Urgent call for full independent Royal Commission of Inquiry
A new advocacy group now battling for the rights of parents in disputes with Oranga Tamariki has launched a petition calling for an urgent Royal Commission of Inquiry to examine all aspects of the Government agency’s operation and the legislation under which it was established.
The call has been made by Whanau First co-ordinator Louise Hutchinson whose group was born out of a hui held just the weekend after the agency’s attempt to take a baby from its mother in Hawke’s Bay Hospital last month.
The hui in Raglan on May 12 had already been in the planning at the time of the attempted uplift which was blocked by midwives and led to a standoff with police before a compromise was reached pending a Family Court hearing of further matters.
A second Whanau First hui was held in Flaxmere on Saturday, those attending including Hawke’s Bay District Health Board member Jacoby Poulain, who has been ticked-off by the board chairman for comments she made last week, and Deejay Bryan, who a week after the hospital incident delivered another hit on Oranga Tamariki with a video post on facebook detailing an incident in which an Oranga Tamariki staff member dropped a young boy off at a Hastings gang pad. Hutchinson said the two meetings attracted several people including families traumatized by removals and attempting to navigate the aftermath of having their children uplifted in their lives.
Whanau First has continued to be overwhelmed by the number of parents, families and survivors of State Care making contact asking for support to engage in a construct manner with Oranga Tamariki.
“It is clear there are major issues throughout the country,” Hutchinson said. “The depression and despair and stories behind it are horrendous. We genuinely fear for people and their families and believe the current state of mental distress across the nation including the significantly high rates of suicide in Aotearoa are in direct correlation to Oranga Tamariki and the former state agency Child, Youth and Family (CYF) because of the impact and trauma of child removal which has continued over numerous decades in New Zealand.”
“We have been inundated with stories from affected families whose experiences highlight unjustified removals, false allegations and the complete breakdown of a complaints procedure in their dealing with Oranga Tamariki,” she said.
“Any belief that the Minister has that the complaints process is working is misguided,” she said.
“One of the most common causes of anger towards Oranga Tamariki is that people are not being heard. Unlike most other Government departments, there is no Complaints Service. They have a Feedback page, through which a complaint can be made, if people can complete the Submit process, which wasn’t working a week or so ago.”
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people who haven’t been heard, many have hardly been represented. They have been blocked from being heard and stopped from being represented, and that is why there must be a full inquiry. Whanau First is also calling for frontline family advocates to be notified and included in future uplifts ensuring that children are only uplifted if they are in serious risk of harm and only as a last resort.