Ngāti Kahungunu resist child uplifts

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Ngāti Kahungunu have issued a warning to the government that "not one more child will be taken from its mother” after Oranga Tamariki attempted to uplift a child from Hawke's Bay Hospital.

On Tuesday evening a 19-year-old mother was ordered by the Family Court to sign over custody of her newborn baby to the ministry because of a history of family violence.

Oranga Tamariki Deputy Chief Executive Alison McDonald says they are seeking to understand what has occurred and how they can best work with whānau and others to support tamariki.

McDonald says Oranga Tamariki needs to uphold the mana of those involved and respect the processes of the Family Court.

CEO of Ngamaia Māori Midwives Jean Te Huia says that three Māori newborns are uplifted by the state each week, within a system that she says is stacked against Māori women.

“We know that [with] the first baby there is a process that they have to go through with Oranga Tamariki but subsequent children there is no process, they are uplifted without notification, so basically if you have one baby taken then after that any other baby is up for grabs,” she says.

“The number of Māori babies uplifted is disproportionate to the number of everybody else, we know that the abuse of these Māori babies in care is real.”

More than 170 Māori newborns were uplifted and taken into state care last year. Ngāti Kahungunu is looking at developing a new iwi based kaupapa Māori approach.

Des Ratima of Ngāti Kahungunu said, “We're standing up, and calling out to the world, listen carefully, as we stand up for our families. With our expertise, our philosophy, our traditional narratives, we can work hard to care for and protect our children.”