The Commission on Human Rights has pledged its support on the back of calls by the Children’s Commissioner for urgent action to protect Māori children at risk with their wider reach. whanau or family.
Speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Commission, the commissioner for race relations, Meng Foon, said he supported the approach, saying it would uphold Māori customary rights through self-determination.
“This transformative approach is needed by the government for a number of problems that affect it native inhabitants [people of the land] – justice, health, education and so on, ”said Foon who is fluent in te reo Māori.
Two part report found that Māori babies were five times more likely to be taken into state custody than non-Māori, often in traumatic circumstances – including from maternity wards where the police were involved.
Foon noted that the report highlighted the continuing injustices affecting Māori, including the intergenerational damage done to Māori children and whānau (family), and how about this collides with deep-rooted losses, colonization and systemic bias.
“Systemic bias like that needs to be eliminated,” said Foon.
Māori children constitute about 65% of the children in state care – although Māori comprise only 16.5% of New Zealand’s population.
Oranga Tamariki, the government department in charge of investigating claims of neglect and child abuse at New Zealand, has been described as dangerous and racist by the Commissioner for Children, Andrew Becroft, who urged the government to shift the power of child welfare from its own children to Māori.
“The main recommendation in this report, is for a total transformation of the system of legal care and protection,” said Becroft.
“What I mean is the ‘by Māori, to Māori’ approach and the transfer of responsibility, resources and power from the state to the appropriate Māori entities, as determined by Māori.”
Good prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and the children’s pastor, Kelvin Davis, has responded by saying that it is important to walk alongside Māori, but not to discuss the transfer of power.
Operation Oranga Tamariki has long angered Māori elders, with massive public demonstrations being held in 2019 calling for an end to state adoption.
“There have been unprecedented human rights violations,” Naida Glavish, head of the Māori-led investigation into the practice of Oranga Tamariki, told the Guardian earlier this year.
Glavish said there have been several cases of baby girls being detained because of the cleanliness of the mothers’ homes, or their past records, even though they had changed their behavior, and the gang affiliations of their former partners.
Glavish also accused the agency of not allowing extended Māori families to care for children – an established cultural practice – when relatives thought it was the best option.
“For us here there is no way we will really let it continue,” said Glavish. We have reached a stage where enough is enough.
In a statement, the Oranga Tamariki said it had seen a 50% drop in the number of Māori babies being treated in the past two years, but that decisions on transferring power were the responsibility of the government.
The statement noted that the Waitangi Court is currently assessing whether the Oranga Tamariki laws, policies and practices are consistent with the Waitangi Agreement, with particular attention to the disproportionate number. children Māori is cared for by the state.
Becroft said it was “very encouraging” that the minister for children Kelvin Davis, who is Māori, “has committed to ‘fixing’ the country’s system of care and protection”.
“However, our view, after extensive investigations, is that it is unlikely the Oranga Tamariki or any other iteration, can provide care and protection interventions and services in the most effective way to children (children) and whānau Māori, “said Becroft.
“I believe only Māori can do this for Māori in a way that will give the best and lasts results children. “