Kaupapa Māori not valued at Oranga Tamariki, social workers say

3:54 pm on 21 October 2020

Social workers have told the Waitangi Tribunal that Māori staff were not promoted because Oranga Tamariki do not value Māori knowledge.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

A Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the uplift practices of Oranga Tamariki and why there is a disproportionate number of tamariki Māori in state care is under way in Auckland.

Social worker of 25 years Hera Clark-Dancer (Ngāpuhi, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Porou) said handing over the reigns to iwi was both more effective and less intrusive.

She said that during her time as a senior social work advisor with Te Runanga o Ngāti Porou they were able to carry out an assessment of a whānau within two hours of a report of concern being lodged.

"Oranga Tamariki could not do this type of work alone because they did not have the capacity, time and extensive and relevant networks and connections.

"During my time, the majority of cases were related to unborn babies. We involved both the maternal and paternal whānau and many times the support came from the pāpā whakapapa, however, if the father was untraceable we relied on the māmā and her whakapapa solely.

She said Oranga Tamariki prefered to promote or hire people with business management skills rather than valuing people with knowledge of kaupapa Māori, which was why less than 33 percent of staff were Māori, despite Māori making up 68 percent of the client base.

There are also eight deputy chief executive positions, three of which are held by Māori who have come from business or governance backgrounds, rather than experienced social workers.

Raewyn Bhana who has been social worker for 33 years, with almost half of those with Oranga Tamariki, agreed there wasn't enough value placed on Māori knowledge.

"Mātauranga Māori is not valued or weighted as a criteria for appointment as a practitioner or for gaining promotions.

"Māori social workers are not scaffolded or supported into higher positions and so often they apply for positions because they've seen from past experience they don't get it.

"The further you climb within Oranga Tamariki the less value is placed on mātauranga Māori."

She said some Oranga Tamariki staff did not even know what Puao-te-Ata-tu is, a landmark report written in 1988 outlining the racism within the Department of Social Welfare.

BSshe said it was indicative of the wider culture of the organisation.

"They're pressurised and incentivised to close files quickly and efficiently, rather than set up long-lasting solutions with whakapapa."

Both Clark-Dancer and Bhana said that Family Group Conferences should be run by Māori.

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