied around with no thought or responsibility to actioning the tikanga or the meaning of the kupu."

He is calling on Oranga Tamariki to start living up to its name and reflect on the words of the late Dr Wharehuia Milroy - 'Matua rautia te tamaiti - may the child have many parents.'

"When we talk about children from a Māori worldview, we are talking about the community of that child and the things that are wrapped around that tamaiti to help that tamaiti benefit and achieve and flourish in the world and that is where Oranga Tamariki's whakaaro should be," Mr Gloyne said.

Other online kaupapa gaining support

Auckland University of Technology senior law lecturer Khylee Quince.

Khylee Quince Photo: Supplied

Māori lawyers, midwives, social workers and academics have united to call on the government to stop taking Māori children.

An open letter, initiated by the Hands Off Our Tamariki group, is calling on the government to put an immediate halt on taking Māori children and has been signed by more than 7000 people online.

The open letter calls for the Ministry for Children to be overhauled and restructured in line with kaupapa Māori and strengths-based approaches that ensure tamariki remain connected to their whānau.

Among those supporting the letter are prominent wāhine Māori, including lawyer Khylee Quince, Professor Jacinta Ruru, social worker Paora Moyle, midwife Jean Te Huia and researcher Leonie Pihama.

It also asks that any future legislation and policies be co-designed with iwi and Māori.

A Hands Off Our Tamariki rally in Wellington for the end of July has already gained interest from more than 1000 people on Facebook.

The Minister for Social Development and Minister for Children were unavailable for comment.

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