By Maxine Jacobs
The addition of a Māori lawyer to the state abuse inquiry is a good first step but more must be done to reach Māori communities, the Māori Council says.
The appointment of Andrew Erueti to the panel has earned praise, but Auckland District chairman Matthew Takaki said the key was to help Māori engage with the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care.
"I'm hoping that the commission will not just stay in four walls in Wellington, Auckland or Christchurch, but they will move around the motu and hold hearings at local marae where whānau support will be important."
Victims who face stigma and carry significant trauma may not want to appear before the commission, he said.
That's why the Māori Council nominated Dr Erueti to represent indigenous perspectives on the panel.
"We did that in the hope that more Māori would see a Māori sitting on the panel. Somebody that they could trust, and therefore their stories would come to light," Mr Takaki said.
"We still have work to do to get them to that table, but having a Māori on the commission is so important."
Although Dr Erueti is the only Māori on the panel, Māori Council chairman Sir Eddie Taihakurei Durie said one representative was enough.
"Both Andrew and his wife have been heavily involved in the United Nations declaration of the rights of indigenous people.
"He will be there amongst people who are sympathetic and empathetic to what Māori people are saying so I don't have any concerns."
Sir Durie wants to see Iwi authorities and the Māori Council working with the Government supervising children in state care - with proper checks made on caregivers involved with state care.
"So that we can be responsible ourselves and develop our own culture of responsibility, rather than relying on the state to take all of the responsibility and the criticism that comes with that."