Whānau Ora Commissioning Chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait says a fish rots from the head and Oranga Tamariki leadership needs to take responsibility for its systemic failures – not throw its staff under the bus.

Raukawa-Tait was commenting following a scathing review by Oranga Tamariki that was sparked following a media exposé into the department’s child uplift procedure, featuring a newborn Māori baby.

She said the response by Children’s Minister Tracy Martin and OT CEO Gráinne Moss to blame their own social workers’ frontline practices is indicative of the toxic culture that is deeply entrenched and imbued within the failing system.

“The hypocrisy is not lost on us. Here you have a state agency destructively making its own determination on what’s best for whānau riding roughshod without any consideration of the far reaching intergenerational devastating impacts,” Raukawa-Tait says.

“Yet ironically it is perpetuating a violent act, which is what it seeks to protect the pēpi from.”

“This is caused by a rampant collusion between Oranga Tamariki and the Family Court. Ex-partie uplift orders are the weapon of choice – many sought on a without notice basis so whānau cannot make a principled case before Court – let alone be in a position to afford access to civil justice.”

“The effect is that Oranga Tamariki has had the unfettered power for years to snatch babies from whānau through seeking orders using a fast track digital process to uplift without a proper substantive hearing. There is no justice – there is only judgement – this is a national travesty.”

“It’s shameful and unjust.”

Professor Mark Henaghan, former Dean of the Otago University Law Faculty, now lecturing in Family Law at Auckland University agrees.

“How Oranga Tamariki hung out its social workers to dry blaming them was a national disgrace, lacking taking responsibility. All when it’s the system that is at fault,” Henaghan says.

A Māori-led Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki has engaged with close to 1,000 whānau – including Māori and non-Māori – and will be released in the New Year.

8 November 2019

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