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Important meeting for grieving families in Waikato on Sunday

Important meeting for grieving families in Waikato on Sunday.

Dozens of members of families struggling with Oranga Tamariki’s removal of their children are expected at a meeting being held near Hamilton on Sunday, coincidentally Mothers Day. Mothers Day should be a celebration uniting our children with the significant women in their lives - mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, aunties, sisters, coaches, teachers, however for a significant number of families in Aotearoa this day highlights the trauma and injustice they live through daily after the removal of children and grandchildren, often unjustifiably by the State. Whilst the current government are focused on historical abuses through The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and Faith Based Institutions, they are neglecting the current abuse of children that is happening here and now in State Care.

The hui, to be held at the Kokiri Centre, Riria Kereopa Memorial Drive, Raglan, is being called by local Louise Hutchinson, originally from Hawke’s Bay and who has been sparked into action by the injustice she says has been dealt to a friend.

Since publicising plans about a fortnight ago Ms Hutchinson has been “overwhelmed” by the response, and says it has become urgent that politicians, government department heads, community leaders and the public in general are made well aware of what is happening, and the damage that is being caused. These parents and whanau are all in grief. There are a lot of people who have reached absolute despair, contemplating suicide because they feel they have nowhere to turn and no options left. We have to do something to at least show there is concern in the right places.

Firstly, I’d have to say it must not be assumed by anyone that if children are removed from a parent or family then that drastic step is justified, often it is not. While there are a lot of people, particularly woman who have tried to raise their children alone, there are many cases which don’t have the hot-topic characteristics of violence or other abuse, or drug and alcohol abuse. There are a lot of people who have become completely dispirited by the Oranga Tamariki response, which in all honesty is excessive in pursuing justification for steps that may have already been taken, such as the removal of the children. It’s a pretty drastic step to take without the background to justify it, and it’s even worse because the complaints process for voicing concerns about Oranga Tamariki staff and department performance are toothless. There is no accountability and staff are enabled to say what they like without question. They are told they are not culpable for the inaccuracy of any statement made in good faith.

Escalating the problems are trends towards Oranga Tamariki’s “permanent” separation of children from parents and families, without exploring all options. New Zealanders need to realise that the number of children being removed from parents and families has escalated at an alarming rate since the advent of Oranga Tamariki in 2017. Staff vacancies were being advertised at the outset with such an increase in mind, so clearly the threshold was already lowered, at a time when there are major issues with availability and both service caregivers and some others Oranga Tamariki has been imposing upon to take up the role.

Responses have come from around the country, with calls for similar hui to be held in other centres which include Hamilton and the wider Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Napier, Rodney, Christchurch, Invercargill, and Auckland with stories from families who have had severe and extensive problems with Oranga Tamariki. There has been recent publicity of internal complaints of bullying within Oranga Tamariki, so perhaps this has something to do with it.

While visitors will start arriving at the Kokiri Centre late on Saturday, the Hui proper will not will not start till 10.30am on Sunday 12 May.


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