3 Oct 2019

Māori Women's Welfare League says government failing Māori

12:03 pm on 3 October 2019

The government has failed to deliver transformative change for Māori - that's the clear message the Māori Women's Welfare League president has sent to members at this year's national conference.

Māori Women's Welfare League president Prue Kapua.

Māori Women's Welfare League president Prue Kapua Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

About 1000 people are in Masterton for the week-long hui, where the league is expected to discuss some of the most pressing problems faced by Māori women and whānau.

Members of the league and manuhiri were welcomed into the rohe of Whakaoriori with a roaring pōwhiri to kick-off the event.

Among them was Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss, who quickly found herself facing a wero, or challenge, by Ngāti Kahungunu representative PJ Devonshire.

He said the hui was an opportunity to talk about why so many Māori babies were being removed from their whānau.

That wero was echoed by Ms Kapua.

She said in three years the government had made little progress in reducing inequities for Māori women and whānau in the justice, health, education, and state care system.

"It's difficult to see what change has occurred," she said.

"What we have seen though is series of reports seeking to identify issues that are to hopefully inform decisions and actions that may lead to transformative change ... those reports have been clear that the system is failing us.

"None of this is new. Puao-te-Ata-tu told us that loud and clear in 1988... But it was never properly implemented and the means to address issues for Māori were overlooked or ignored."

Māori women’s welfare league president Prue Kapua speaking at the 2019 annual conference.

Māori women’s welfare league president Prue Kapua speaking at the 2019 annual conference. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

The Māori Women's Welfare league has been fighting to reduce these inequities and advocate for the rights of Māori women since it was established in 1951.

But Ms Kapua said after 67 years the government still did not allow Māori to design and implement the solutions for their people themselves.

"At the moment they'll still accept recommendations we make but they'll still carry them out. And they haven't realised that that hasn't worked, so they actually have to give up some of that decision-making to either our own structures or our own organisations."

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said change took time and blamed the previous National government for leaving a mess that wasn't easy to clean up.

"Things need to change and it's important that they do. Māori figures are predominantly in the negative statistics.

"But this change can't happen overnight and that's the sad reality."

Social justice advocate and lawyer Julia Whaipooti said that was not good enough.

"I remember the first time I heard those horrible statistics, how many Māori were in prisons, the Māori suicide rates, that have become so normalised.

"We are very clear as a people, our tīpuna were very clear, that we as Māori have the solutions for us as Māori.

"We don't need to be empowered by structures that are institutions of colonisation."

The Māori Women's Welfare league is currently involved in the fourth inquiry into Oranga Tamariki and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the historic abuse in state care.

The conference will run until Sunday.

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