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Oranga Tamariki - the health of children

The health of children depends on having safe, supportive structures around them.

In Te Ao Māori, the child is born of its parents, but belongs to the entire whānau. They are a taonga, someone to be celebrated and supported into their adulthood, where they can continue to contribute to their whānau, hapū and iwi. An uplift of a child from within their whānau severely disrupts this process.

The connection of an infant to their parents is of paramount importance. For Māori, so is the child’s ability to know and connect to their whānau, hapū and iwi, their whenua (ancestral lands), their whakapapa (ancestry), and their mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge). In line with the emphasis of holism in Te Ao Māori, these connections are vital to the development of a Māori child. When a child is uplifted and placed outside of their whanau their access to these supportive connections becomes extremely compromised.

State interference has impeded Māori whanau for over a century – the Native Schools Act (1867) and the Tohunga Suppression Act (1907) are examples of legislature which affected the way Māori lived in a rapidly changing Aotearoa. We also acknowledge the findings of Puao-te-Atatū (1988) which outlined severe deficiencies and concerns within the state’s care of children.

It is necessary that crown entities such as Oranga Tamariki think deeply about how they support tamariki within their whānau, hapū and iwi. When children experience loss and grief at an early age, this trauma often has ongoing effects on their health, wellbeing and development throughout the course of their lives. It is vital to remember that in the pursuit of safety, we not perpetuate other serious harm in the process.

Anna Fleming – Psychotherapist

Member, Waka Oranga, National Collective of Māori Psychotherapy Practitioners & NZ Association of Psychotherapists

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