After a raft of inquiries delving into and recommending what should be done about the politically beleaguered Orangi Tamariki, along with the briefing papers we suppose he has been given, we imagined Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis would have no more need for expert advice.
Wrong. He has just appointed “a skilled and experienced group of people” as the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board.
The group (an all-Maori team) will begin work on 1 February and Davis expects an initial report (to add to the advice provided by the other reports) by 30 June.
The board’s appointment was one of three fresh announcements from the Beehive.
The others were
- Work begins today at Wainuiomata High School to ensure buildings and teaching spaces are fit for purpose; and
- The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week.
The newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board will provide the Minister with “independent advice and assurance” across three key areas of Oranga Tamariki: relationships with families, whānau, and Māori; professional social work practices; and organisational culture.
Davis said the Government was committed to fixing the child care and protection system and ensuring that Oranga Tamariki becomes an enabler – “the organisation that people trust and go to for help”.
He is confident this group will help the government achieve that.
Trust is high in the Minister’s considerations:
“Given the nature of Oranga Tamariki’s work, public trust and confidence are crucial for it to meet its core responsibilities and serve those children, young people, whānau and communities it comes into contact with.”
Inevitably, he mentioned the controversy that has raged – doubtless impeding the ministry’s work – since the widely publicised incident when midwives, lawyers and whānau stopped the clumsy and ill-considered attempted removal of a newborn baby from its mother at Hawke’s Bay Hospital in May 2019.
This triggered what became – in effect – a witch hunt aimed at pushing the ministry’s chief executive, Grainne Moss, out of her job. She resigned this week.
“Over time allegations, issues and concerns have been raised regarding Oranga Tamariki and its practice and culture; its lack of coordination with other NGOs; and its relationship with many Māori communities. These issues are having a negative impact on the ability of the ministry to fulfil its role and it is important that they are addressed.
“Oranga Tamariki needs to be focused on enhancing relationships with whānau and Māori; embedding professional social work practices; developing a positive culture; and starting to entrust funding and decision-making to Māori and to people on the ground in our regions.”
Outside of formal reporting and data, Davis said,
“… what is also needed is real time information about Oranga Tamariki and its progress, operations and performance, and certainty that its future direction is understood and becoming entrenched.”
He described the expert group as accomplished, senior, and well-respected members of the community whose combined expertise and experiences would be instrumental
” … in ensuring that Oranga Tamariki supports people to be the best parents, to be a safe whānau and to provide the best possible care of our tamariki.”
The press statement says the board members are –
Matthew Tukaki (Chair)
Mr Tukaki has an extensive career in government and the NGO sector in a large number of public, social and economic policy areas across the Māori world. He has been appointed to the role of executive chairman of the National Māori Authority, Ngā Ngaru Rautahi O Aotearoa; became the Chair of the Auckland District Māori Council; and most recently was elected to the National Executive of the New Zealand Māori Council.
Dame Naida Glavish
Dame Naida has dedicated many years of service to the health sector and Māori communities, has been influential in addressing inequities and barriers for Māori in the health system, and is involved with a range of iwi, government and community organisations. She was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), was the recipient of the Queen’s Service Medal for services to Māori and the community, and was awarded the title of Dame Companion of NZ Order of Merit (DNZM).
Ms Pakura was previously the President of the Aotearoa Association of Social Workers and has actively lobbied for mandatory registration of Social Workers in New Zealand. She has worked extensively in both Statutory Child Protection and Youth Justice social work sector and was the former Chief Social Worker for the Department of Child, Youth and Family. Currently, Shannon is the Chair of the Social Workers Registration Board.
Sir Mark Solomon
Sir Mark is a Tribal leader and has contributed to his community in many capacities, ranging from numerous board positions to trustees and directorships. He was instrumental in establishing the Te Putahitanga O Te Waipounamu, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency of the South Island and is currently its Chairperson.
A case can be made for four appointees with Shannon Pakura’s experience in social work.
The others are (or have been) involved in Maori politics and politicking.
Dame Naida was President of the Māori Party from 2013 to 2016,.
Tukaki has demonstrated a disdain for democratically elected MPs who question Maori actions.
Māori Council boss Matthew Tukaki has fired up at MPs over the legality of iwi checkpoints during the COVID-19 lockdown, describing them as “a bunch of baboons”.
Tukaki, executive director of the Māori Council, appeared before the Finance and Expenditure Committee on Wednesday, where he slammed MPs for “politicking” over whether or not the iwi checkpoints were legal.
“If we’ve got dog-whistling from our leaders down there in Wellington carrying on like a bunch of baboons, questioning the legitimacy of them, that does nothing to help the situation in those communities.”
Sir Mark and Dame Naida were members of the Maori inquiry governance group which looked into the ministry’s operations and concluded:
The overwhelming conclusion from this Inquiry is that the State care of tamariki and pēpi Māori, and in particular the uplift practices used by the State, are never appropriate for the long-term wellbeing of Māori. What is needed from Oranga Tamariki or any other State agency to ensure the wellbeing of young Māori, is the re-allocation of resources to be available for high quality whānau centred kaupapa Māori services in every rohe of Aotearoa. Those services should include ‘whare-tiaki-whānau’ where respite, healing, relationship building, and planning for the future can lead to strong and resilient whanau.
On a timely post on her blog, Lindsay Mitchell reminds us of the reasons why babies are removed (or “uplifted”) from their parents:
She cites an analysis of actual cases which Oranga Tamariki reports:
Typically, there were multiple factors associated with a decision to seek interim custody of a newborn baby. The most common reasons were:
- Substance abuse, particularly synthetic cannabis, methamphetamine or alcohol addiction, often coupled with mental health issues associated with that addiction,including psychosis and suicidal behaviour.
- Partner substance abuse and family violence. This can entail unpredictable acts of violence associated with substance abuse and a history of previous protection orders against the partner. Babies are particularly at risk in this context as they are often close by when the partner becomes violent, have no independent means of escaping the violent situation, and are highly vulnerable to serious physical harm from any assault.
Other factors included:
- Medical neglect, including severe lack of preparation for, and engagement with, the newborn baby.
- Parental difficulties in being able to recognise and respond to the needs of a newborn, including signs of distress.
Mitchell contends that to prevaricate over whether interventions should or should not occur based on political considerations is an act of abuse in and of itself.
She also notes there is a clear push for two different systems, one of them a Mokopuna Authority, or Māori for Māori by Māori.
But as Mitchell points out:
All Maori children have mixed ethnicity.
Before they are Maori/Pakeha/Pacific/Asian/other – she contends – they are “tiny human beings whose best interest the grown-ups should be able to agree upon free from political agendas”.
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