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Anti-whanau stance inconsistent

Anti-whanau stance inconsistent with promise of strategic partnerships with iwi

Dame Tariana Turia is disappointed that the principles of Puao-te-ata-tu which shaped the 1989 Child, Young Persons and their Families Act are being tampered with despite a wealth of expertise upholding the fundamental value of a whanau-centred approach.

"Across the world, social scientists, politicians and family advocates have lauded the 1989 Act as being ground-breaking in the importance it placed on placing faith in our families to care for their own. The problem is that the principles of the Act were never fully upheld by successive bureaucracies who under-delivered on the resourcing required to support parents in their most vital role.

"Why is it that Governments can invest so much in sustaining foster care organisations and yet fail to support parents and whanau as the first and fundamental carers?

"I am extremely disappointed at Minister Tolley's warning shot that she will delete from law, section 5 (c) (ii) that consideration must be given to how a decision affects the "family, whanau, hapu, iwi and family group". This is effectively saying that whānau, hapū and iwi are incidental, irrelevant, to decisions around the best placement for a child.

Such a move is inconsistent with the proposed direction of the reforms to enable all children to feel a sense of identity, belonging, and connection. It discards the plea from one of the Minister's own youth advisors:"A child should know where they are from; where they come from and know that there are people out there who love them. This identity is not just where the child comes from and what culture they are; it's everything that makes them who they are". (Panel Report, 2015, p61)

It makes a mockery of the Expert Panel's recommendation that the policy and practices of the new Ministry will be designed "in strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations as a primary mechanism for providing opportunity and inviting innovation to improve outcomes for vulnerable Māori children, young people and their whānau".

The Minister appears to have ignored the multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Maori organisations by instead privileging organisations like Barnados and Open Home Foundation. Her cabinet papers are underwhelming, indicating "over a long time period", iwi and Maori organisations can "provide input".

"The Minister's own report recommended that "Whānau Ora can play a role in assisting whānau to develop a stronger understanding of their own strengths and how they can access social services to support better outcomes for vulnerable children" and yet the cabinet papers, while heavily redacted, appear to have overlooked or denied the impact of Whānau Ora".

"I was hopeful that when I read in the expert report that "Māori children deserve the best staff, the best expertise and the highest expectations" (2015, p13) that this Minister would do what was right; would establish strategic partnerships with those closest to whānau; would appoint significant Maori positions in the new Ministry that were in touch with whānau, hapu, iwi; and that all of us would be able to contribute to the solutions we so desperately need to achieve for all our children to live a great life.

"What we needed to see was Puao-te-ata-tū put into policy and practice. Instead the latest announcement just feels like a big step backwards".


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