Dame Tariana Turia shares Oranga Tamariki concerns

By Tema Hemi

Dame Tariana Turia is concerned Māori continue to be subjected to the child uplift practices of Oranga Tamariki without an in-depth understanding of whakapapa and appropriate consultation with iwi.  Turia, who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to caring for whānau, says the government needs to start listening more closely. 

"[Oranga Tamariki] don't look broadly at the whakapapa of that family so, say for instance, if it was something within my family I would expect them to go out to Whangaehu, to go up the river to the marae I'm related to there, go into Ngā Rauru, to the marae I'm related to there, that's whānau.  It's not about, you know, 'Tariana and her kids' it's about all our families that have direct whakapapa to us."

She also has concerns with the way Oranga Tamariki utilise's their Māori staff.

"They have our people working in there following those policies on their behalf.  Now that concerns me, when I see older Māori women on behalf of Oranga Tamariki talking to our families the way we saw on television, no, that's not kaupapa."

The pressure on Oranga Tamariki escalated after they were filmed by Newsroom attempting to up lift a newborn baby from its mother in Napier Hospital last month.  

"I felt outraged that today in 2019 that we are still experiencing this really poor behaviour from a state agency.  They should be there to provide protection, they think they are, that's probably the sad thing about it," says Turia.

Turia has some sympathy for the difficulties the Minister for Children faces.

"I think it would be very difficult for a minister to deal with a massive organisation like Oranga Tamariki and be able to make the changes that are necessary.  I think she could give some direction."

Unfortunately the Minister for Children, Tracy Martin was not available for comment at time of publication. 

However, Te Ao received a written statement from Hoani Lambert, Chief Executive - Voices of Children on behalf of Oranga Tamariki. 

Lambert says a number of initiatives are underway to ensure staff and managers understand the principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga.    

"The creation of new specialist roles including kaikaranga and iwi-led [Family Group Conference] coordinators are also vital to us building our cultural confidence and capability."

Te Poumatakana organised a special meeting for Māori leadership in Auckland last Saturday.   Turia says it was an opportunity to discuss the impacts on whānau Māori and the pathway forward.