21 Oct 2022

Malachi Subecz death: Te Pāti Māori claims 'lacklustre' response by Oranga Tamariki and minister

4:13 pm on 21 October 2022
Te Pati Maori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says interim measures could have been implemented before a review came back. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Te Pāti Māori has called for the state to be held legally liable for abuse in its care, after an investigation found a litany of failures in the run-up to a five year old's death.

The Ombdusman this month said Oranga Tamariki failed to do the bare minimum before Malachi Subecz was killed by a caregiver last year, despite whānau pleas for the agency's intervention.

The review found there were ample opportunities to intervene, and Malachi's death was ultimately preventable.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the ministry had failed in its legal obligations, and the whānau had also sought help from two ministers.

"The atrocities continue on because, again, we've got this lacklustre approach to the consequences ... there's been no ownership," Ngarewa-Packer told RNZ's Midday Report on Friday.

Malachi Subecz Photo:

Children's Minister Kelvin Davis has said the killing of Malachi was reprehensible, and that Oranga Tamariki accepted the findings of the Ombdusman's investigation.

"New Zealand has a terrible track record of child abuse. To front up to this and address it will require everyone, and every agency to play their part," Davis said in a statement.

However, he said he would not be taking action until the findings of internal reviews were completed, which Davis said would be more far-reaching and probing.

"This includes understanding the full picture of what has happened, and what needs to be fixed to help prevent something like this happening again. I expect both the wider system review and Oranga Tamariki chief social worker practice review to provide this."

Speaking to RNZ on 5 October, Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani said those reviews would be completed "within a fortnight."

On Friday, neither Oranga Tamariki nor the minister's office would provide a new date, with Davis only saying: "I understand Oranga Tamariki are working to finalise" the report.

Ngarewa-Packer said a delayed approach meant atrocities were likely continuing.

"We've seen 17 reviews, 17 reviews. What more do we want? Do we want to hit 20 or 30 before we say you've failed?," she said.

"When you've got something like this sitting over your agency you don't wait past the timeline.

"I put that the minister is aware of the draft and it is so damning across multiple agencies that were involved in this little boy's circumstances that they actually can't respond because they're needing to speak to each other."

Ngarewa-Packer said interim measures, like a mandatory reporting system, could have been implemented as a bare minimum before any review came back.

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