An independent Maori authority has been proposed by the Waitangi Tribunal to determine how to eliminate the need to put Maori tamariki in state care, but it stopped before supporting the abolition of Oranga Tamariki.
The court held an urgent inquiry after Oranga Tamariki came under close scrutiny for his practices of removing tamariki and pēpi Māori from their families, following an attempt to take a newborn baby from a teenage mother at Hawke’s Bay Hospital in 2019.
The hearing began in July last year and aimed to find out why more Maori tamariki than non-Maori were being removed from their families, whether changes in law or practice had made a difference, and what further changes might be necessary to achieve results that support Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
The report, He Pāharakeke, He Rio Whakakīkinga Whāruarua, recommends the creation of a Maori transitional authority, independent from the Crown, to identify the changes needed to eliminate the need for state care for Maori tamariki .
Some claimants called for a Maori authority to replace Oranga Tamariki, but others feared that any Maori-led alternative to Oranga Tamariki would turn a “white bureaucracy into a brown bureaucracy”.
The court has not supported calls for the abolition of Oranga Tamariki yet.
“For at least the foreseeable future, we see a role for a statutory social worker from Oranga Tamariki supported by the coercive powers of the state in instances where a Maori organization (whether a whānau, hapū or supplier Maori) is met with resistance to an intervention deemed necessary for the safety of one or more children, ”Judge Michael Doogan said in the report.
Establishing a Mokopuna authority to replace Oranga Tamariki would risk “commercializing” kinship and the state had “a legitimate function of providing protection if needed,” the court concluded.
The court found that Oranga Tamariki had violated Te Tiriti o Waitangi by failing to “honor the guarantee made to the Maoris” for them to have tino rangatiratanga on their kāinga, as stated in article 2.
He said the disparity in the number of Maori tamariki cared for was a direct consequence of the “Crown intrusion” into this rangatiratanga.
Oranga Tamariki’s submission acknowledged there was a disparity, with Maori tamariki accounting for 69% of all children in state care in 2017.
That figure had fallen to 59% by July 2020, which former deputy general manager Māori Hoani Lambert said was the result of the partnerships he had signed with suppliers iwi, hapū and Maori, and legislative changes that required a child’s mana, culture, and whakapapa. be at the center of all decisions.
However, the tribunal ruled that these changes were not sufficient “to achieve the type of transformation required” to meet Te Tiriti o Waitangi’s obligations.
He said a transitional authority would approve ways to transfer “some of the powers, functions and responsibilities” of Oranga Tamariki and the Crown to ensure it has financial and administrative support to do so. .
The court inquiry is the fifth review since the attempted referral to Hawke’s Bay Hospital in 2019.
- November 7, 2019: Oranga Tamariki’s internal review of the incident reveals that while safety concerns for the baby meant Oranga Tamariki did whatever it takes to get involved, mistakes were made in the way it worked with family and other partners.
- February 3, 2020: Māori-led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki chaired by Dame Naida Glavish calls for a complete overhaul of the ministry, saying there have been unprecedented human rights violations and inhumane treatment of Māori women. He says the Crown, through Oranga Tamariki, fails to honor Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
- June 8, 2020: Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft publishes [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/418477/maori-mothers-describe-child-welfare-system-as-dangerous-and-brutal-in-new-report first part of Te Kuku o te Manawa report detailing the experiences of mothers whose children have been taken from them.
- 6 August 2020: A report by the Chief Ombudsman, [https://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/resources/he-take-kohukihuki-matter-urgency
- November 23, 2020: Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft releases part two of the Te Kuku O Te Manawa report, calling on Oranga Tamariki to end urgent removals of tamariki and pēpi Māori from hospitals, urging government to commit to handing over power to Maori and detailing a series of midwifery reports.
He Take Kōhukihuki, A Matter of Urgency], notes that Oranga Tamariki regularly took newborns without whānau consultation using emergency court orders.