I have read the pre-publication Report of the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 2915) – Oranga Tamariki Urgent Inquiry – with great interest. It is, at least potentially, a ground-breaking report. It signals the possibility of significant systemic change to the child protection system in Aotearoa – especially for Māori. The report should, I think, be read by everyone with an interest in this future. The core recommendation for a transformational transition authority is, I believe, a challenge and an opportunity which must be grasped by the state.
I have read the report of the Māori Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki (Ko Te Wā Whakawhiti) with great interest, not least because of the mana carried by the members of the governance group. It is a bold Report. Much of the message is not new but the urgency and energy of the wero is palpable: ‘The inquiry did not have the luxury of time, but neither do our whānau’ (Foreword, p.6).
It is timely to engage openly with some of the tensions at the heart of the social work child protection project. Everyone will tell you child protection is a complex field, but this begs a related question – who defines this complexity: complex in what ways and according to who?
I think it is important to recognise that questions can be posed from differing perspectives and pitched at differing levels of analysis. However, the task in front of us is to bring insights together and to begin to weave a new way forward. I will argue here that the messages present in Puao te Ata Tu remain clear and compelling. These messages point to the need to critically re-examine the concept of self-determination for Māori as it relates to the question of child protection.
This guest blog post is by Kendra Cox (Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), National Advocacy Co-Coordinator for People Against Prisons Aotearoa and BSW (Hons) student at the University of Auckland.
A fortnight ago, the Department of Corrections proudly released their new Māori strategy, Hōkai Rangi. The strategy was created with the aspiration to reduce the proportion of Māori in prison from the current 52% to 16%, reflecting the make-up of the general population. Corrections aims to do this by focusing on six key domains outlined in the report: partnership between the Crown and Māori; humanising and healing; involvement of whānau; incorporating te ao Māori; supporting whakapapa and relational identity; and participation in society on release. With Hōkai Rangi, Corrections rightly identifies that the current prison system is failing in its supposedly rehabilitative and reintegrative aims. The strategy notes that reimprisonment rates are unacceptably high: 35% of tauiwi people return to prison within two years of release, and this is much higher for Māori at around 50%. However, the plans presented by this strategy, which centre largely around supporting whānau connection and tikanga Māori-based rehabilitation, are totally incapable of achieving the desired outcome.
As I get longer in the tooth, I am sometimes accused of repeating myself. Funnily enough this often happens with reference to things that people didn’t much like hearing the first time. For example, the message that social work is complex and contradictory is disquieting when you are looking for some clarity of identity and access to the moral high ground. Nevertheless, social work is often conflicted.
Like many of us recently, I have watched the ‘baby uplift’ footage story featured in Newsroom and read some of the avalanche of concerned and outraged commentary that has followed. I found the story disturbing on many levels – extremely disturbing but, sadly, not surprising. I think that the practice on display and the media responses from the Oranga Tamariki hierarchy illustrate deep-seated systemic problems within the state child protection system in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The holiday mood is a seductive one, with its many competing discourses of hope, indulgence, generosity and belonging. We don rose coloured glasses to look back at our successes and dare to keep them on while looking forward. We fully expect that in the next few weeks, when our toes are firmly in the sand and our rosy glasses are at their most glorious tint, we will receive the promised report of the CYF ‘overhaul.’ This seasonal blog post is in anticipation of this. It is written by Bobby Bryan, a new social work academic at Te Kuritini o Waikato (Wintec). Bobby has worked for Child Youth and Family, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Ministry of Health, Department of Corrections, non-government Youth Health Services, Kaupapa Māori family violence services, and as a social services consultant. He looks back on the good times of social services in Aotearoa New Zealand with the hope that the memory of these will provide strength for social workers and for Child Youth and Family in 2016.
This guest blog post by Paora Moyle, a doctoral candidate at Massey University, introduces the background to her recent research into claims made about the Family Group Conference (FGC). Lauded by academics across the world as a culturally responsive solution to the needs of indigenous peoples, Paora’s research calls into questions the myths about FGCs in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad.
This guest blog post is by Paora Moyle. Paora is a PhD candidate at Massey University investigating the operation of Family Group Conferencing (FGC). FGC was introduced into the New Zealand child protection and youth justice system by the Children Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, partly in response to a strong Māori critique of the overwhelming overrepresentation of Māori family/whānau in the child protection and youth justice system. Paora’s personal experience, and her emerging research findings, suggest that all is not well with this internationally acclaimed approach to culturally responsive social work practice.
Paora’s research into this topic led her to engage in several awareness raising activities in Facebook and other social media, including a series of Youtube videos. At the bottom of this post you will find a link to a crowdfunding site inviting you to offer practical support to Paora’s research and work with whānau.
The guest blog post is by Miriama Scott no Ngati Kahungunu, Rangitane a member of the Tangata Whenua Social Workers Association, currently working as Maori Cultural and Clinical Liaison, Mauri Oho, Whirinaki, Counties Manukau District Health Board.
Miriama’s post comments on the recent history of Child, Youth and Family policy reviews. She highlights key aspects of previous reviews by extracting statements referring the need for cultural responsiveness to Māori whānau and mokopuna. Miriama challenges the current ‘Expert Panel’ to address the historic failures of prior policy statements.