“The whānau was, and still is, the essential glue that holds Māori together”
Justice Joseph Williams
The rising number of new born babies being taken into state care has been highlighted recently when Oranga Tamariki attempted to remove a new born baby from a young Māori mother in the Hawkes Bay.
The number of Māori children in state care is at an all-time high and rising. The statistics tell us that 68% of children in Oranga Tamariki care are Māori and since 2015 there has been a 30% increase in Māori children taken into care from birth. Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa is committed to addressing these alarming statistics and supports a two-pronged approach to reducing the number of Māori children in Oranga Tamariki care.
The first approach is through changes to the Oranga Tamariki Act on 1 July 2019 which requires decision makers (Oranga Tamariki and the Family Court) to be guided by, recognise, and promote mana tamaiti, whakapapa, and whanaungatanga responsibilities of whānau.
“The changes under Section 7AA not only shows a practical commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi but gives us hope that the poor statistics for Māori can be improved,” says Te Hunga Rōia Māori member Ophir Cassidy. “It also provides the platform for organisational change, and the opportunity for Māori, in partnership with Oranga Tamariki to be creative and do things differently.”
“The second approach is to strongly encourage the Family Court, as the ultimate decision maker placing Māori children in state care, to put a pou (post) in the ground. The Family Court needs to decide whether it wants to be part of the solution for reducing the over-representation of Māori children in state care,” says Tania Williams Blyth, Te Hunga Rōia Māori member. “The Youth Court and the District Court have demonstrated this through initiatives such as Te Kooti Rangatahi, the Domestic Violence Court, and the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court.”
Te Hunga Rōia Māori is supportive of initiatives and programmes that help Māori and communities to understand the up-coming fundamental changes within family law.
“Te Korimako Legal is a Māori initiative established to educate, support and empower whānau who come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki and the Family Court,” says Glenn Tootill, Tumuaki Tane of Te Hunga Rōia Māori. “It is led by senior wāhine Māori lawyers, who have been traveling the country to deliver this programme which highlights and provides some practical strategies to reduce the current statistics.”
Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa was formally established in 1988. Since then, the society has grown to a membership of over 380 legal practitioners, judges, parliamentarians, legal academics, policy analysts, researchers and Māori law students. The vision for Te Hunga Rōia Māori is Ma te Ture, Mo te iwi – By the law, for the people.
Glenn Tootill – Tumuaki Tāne: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ophir Cassidy – Te Hunga Rōia Māori member.
Tania Williams Blyth – Te Hunga Rōia Māori member.