Govt aims to keep “three strike” criminals out of the cooler but has increasingly warmed to making race a factor in research funding

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The Government is running hot and cold on crime – in the eyes of its political opponents, at least.  One consequence will be keeping more offenders from being banged up in the coooler for too long.

Less ambivalently, it is turning up the heat in its efforts to tackle the country’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions change while non-Maori and non-Pacifika applicants are feeling the chill when funding is distributed by the Health Research Council. 

On the law and order front, Police Minister Poto Williams is crowing about a Police operation which resulted in the seizure of more than 50 kilograms of cocaine, and $300,000 in cash, cocaine and cryptocurrency wallets.

Is the cocaine in the weight reference the same as the cocaine in the dollar-value reference? It is unclear.

Nine people were arrested. Continue reading “Govt aims to keep “three strike” criminals out of the cooler but has increasingly warmed to making race a factor in research funding”

Child care and protection is in for a shake-up but Davis accepts there will still be a need (“as a last resort”) for the state to intervene

A damning review has found that Oranga Tamariki is a “weak, disconnected and unfit” agency – and the Government says it will cease the controversial tactic of child uplifts.

So says NZ Herald political reporter Michael Neilson in the first paragraph of his account of the shake-up in store for the beleaguered Orangi Tamariki child welfare agency.

The Government has accepted all recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Board which was set up earlier this year to provide advice on how to fix the country’s child care and protection system.

But the press statement from Kelvin Davis does not portend an end to the “uplifts” of children who need to be protected from their parents or care-givers.  

It does say:

Changes will see a major shift in decision making and resources at a local level, empowering communities to work together with Oranga Tamariki in the prevention of harm against children.

Oranga Tamariki has also been given a clear direction that uplifts, or without notice orders, should only be used as a last resort. Continue reading “Child care and protection is in for a shake-up but Davis accepts there will still be a need (“as a last resort”) for the state to intervene”

Children’s Minister explains what he expects from his all-Maori advisory team while the Nats respond by saying … nothing

Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis believes the Crown should maintain responsibility for the care and protection of at-risk and vulnerable children, regardless of their race.

Moreover, he is confident his all-Maori  team of advisers will not be taking race into account as they help to improve Oranga Tamariki’s care and protection of children.

Whether all members of the team got this message is another matter.

Matthew Tukaki (the bloke who sees nothing amiss in deriding MPs who raise questions that vex him as “baboons”) is chair of the new ministerial advisory group on Oranga Tamariki.

He is on record as saying reforming the agency is a chance to make real change for Māori.

“It’s about entrenched poverty. It’s about lack of housing, mental health, addiction services primary health, the loss of jobs, you name it, it’s a multiplicity of different things. So we are charged with looking at how we take these different reports and recommendations, the issues on the table today, the things in particular Māori have been talking about for years now, and effect real change,” Mr Tukaki says.

Similarly, Dame Naida Glavish said the tough job would be “putting the pieces back together” for Māori.

“The tough job will be initiating and instilling whānau, hapū, iwi trust in a service that they haven’t had any trust in – or any reason to trust – in the last few years. That’s where the hard work is.”

Dame Naida said she was “absolutely” pleased chief executive Grainne Moss had resigned. “But it’s not about her now, it’s about us fixing up a broken system.”

In light of the Minister’s assurance about the advisory team’s focus being on all children in Oranga Tamariki care or requiring its protection, regardless of their race, we must suppose these advisers have been misreported.

The assurance was given in response to questions Point of Order put to the Minister about his appointments:

What are the reasons for the Minister appointing no non-Maori to the expert group?

 I have selected and appointed well-respected members of the community to the Ministerial Advisory Board, who each bring with them valuable expertise. When making the appointments I took into account their seniority, experience and standing in New Zealand. They will play a key role and their advice will help us improve the child care and protection system for all children and young people who come into contact with Oranga Tamariki – whether they’re Maori or non-Maori.

Does the Minister have any sympathy with the arguments promoted for a Mokopuna Authority (Māori for Māori by Māori)? 

 I met with Oranga Tamariki leadership and senior officials just before Christmas to outline my priorities and areas of focus in this portfolio. Those priorities include focusing on enhancing relationships with whānau and Māori, and starting to entrust funding and decision-making to Māori and to people on the ground in our regions.

However, I don’t accept that the Crown should absolve itself of its responsibility to care for and protect our at-risk and vulnerable children, whether they’re Maori or non- Maori.

I believe we need to reshape Oranga Tamariki and fix the system, to do better for our children and young people.

There isn’t a single, homogeneous view from Maori about how the system should work. Different Maori communities, hapū and iwi have different ideas of how they want to be involved.

So we need to engage with hapū, iwi and Māori about their capacity, their capability and their will to become involved and what their solutions are, what a partnership looks like to them.

And does the Minister believe he would be ill-advised to make decisions based on the information and recommendations he should already have received in several reports on the performance of Oranga Tamariki? 

 My decision-making in this portfolio has been and will be informed by a range of sources.

As soon as I became the Minister I began a schedule of meetings with various officials, with stakeholders, with Māori – including some of Oranga Tamariki’s harshest critics – to help develop the Government’s priorities and aspirations for children, particularly tamariki Māori.

