Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Orange Tamariki) legislation Bill
What does a safe, loving and stable home look like? And who is best to provide this?
These are the questions at the core of debate on a bill before the Social Services Select Committee that sets out changes to child welfare services, and that will underpin the direction and scope of the work of Ministry of Vulnerable Children (Oranga Tamariki), and the decisions made by social workers in communities.
While there is broad agreement that much more needs to be done to improve the outcomes of children and young people whose parents struggle to parent safely, their is broad dissent from Maori about how this is done and who should be involved.
And sitting underneath all of this are the stories of abuse while in state care during the 1980s and 1990s, the Velocity at which Maori children were picked up and put into care for very minor actions, the link between high rates of Maori in state care going into state prisons, and the Race Relation’s Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy’s call for a national apology to Maori for institutional bias.
This alongside, the work of Judge Carolyn Henwood on the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service panel, and research by Elizabeth Stanley for her book, The Road to Hell: State Violence Against Children in Postwar New Zealand, all point to the need for the whole-of-society to understand the insidious cultural context that was at play at this point in time. As has been loudly pointed out, to ensure such misery is never repeated as we venture towards a new quest to improve outcomes for Maori, and a new state Ministry for Vulnerable children (Orange Tamariki).
“I found it hard at school. I wagged school all the time. I was walking the streets one day and I got picked up by the cops. They took me home and nobody was there because my mother was working. So he took me to Ōwairaka Boys’ Home. I thought I was only going to be there a night or maybe until my mother got home from work. But I ended up being a state ward and I was a state ward for five years going from boys’ home to boys’ home. “I don’t think I had any education in those five years……
The separation also badly affected his mother. “She didn’t have a vehicle in those days but she used to come and visit me at the boys’ home twice a week.
So fast forward to 2017, and we have a bill that ironically gives away some of the fundamental learnings from Puao-te-at-ata-tu, which underpinned the 1989 legislation and that sought to identify and address cultural bias within the then Department of Social Welfare. It is therefore unsurprising that Maori, Maori organisations and the Iwi Leaders are deeply troubled by this bill, fearing a repeat of the past.
- An Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations – Hands off our tamariki
- The Māori Women’s Welfare League – Waitangi Tribunal Claim challenging the policy changes proposed for the care and protection of children and young persons.
NZCCSS joined with our alliance partner, Te Kahui Atawhai O Te Motu (TKAM) to develop a submission which raised four key issues :
- the absence of authentic consultation with Maori,
- the preservation of the whanau first principle, which sat at the heart 1989 Act.
- more support for whanau to care for tamariki and rangatahi needed. :
- the need to acknowledge and address the link between poverty, inequality and child neglect.
There is clearly much to be considered by the Social Service Select Committee during its deliberations on this bill.