27 Jun 2019

Support for fourth Oranga Tamariki inquiry led by Māori

2:14 pm on 27 June 2019

There is support for a fourth inquiry to be launched into Oranga Tamariki - led by Māori.

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There's support for a fourth, Māori-led, inquiry into Oranga Tamariki. Photo: Oranga Tamariki

The North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency will host a national Māori hui in Auckland next month, where they will consider a Māori-lead inquiry into the Children's Ministry.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait. Photo: Supplied

Chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said Oranga Tamariki had a lot to answer for in Māori communities.

"They operate, certainly, with lack of tikanga knowledge. They operate with little communication with whānau. They operate and it is seen to be targeting, particularly, young Māori mothers," she said.

"That is the information that we are getting coming back and, particularly, Māori midwives are very concerned with what they have seen."

Educator Sir Toby Curtis supported a Māori-led inquiry and said they needed to better understand how the ministry was operating.

He said Māori were best placed to understand what was not working for Māori whānau.

"How can people who are not Māori, who do not understand our sense of nuance in dealing with behaviour or misbehaviour, get it right?," he said.

"People who are being involved who are non-Māori don't know our reo, don't know how we live, don't know our culture, don't know our customs. How can they get it right?"

Three inquiries have already been launched into Oranga Tamariki by the Ombusdman, the Children's Commissioner, and one by Oranga Tamariki itself.

They were all announced following public outrage at an attempt to take a baby from its Māori mother in Hawke's Bay Hospital last month.

Des Ratima helped stop that baby being taken, and said the whānau were doing well at the moment and was pleased with the subsequent investigations.

He was welcoming a fourth inquiry and said it was important for Māori to put their own lens on the ministry.

"It is timely, it is valid and it is relevant," he said.

"We have become aware that this is not a single event. We have become aware that we have had three such uplifts a week somewhere in the country from our people.

"That is a significant amount of our population that have been taken from their mothers and disconnected from their whakapapa."

New legislation

New Oranga Tamariki legislation comes into effect on Monday that will force the ministry to partner with Māori and iwi organisations and devolve its resources.

Under a new section 7AA, the ministry must also commit to the Treaty of Waitangi and ensure it is reducing disparities for Māori.

New Zealand Māori Council executive director Matt Tukaki said many Māori felt their voice and concerns about the ministry had gone unheard for years.

He said the scope of the other inquiries may not be wide-reaching enough but he is not sure whether a fourth investigation is the right move.

"What we have got now is an opportunity for Māoridom to come together to start having a look at what a Māori-centred and -centric model looks like when it comes to these sorts of services," he said.

"We have already got Ngāpuhi with an agreement with Oranga Tamariki, we have got Section 7AA coming in. Is a fourth inquiry going to make a difference in what we already know?"

Oranga Tamariki said it was aware of the call for a Māori inquiry, and was in the middle of changing the way it worked with whānau, hapū, iwi and kaupapa Māori providers.

In a statement, Chief Social Worker and deputy chief executive professional practice Grant Bennett said any insights into how they could change their practices were welcome.

"In the end, we all want the same thing, for all babies, children and young people to be in the safe, loving care of their parents and whānau," he said.

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