I’ve considered the various reports and reviews, our Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and the feedback from iwi and Māori.

The Waitangi Tribunal is also currently assessing whether the Ministry’s legislation, policies and practices are consistent with te Tiriti o Waitangi, and I will be listening intently to the Tribunal.

Outside of formal reporting and data, 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 – this is what the Advisory Board will help provide.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Chair, is among those who might want greater separatism in the restructuring of the state system for protecting and caring for children.

She said she wants Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss’ decision to resign to be the catalyst for Māori leadership of an organisation in which seven of every 10 children are Māori.

Diversity was not part of her prescription for improvement:

“It’s a big organisation, but Pākehā don’t have the cultural competency, they don’t have the networks. I honestly don’t believe they have the long-term interest in the safety of the children,” Raukawa-Tait told The AM Show on Monday morning.

“This is our time to step up and do what we have to do. We would’ve done that long ago given the opportunity, but it’s always been the Government – and particularly Pākehā – saying ‘we know what’s best for you’. We’re saying, right now, ‘hands off our tamariki – no more’.

“It really is about the solutions by Māori, for Māori, with Māori as soon as possible.”

Davis’s all-Maori team might not be enough to mollify all Maori leaders who have been railing against Oranga Tamariki’s management and operational practices.  The Opposition seems to be indifferent.

When asked this morning, a National press officer said no statements had been issued on the matter.

The case for putting stability and security above other factors when deciding a child’s best interests (and they are colour-blind)

The inexorable march to separatism – manifest in the political clamour to have Maori children removed from the protection of state welfare agencies – raises questions which most commentators have overlooked or prefer not to tackle. 

Lindsay Mitchell is not so coy.  She asks if the future of a child with a modicum of Maori blood should be decided solely by Maori members of a family and raises the matter of the rights and claims of non-Maori family members.    

Rights were brought smack-bang into the issue when the Human Rights Commission threw its support behind calls by the Children’s Commissioner for urgent action to keep at-risk Māori children with their wider  family.

In effect, these authorities are telling us the rights of Maori family members outweigh the rights of non-Maori family members.   

The Children’s Commissioner this month published the second of two reports on a review of what needs to change to enable Māori aged 0-3 months to remain in the care of their families in situations where Oranga Tamariki-Ministry for Children is notified of care and protection concerns

The key recommendation in the report is for a total transformation of the statutory care and protection system. Continue reading “The case for putting stability and security above other factors when deciding a child’s best interests (and they are colour-blind)”

Amidst howls of “racism”, protesters demand an agency boss’s resignation because – begorrah – she is Irish

The Hands Off Our Tamariki Network has an admirable ring to its name. Here’s hoping everybody gets the message because if whanau members kept their hands off their tamaraki … well, there would be no need for a state agency to intervene and get its hands on the victims of domestic violence.

The reasons why the Oranga Tamariki agency becomes involved in caring for children has been somewhat downplayed by speakers at protest meetings who demand the state leave their mokopuna alone and insist Māori be the ones caring for their children.

Yet while they call for the state to stay away when Maori children are involved, paradoxically they want the government to do something: Continue reading “Amidst howls of “racism”, protesters demand an agency boss’s resignation because – begorrah – she is Irish”

Great PR for a caring PM – but benefactor’s name has been buried in awards change

Back in the days when a government agency’s name clearly signalled what the public could expect from it, we had a Department of Child, Youth and Family Services which in 2005/06 proudly reported the first William Wallace Awards would be made to four young people during Foster Care Awareness Week in October 2006.

Fast forward to November 2018.  The agency has become Orangi Tamariki (Ministry of Children in small type underneath) but when nominations for the 2018 awards closed (15 – 20 awards were available this year) they were still called the William Wallace Awards.

Many young people in care have overcome significant barriers and gone on to achieve great things. These awards honour these outstanding young people, and provide help for them to pursue their dreams of tertiary, vocational or leadership training. 

Any young person in care – or who has recently come out of care – can win an award. And anyone can make a nomination

But hey.  We have a caring, nurturing Prime Minister and – shazam!

The William Wallace Awards are being renamed …

The Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Awards.

Betcha that has given Jacinda a nice warm glow.

The benefactor whose estate has provided the awards over the past 12 years or so won’t be entirely forgotten. Two William Wallace Scholarships are being retained as part of the new awards. Continue reading “Great PR for a caring PM – but benefactor’s name has been buried in awards change”

Child-welfare question: can non-Maori really cope more comfortably with officials who remove their kids?

Radio New Zealand has been airing concerns about social services being “so complicated that Māori families are having their children uplifted because they don’t know their rights”.

The report taps into a gathering of about 70 Māori support workers and lawyers at a workshop in Hamilton to learn about the legal rights of families “who come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki”.

We suppose this refers to families who trigger state interventions in response to (a) reports officials have received about a family and (b) increasing social pressures to deal with child abuse.

Many of those at the workshop – professional people by the sound of it rather than families directly affected by these interventions – complained that the system is complicated, confusing and biased, and that it is contributing to the alarming rates of Māori children in state care. Continue reading “Child-welfare question: can non-Maori really cope more comfortably with officials who remove their kids?”