Maori party says ‘rotten to the core’ Oranga Tamariki should have been dissolved

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Maori Party MP Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the government’s changes to Oranga Tamariki will fail to fix a “rotten” agency that must be dismantled.

“We have to remember that this is an institution whose whole system was rotten to the core and had to be dismantled immediately.

“They had 19 reviews, but what they got back is more or less the same.”

Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said Maori want to bear their trauma unashamedly.

Robert Kitchin / Tips

Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said Maori want to bear their trauma unashamedly.

The government asked Oranga Tamariki to delegate some of its decision-making and resources to community and Maori organizations, clarify its purpose, rebuild the mana of social work, and establish a national governance council to oversee the change.

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Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis released a report on Wednesday from a ministerial advisory board he asked in February to inspect Oranga Tamariki’s relationships, practices and organizational culture.

The report criticizes the agency for being “weak, disconnected and unfit”, and the advisory board said Oranga Tamariki was “self-centered and constantly looking for answers,” and made a series of recommendations that were broadly accepted by Davis.

He separately ordered Oranga Tamariki to raise children only under “orders without notice” as a last resort, when there is evidence of “no workable safety plan” for an existing child.

Ngarewa-Packer, of Ngāti Ruanui and co-leader of the Maori Party, said the move was not the transformative change the party and its iwi were hoping for.

Kelvin Davis released Wednesday

ROBERT KITCHIN / Tips

Kelvin Davis released Wednesday

She said that although the government recognized the need to work with Maori and communities, there was “no clarity on devolution.”

Ihorangi Rewiti-Peters, a Christchurch teenager in Oranga Tamariki care, said he supported the changes and hoped they would benefit tamariki, but asked who would make sure they move forward.

“With iwi and community placements, my concern is who is going to oversee this?

“How is it going to work and will it benefit some of our most vulnerable young people? “

Ihorangi Rewiti-Peters spoke about his experience living in the care of Oranga Tamariki at a post-budget breakfast hosted by the Child Poverty Action Group in May.

Joseph Johnson / Stuff

Ihorangi Rewiti-Peters spoke about his experience living in the care of Oranga Tamariki at a post-budget breakfast hosted by the Child Poverty Action Group in May.

Social workers, general practitioners and the children’s commissioner backed the report’s recommendations, but say more funds will be needed to ensure tangible improvements for tamariki in care.

Just under 6,000 children were in the care and protection of Oranga Tamariki – who reported to Davis – 58% of whom were Maori, according to the agency’s 2019/20 annual report.

Manawhenua Ki Waitaha, who represents Maori and Ngāi Tahu health interests in Canterbury, said changes would help further strengthen the existing strategic partnership between the South Island iwi and Oranga Tamariki.

President Michelle Turrall, who is also a senior advisor at Oranga Tamariki, said the partnership has already enabled Ngāi Tahu to achieve “our aspirations for our tamariki and our whānau”.

“It’s about influencing and dictating what it will look like for us. “

Other Maori iwi organizations with strategic partnerships include Eastern Bay of Plenty Iwi Provider Alliance, Māori Women’s Welfare League, Ngāti Kahungunu, Tuhoe, Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi and Waikato-Tainui Iwi and Te Kahu Oranga Whānau.

Michelle Turrall, president of Manawhenua Ki Waitaha and senior advisor at Oranga Tamariki, said changes would allow for a stronger partnership between Ngāi Tahu and the organization.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON / Tips

Michelle Turrall, president of Manawhenua Ki Waitaha and senior advisor at Oranga Tamariki, said changes would allow for a stronger partnership between Ngāi Tahu and the organization.

New Zealand Association of Social Workers of Aotearoa (ANZASW), Sharyn Roberts, said Oranga Tamariki “must rebuild itself as a social work organization”.

The report highlighted “systemic and organizational failures, not the bad practices of individual social workers,” said Kaiwhakahaere, ANZASW chief executive Braden Clark.

However, greater investment in social workers, iwi and community social service providers was urgently needed, Clark said.

“Without the much needed investment, this will be yet another report on our failed child welfare system.”

The Children’s Commissioner and Maori Deputy Commissioner welcomed the government’s commitment to “transform” a dysfunctional Oranga Tamariki, but said the changes must be “concrete and urgent”.

Maori Deputy Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara said the government's announcement was a

Ross Giblin / Stuff

Maori Deputy Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara said the government’s announcement was a “good first step that cannot come soon enough”.

“Recognizing today that Oranga Tamariki needs to be transformed to be mokopuna and whānau centered, and to collaborate with Maori and communities, is a good first step that cannot come soon enough,” said the commissioner. Maori Assistant Glenis Philip-Barbara.

She said the advisory council’s findings are “the latest in a long line of reports calling for problems to be resolved when meaningful changes have never been implemented.”

Dame Sue Bagshaw, a general practitioner in Christchurch and founder of Youth 298 health service, said she wanted better training for young people and social workers as a result of the changes.

She was disappointed with the lack of capacity at Oranga Tamariki for the appropriate care of the patients they were caring for.

298 Youth Health chief doctor Dame Sue Bagshaw said she was happy to see the government recognize that it should better support whānau, rather than cut tamariki.

Joseph Johnson / Stuff

298 Youth Health chief doctor Dame Sue Bagshaw said she was happy to see the government recognize that it should better support whānau, rather than cut tamariki.

“I am happy to see Oranga Tamariki see that the appropriate response for a government ministry is to give more support to whānau rather than suppress [tamariki]. “

Bagshaw said that regardless of who is responsible for children in care, staff need to be well trained to work appropriately with young people.


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