Child uplifts: an Open Letter to the PM
As three cabinet ministers visit Hawkes Bay today to try to calm outrage over Oranga Tamariki, a group of Māori leaders seeks action direct from Jacinda Ardern - saying they have no faith in minister Tracey Martin or her CEO.
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister
CC: Children’s Commissioner
Re: Uplift of Children by the Ministry for Children
Tēnā koe Prime Minister,
1. I am writing to you on behalf of Te Ao Pepi, a group borne out of the recent widely publicised attempts by Oranga Tamarki – Ministry for Children (“the Ministry”) to uplift a baby from his 19-year-old mother (“the Hastings Case”).
2. Te Ao Pepi includes a number of prominent Māori leaders:
a. Ngahiwi Tomoana (JP), Chairperson of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi; b. Desma Ratima (ONZM, JP), Chairperson of the Takitimu District Māori Council; c. Jean Te Huia and Ripeka Ormsby, of Nga Maia Māori Midwives Aotearoa; d. Councillor Henare O’Keefe (QSM, JP) and Jacoby Poulain, Councillors for Hastings District Council; and
is supported by many Māori, including:
a. Cletus Maanu Paul (ONZM, JP), Chairperson of the Mataatua District Māori Council; b. Titewhai Harawira and Raymond Hall, Patron and Chairperson respectively, of the Tamaki Makaurau District Māori Council; c. Rihari Dargaville, Chairperson of the Tai Tokerau District Māori Council; and d. Diane Black and Tunuiarangi McLean (JP), Chairperson and Representative respectively, of the Tamaki ki Te Tonga District Māori Council.
3. The Newsroom documentary about the Hastings Case has resulted in national outrage, accompanied by numerous calls for “something” to be done about this situation.
4. Te Ao Pepi seeks an urgent meeting with you, as the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, and in your role of Prime Minister, to discuss what must be done about the current situation.
5. The following actions are called for:
In relation to the Hastings Case:
i. an Inquiry by independent persons to be initiated immediately, to look into the conduct of the Ministry, the District Health Board, and the Police, in the handling of this case;
ii. a) the persons to be appointed, and the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry, to be agreed by the Prime Minister’s Office, representatives of the mother, and the Children’s Commissioner;
In relation to the practices and procedures of the Ministry:
- an Inquiry by independent persons and/or a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be initiated immediately, to look into the overall processes, policies and conduct of the Ministry. We note that for Māori, there are two current inquiries before the Waitangi Tribunal, which are able to hear evidence and make conclusions about the Agency’s conduct. However, for non-Maori it is recommended that a separate Royal Commission of Inquiry be initiated;
-. the persons to be appointed, and the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry, to be agreed by the Prime Minister’s Office, Te Ao Pepi, and the Children’s Commissioner;
- in relation to the current influx of emails and calls we are receiving from women all over the country, that support and resources be put towards: i. fielding calls for assistance; ii. local taumata and/or Māori providers who can assist the whānau; iii. Legal Aid Services funding, and other support required; iv. appropriate kaupapa Māori based counselling services, for those women, children and whānau, who have been traumatised in their dealings with the Ministry; and d. a review of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, with the objective of an overhaul of the entire system. Māori are to design their own system of support and intervention for their own people.
6. We have been flooded with dozens of calls and emails, all from desperate, desperate women wanting help in relation to their situations. We are currently making contact with them and sorting through the actions that need to be taken.
7. To continue to meet this demand, members of Te Ao Pepi and myself have been voluntarily providing help to these women and their whānau, without the funding and resources to do so. We can continue to do this for some time but not forever. Sooner or later, funding will be required to be able to properly attend to these needs. We would therefore also appreciate a discussion on resourcing.
8. Finally, I have been asked to communicate to you that Te Ao Pepi has no faith whatsoever in the current Chief Executive of the Ministry, nor in the Minister. Their response to the current crises has been to go on the offensive. We have been advised that all staff of the Ministry have been told that they should not watch the Newsroom documentary. Te Ao Pepi asks that they both be stood down, or at the very least, that they are not permitted to control, or be involved in the process for any independent Inquiry.
9. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Janet Mason LLM, LLB, BSocSci
Senior Legal Counsel