Waitangi Tribunal’s Landmark Report On Oranga Tamariki Points To Whānau Ora As A Model

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Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has received the findings of He Pā Harakeke, He Rito Whakakīkinga Whāruarua with much sadness, describing it as a blistering account of systematic “Crown resistance and hostility to the guarantee to Māori of the right to cultural continuity.” The landmark report, released today by the Waitangi Tribunal, addresses numerous claims concerning severe and repeated breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi by Oranga Tamariki.

Pouārahi/CE Helen Leahy commends the 286 page report for its rigorous investigation of longstanding complaints about the State care and protection system’s failure to care for tamariki Māori, and its acknowledgement of the Whānau Ora model as a potential solution.

“Not since the release of Pūao Te Ata Tū in 1986 has there been such an exhaustive summary of the myriad ways in which tamariki Māori and their whānau are failed by the system,” says Ms Leahy. “Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu acknowledges the invaluable work of the Waitangi Tribunal in preparing this report. We also send a heartfelt mihi to the many whānau who added their voices to the claim, and call for their courage and honesty to be rewarded.”

In early 2020 Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, along with the North Island Commissioning Agency, released its own report on the inquiry in children in care. In Te Mura o te Ahi: Fighting for our tamariki, whānau shared that: “[What works] is intergenerational whānau care. In the past our tūpuna lived in a community where everyone lived together in the village or marae. Our tamariki, rangatahi, kaumātua all lived together and all looked out for one another. This concept work in our tūpuna’s time and it still works now.”

“We remain committed to the ideal that whānau solutions work; that designing approaches which are intergenerational in their scope and encourage collective ownership, are the key to ensuring every child is loved, safe in their sense of identity and belonging, and able to be nurtured in the essence of who they are,” says Ms Leahy.

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The findings of the report establish that the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors have caused significant and irreversible prejudice to tamariki Māori, as well as their whānau, hapū and iwi – exacerbated by the disproportionately high number of tamariki Māori continuing to enter State care.

“The Tribunal is clear that there has been a profound and enduring failure to uphold the principles of Te Tiriti and to protect our tamariki and mokopuna,” says Ms Leahy. “We stand by the Waitangi Tribunal’s statement that Māori must be given the right to chart their own path towards the realisation of the Treaty promise of rangatiranga.”

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu welcomes dialogue about the establishment of a Māori Transition Authority with the power and resources to decide the framework within which future care and protection services for tamariki Māori will be placed.

“While the legislative intent of section 7aa was so promising, the Tribunal report draws on the finding of Professor Paul Dalziel that no contractual measures have been employed by Oranga Tamariki to ensure that its funded agencies adhere to its Tiriti obligations,” says Ms Leahy.

The Tribunal has concluded that none of the legislative policy and practice changes introduced since 2017 are sufficient to secure outcomes consist­ent with Te Tiriti and its principles. Their primary and overarching recommendation focuses on a Treaty consistent transformation, recognising that: “of all the factors that underpin the disparities we examine, none is more enduring and pernicious than the effects of alienation and disconnection from culture.”

“We do not need another piecemeal reform that will ultimately fail another generation,” says Ms Leahy. “We will only succeed when whānau can see themselves as the answers – as demonstrated time and again by the Whānau Ora model. We welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience of whānau-led solutions with the proposed Māori Transition Authority.”

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