Oranga Tamariki 'will not get it right' until power sits with Māori - Assistant Māori Children's Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara

The new Assistant Māori Children's Commissioner is questioning how much longer New Zealand will tolerate Oranga Tamariki not providing care to children.

In an interview with Newshub Nation on Saturday, Glenis Philip-Barbara said Aotearoa is "waking up" to the fact that Māori  have solutions not only for their own social issues but for the country as a whole - and it's time Oranga Tamariki got with the program.

She says the organisation has had problems for three decades, and it's time for transformational change.

"Until we hand over the power to Māori  I don't think we're going to get it right," she said. 

Philip-Barbara said the current system is failing and Māori are afraid to ask for assistance at risk of uplifts.

"Whanau told us about the absolute fear of having their children uplifted if they went for help with food, housing," she said.

"There was a story told to us about a woman who had a midwife standing at the end of her hospital bed telling her that if she couldn't secure a home for her and her baby by the time she left hospital she would potentially be facing uplift of her baby."

She said she intends to make a difference in her new role as people now recognise the impact systemic racism has on society.

"Māori have solutions for this issue and many others." 

A recent report from the Children's Commission on Oranga Tamariki recommended the organisation be torn down and rebuilt, with power squarely in the hands of Māori .

The report is the second into how Oranga Tamariki is impacting the lives of Māori, commissioned after a Newsroom report into a controversial attempted uplift in Hawke's Bay thrust the agency into the spotlight.

It has made four recommendations to improve Māori outcomes, including that Oranga Tamariki immediately change its social work policy to stop harm from occurring to children currently in the care system.

The report also calls for a change to the contracting process and increased funding for iwi and Māori organisations to deliver better services.

The final recommendation is for Oranga Tamariki to improve its legislation and mechanisms of the current system to work better with Māori 

"These all can and should commence immediately," reads the report.

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