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Memorandum of Understanding between Ngapuhi and CYFs

Hon Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development

Minister of Youth Affairs

30 August 2012


Signing of Memorandum of Understanding between Ngapuhi and Child Youth and Family

E nga mana, e nga reo, e te iwi o te motu, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Good afternoon.

I would like to acknowledge some of those people who have been instrumental in this agreement being forged between Ngapuhi and Child, Youth and Family.

From Ngapuhi can I acknowledge the Chairman, Sonny Tau and Chief Executive, George Riley. Here today from Child, Youth and Family can I also acknowledge Deputy Chief Executive, Bernadine Mackenzie and General Manager of Operations, Marama Edwards.

Finally, can I acknowledge the work of the Te Taitokerau Iwi Chairs Forum.

I’m really pleased to be here to witness a bit of history - the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ngapuhi and Child, Youth and Family. Today is a proud day for Ngapuhi and in fact a milestone for all New Zealand Māori.

Today’s signing is testament to your commitment to better protecting your children. That Ngapuhi are the first iwi to take this step, comes as no surprise.

You have been proactive and incredibly open during the process of forming this relationship agreement with Child, Youth and Family.

So thank you for leading the way and may many more follow your example.

It’s been a couple of years since I stood in front of an audience like this; a group of iwi leaders influential through both collective wisdom and close ties to the community.

In 2010 I had an honest and frank discussion about the care and protection of our most vulnerable children and in particular; Māori children.

I came with a straight forward message: In New Zealand we see Pakeha hurt and neglect Pakeha kids. Pacific hurt Pacific. And Maori need to be seriously concerned about abuse happening within some of their families. Children are being hurt and even killed in their own homes.

My reasons for this speech were even simpler - Māori need to own this problem and work with me to help turn the tide on family violence.

It’s been two years since I spoke to iwi leaders. There have been 12 deaths and many more cases of neglect. My message remains the same and that’s what makes today’s agreement so important. There is a lot of history behind this agreement and I think we should acknowledge that history.

We’ve come a long way since 1986, when the Puao-te-Ata-tū report described the social crisis that had been brewing within Māori. In essence Puao-te-Ata-tū marked the beginning of a bicultural approach to New Zealand social services. More so, it sparked a broad strategic approach to social issues affecting Māori.

Among many recommendations within Puao-te-Ata-tu was an acknowledgement of the importance of cultural and historical roots in the development of happy, healthy children. Puao-te-Ata-tū influenced the development of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act.

It sparked the formation of Iwi Social Services and the development of Family Group Conferences and eventually led to the extension of the Unsupported Child’s Benefit so that whānau members could care for children who could not live at home. Care and protection services shifted from a strong institutional state focus, through the use of foster care, to the beginning of whānau care.

The intent was to access whānau strengths to address the needs of vulnerable children and their parents and to acknowledge the role extended whānau, iwi and hapu have to play in caring for, protecting and nurturing children. Approaches such as Maatua Whangai reflected this.

But beyond cultural sensitivities and the renewed importance of family in child protection was the fact that Maori children were overrepresented in institutional state care. Over 25 years later Māori are still overrepresented in the care and protection figures.

These figures speak for themselves. Last year just under half of all the abuse and neglect notifications requiring further investigation by Child Youth and Family were for Māori children - 26,405 of 57,949.

In Northland, between Whangarei and Kaitaia, almost 70 per cent of these investigations were for Māori children - 2,202 of 3,180. More Māori children suffer abuse and neglect than any other group.

Over half of all the children who were found to be abused or neglected last year were Māori - 9,127 of 18,029 and 742 of these abused and neglected Māori children were from Northland. Between Whangarei and Kaitaia and 331 of your abused and neglected children were under five.

Social service delivery has come a long way since Maatua Whangai. Since I became Minister there has been a movement away from a central model for social services dictated from Wellington, to a focus on targeted community based services.

You might have heard me speak about this before. It’s about recognising the importance of working kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) when addressing social issues in a community. And that is what today is really about. It’s what this document is really about.

While a culturally appropriate approach to child protection is certainly important, it does not fully address the unique set of social issues that affect Māori in Northland. This MoU is an acknowledgement that Ngāpuhi are uniquely placed to support Northland whanua.

As I have often said, strong relationships between the Government and iwi are key to delivering results for some of our most vulnerable whānau and their children.

You can provide one on one care and advice. You can get to the root causes of abuse and neglect by virtue of being hapū, friends and whānau. You know these children, you know their families and you know what it takes to reach them. You know the issues specific to your community. You can take responsibility for them. And when things are bad I know you suffer along with the whānau concerned.

But there are times when a community wraps so tightly around a family that outside help, expert help, is excluded - When the wagons circle.

In recent years we have seen this play out dramatically in the media. The death of baby Serenity and the response in Ngaruawahia to Cherie Kurarangi Sweeney is a particularly disturbing example.

Cherie spoke out against the violence in Ngaruawahia and the death of that beautiful baby in the house next to hers.

The community’s reaction to one of their own speaking out against violence was to threaten violence against her. It’s a sad day when anti-nark culture makes the national news for covering up the murder of an innocent infant.

There is no doubt that we need to be more open about problem’s such as this and the other social issues affecting our communities. The horrific cases of alleged abuse that led to the arrest of Pamapuria Deputy Principal James Parker are a stark reminder for Northland.

As with the Green Paper we need to discuss the issues that lead to abuse and neglect and keep discussing them.

The White Paper to be released in October will provide you with more tools to better protect your children. It contains detailed, far reaching the solutions that will affect every New Zealander.

The White Paper will be the most significant advance in the protection of children this country has ever seen.

But we are here because of the significant advancement that has been made in the relationship between Ngapuhi and Child Youth and Family

You have stepped up and acknowledged that there is work to be done in order to better protect and nurture children in Northland.

You have committed to discussing these issues openly with Child Youth and Family and working together to address them.

So be proud of that today.

But know that what you do tomorrow and the day after is far more important.

Thank you.


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