Children's Minister Tracey Martin on Oranga Tamariki and its relationship with Māori

Oranga Tamariki has been in the spotlight since its inception in 2017. 

The name change was supposed to herald a new era for the Ministry which has been plagued by negative stories regarding the care of tamariki. 

Since the Puao Te Ata Tu report in 1989, Māori have lobbied against state intervention and asked that at the very least, Te Tiriti o Waitangi should be enshrined in the legislation. Oranga Tamariki was the first Government Ministry to do so, and in 2019, further entrenched this with the introduction of Section 7AA, explicitly stating the duties of the chief executive in regards to the Treaty of Waitangi. 

The legislation change in 2019 was heralded as a sea change in the way Oranga Tamariki engages with whānau, hapū and iwi and the way in which they care for tamariki Māori. But in the lead up to the legislation coming into affect a harrowing report by Newsroom documenting the attempted removal of a newborn baby triggered a number of inquiries by government organisations and an external Māori led investigation through Whānau Ora. 

These inquiries showed that, despite the Oranga Tamariki's assertion that this was an extreme case, this practice was reasonably common. The office of Children Commissioner's Andrew Becroft reported that 13 families they spoke to had similar experiences and were subjected to unprofessional and inadequate social work practice, were not treated with humanity and dignity, subjected to racism, usually structural, or institutional racism and their babies long term wellbeing and place within the wider whānau, hapū and iwi has not been respected or nurtured. 

Becroft stated that these stories put a human face to the statistic of 69 percent of children in state custody at June 2019 being tamariki Māori and that Māori babies were taken into custody at a rate five times that of non-Māori babies in 2019. Moreover, despite findings that abuse had been decreasing overall over the past six years, decisions to remove unborn Māori babies were twice or three times that of non-Māori babies.

And the rate of Māori babies up to three months old being taken urgently into state care had doubled between 2010 to 2019 as the rate for non-Māori children stayed the same.

After examining 74 case files of babies aged up to 30 days old (45 of them Maori) an inquiry by the Ombudsman's office concluded the ministry had been removing newborn babies from their parents under a "without notice" court order routinely rather than in exceptional cases only.

The Section 7AA report from July this year shows there has been a significant decrease in the number of Māori children being taken into care, as well as the number of 'without notice' orders being issued. However, Māori children remain the majority of those affected. 

The Hui spoke to Tracey Martin the Minister for Oranga Tamariki about the implementation of Section 7AA and the Ministry's relationship with Māori. 

Watch the video.