GUEST BLOG: John Tamihere – Conduct of Oranga Tamariki totally unacceptable


Today is a great day for our whānau and further proof that Oranga Tamariki must be devolved quite dramatically and quickly into Māori hands.

This situation also underlines the resources and underhanded tactics this agency will use against Māori – in this case in particular to keep a mother separated from her three children.

The conduct of OT staff throughout this 18-month ordeal is totally unacceptable.

Acting Oranga Tamariki CEO Sir Wira Gardiner must investigate the staff who blatantly abused authority and their power to keep this whānau apart.

He must look at the very culture alongside the deeply entrenched racism that exists in OT and allows this type of abuse to happen.

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He must look at the brutality and uplifts of all children – Māori in particular.

The state with its resources must not be used to beat up hardworking whānau.

While the intervention of Te Whānau o Waipareira has resulted in a great outcome, there is no doubt, there will be similar cases. We will continue to call them out.

The mother – who I have met many times alongside her children – must be applauded for her dogged determination to be reunited with her three babies. Others would have thrown in the towel.

Her case highlighted the without notice uplift of her children under the questionable parental alienation practice. This was rubber-stamped by the court despite OT’s own policy of not recognizing parental alienation.

The three children were grabbed from school by police in full view of their classmates. As a consequence, all three children required counseling.

The mother and her ex-partner had been in a relationship for 10 years. There was domestic violence and in 2017 a split, amid allegations of sexual molestation by two of his stepdaughters.

Two years later and with full knowledge of the ongoing police investigation into the sexual abuse, the children were uplifted from their mother and placed into the care of the dad’s parents.

The mother was granted a supervised phone call once a week.

Their son was so traumatized by the uplift and separation, he gained 28 kilos in 11 months.

Fast forward 18 months following Family Group Conferences and endless court proceedings to Wednesday. OT agree the children will be placed into the care and custody of their mother and older siblings. They are now living as a happy whānau.

The children have been enrolled in school and will start next week. They have also been enrolled at the Manurewa Marae Health Clinic, who as a Whānau Ora provider, will continue to support this whānau.

Our ultimate goal is for the mother to gain full custody. OT agree, and will advise the Family Court of their view.

Last September, Waipareira pleaded with OT to place these children into Waipareira care. We knew that working alongside this whānau, they had the solution.

Why it took OT 18 months to come to that same conclusion is beyond me.


  1. Whenever criticism of child welfare agencies arises in the media I think of the phrase “damned if they do, damned if they don’t”. Being a social worker in the field of child welfare is one of the most challenging and emotionally devastating jobs around because of the nature of what they are called on to do (and not do) when they engage struggling families.
    At this particular moment the agency is receiving a verbal bashing for it’s failures and cruelty in uplifting children – the specifics of these cases is not known to us so – personally – I find it difficult to judge. Politicians and the new board at OT seem keen to jump on the band wagon of criticism which is good for their career prospects and profile development but ignores the incredibly tough job that those on ground have in making decisions to intervene.
    Regardless of who runs the agency and all the drama and angry words from management and politicians the ordinary social workers will still need to turn up each day and do the best they can protect vulnerable Maori and Pakeha children from extreme and damaging family environments.
    My thoughts are with them and the deeply troubled families they are tasked with supporting.

    • All that said @ Peter – that may be so. Bottom line though, in this space going forward, is that a bit of honesty wouldn’t go amiss. Clearly, it’s been sadly lacking so far. Pretty sure half the protagonists involved thus far have lost sight of what that ekshully means.
      “…….. ordinary social workers will still need to turn up each day and do the best they can protect vulnerable Maori and Pakeha children ……..” And most likely they will. And their lives would probably be a fucking sight easier withOUT the hierarchy of their overlords and cost accountants that go with most of what they do.

  2. The NZ police and our courts system have been implicit in what has been allowed to occur in my view they are like a big gang with many chapters. And these chapters feed of one another and its work for them never mind the lives they have destroyed. I think the culture in many of our government organisations is poisonous like venom. Yet they actually think they are doing good as this is their job. They might hide behind policy and procedures and some quoting laws/acts as justification for their actions. This says we need to change the entire systems as there has been no or little evidence of true partnership and who does this practice serve bests, not those they are suppose to be helping. The system we have in place have not worked and continue to fail those they are suppose to help so why are we persisting with trying to fix something when it needs to be knocked down and rebuilt from the ground. It is not a repair job we need in many of our state sectors its a full rebuild.

    • You are so right unfortunately due the 3 year span of any government both main parties are afraid if they start the change and then it gets bogged down they will once again be in election mode and the race card will be played. Another problem is the civil servants that caused the problem will be the same ones engaged to fix it.
      The only way forward is both sides come together and agree to the solution they come up with.
      I believe race and housing are going to be the 2 main issues that need fixing before they grow into a situation beyond control.

  3. While i don’t mean to imply that there are no systemic problems within OT, the media personalities that write these articles have about 10% of the true story and 100% of the (so called) victim’s self serving opinion. Privacy concerns restricts the staff at OT defending their decisions but the clients are free to tell their version without challenge. Before you all jump on me for my opinion I am not suggesting that mistakes haven’t been made. What i am saying is that most of us have no idea of the FULL story of each case.

  4. I have no idea where you are coming from Peter Bradley, honestly the whole history of what we now call Oranga Tamariki is wracked with lie lies and damn lies. That is on the head of EVERY politician that had anything to do with it, never mind the imbicles that were tasked to head it. Conceived out of what was then heralded as a ‘trend setting’ agency due the 1989 Children and Young Persons Act yet the only TREN they produced was DOWNWARD. So 30yrs of absolute kaka and 14, yes fourteen, failed reviews the space monkeys decided to give it a make over. A make in the brand. ORANGA TAMARIKI was born. History tells us the recsult.. a crock load of ……. appeasing the great white way! There my well be honest hardworking ‘social workers’ within the ranks but don’t forget that is these very social workers that have for yrs provided Families Court Judges with ’embellished affidavits to get want they want. That ehoa is perjury at very least. Attempting to pervert the course of justice at worst. This was sanctioned by the managers of the very organisation they work for, the very organisation that has a statutory Duty to protect children who come to their notice. Still damned if you do damned if don’t ? Aotearoa is beseeched by Stat servants that appear to me to cowed, that how this very situation has arisen IMO. We had a very brave judge who stated at yet another obvious conclusion to a state cover up he had presided over ‘ an orchestrated litany of lies’ and the ‘state’ destroyed him ! A doctor currently living free in Australia , accused of the torture of children right here in ‘god’s own’ stays free. It’s a direct slap in the face to me and every other free thinking member of this society . The NZ Police once again ‘reviewing’ the evidence. The evidence is there already in at least 2 enquiries into institutional care. No doubt the the offer of this ‘man’s’ indemnity will come to light. FFS wake up. If you really want to know who let all this happen, who created the environment that ‘gangs’ and poverty now flourish in, go look in the mirror WE ALL did (metaphorically) The politics and governance of Aotearoa has been carried out by Pakeha politicians whose only agender was their own (or wealth driven friends). Don’t believe me ? just ask John BANKS. I am so pleased that before I take my place in the urapa and return to my real mother I am seeing real Justice taking it’s first long over steps. WE failed and continue to fail those who WE should be moving heaven and earth to help. Those who through their cowed inactions assisted in this particular ‘cluster fck’ will get little empathy from me .

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