“I Know How Devastating This Will Be” – Opposition Over Repeal Of Treaty Obligations From Oranga Tamariki Act Grows – VOYCE Whakarongo Mai

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As submissions close over the repeal of section 7AA, care experienced rangatahi are again urging the government not to go through with the controversial move.

Children’s Minister Karen Chhour introduced her bill to repeal the section in May, which requires the ministry to consider whakapapa and the Treaty of Waitangi when making decisions about children and young people in state care.

As of 11.59pm wednesday night, public submissions in relation to the bill closed.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has been advocating for care experienced tamariki since 2017, and CEO Tracie Shipton says the young voices opposing the move are now louder than ever.

“We’ve heard from care experienced young people right across Aotearoa, from Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) to Te Waipounamu (The South Island), who have mobilised to share their concerns about this bill.”

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VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has been working closely with care experienced rangatahi since submissions opened, gathering quotes, evidence and experiences to submit to parliament.

“Many of those young people felt strongly enough to make their own individual submissions as well as contributing to the VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai collective submission. There’s a lot of opposition to the repeal, and we can’t understand why the government isn’t listening to those concerns.”

The voices involved in the collective submission say the repeal of 7AA doesn’t match the problems highlighted by the minister. One of those is VOYCE National Care Experienced Lead Tupua Urlich, who believes the section is currently making a difference.

“7AA is crucial to protect Tamariki Māori. Removing it would harm already vulnerable children.”

Urlich is now concerned that the repeal will cause even more hurt.

“My early years with whānau were the best of my childhood. It was when I was ripped away from them that things took a turn, and I was abused by my caregiver who was a complete stranger.”

“I’m worried that the harm against Māori, which was highlighted in the abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, will be repeated”

Care experienced young people like Jake Gibbons are also disappointed that anecdotal “reverse uplift” stories have been used to justify the move, and say there’s no evidence to suggest the legislation has negatively impacted the wellbeing of tamariki.

“Using stories of kids harmed in care before 7AA was introduced is wrong. More kids are going to be added to this list if 7AA is repealed.”

Gibbons says what’s even more frustrating is that the most important voices weren’t consulted on the repeal.

“Hear the evidence of those who have suffered. Why would you go back to the old ways? What are you thinking? Are you crazy? I know how devastating this will be from my own experiences.”

Tracie Shipton says the examples cited as reasons for repealing the legislation are down to poor practice, poor training, guidance and support, rather than poor legislation.

“7AA was introduced as a step towards addressing generations of tamariki Māori being poorly served by a care system that had been shown to be systemically racist.”

“If the government is genuinely concerned about the wellbeing and best interests of those children, then it could be amended, rather than repealed.”

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai now asks that the legislation is improved instead, with a focus on fixing practice issues, in order to ensure tamariki Māori have their best interests protected through state care processes.

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