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Children's Min defends Oranga Tamariki after Chief Ombudsman puts ministry on notice

Story by Amelia Wade - Newshub

Oranga Tamariki has been put on notice by the Chief Ombudsman, who is challenging the new Government to change the agency at a scale rarely seen before. 

Peter Boshier on Wednesday delivered a mammoth report and has issued a call to action for the Government. 

Young Malachi Subecz was failed by the state. The 5-year-old was burnt, beaten and murdered in the care of a woman Malachi's whanāu warned was a danger. 

Oranga Tamariki didn't listen. The agency has admitted it was wrong - but it still hasn't properly apologised. 

"It's really important an apology is wholesome, it's meaningful, it comes from the heart - it's got to be done in a way the family accepts," Boshier said. 

Boshier has new responsibilities under a recent law change and on Wednesday released a comprehensive report after his office worked through more than 2000 complaints about the troubled agency over the past four years. 

His conclusion? 

"The change is needed in a way rarely seen by a Government agency. So, let's get real about this," he said. "This is [a] fundamental change that's needed - what we are seeing is unacceptable." 

Some of the experiences he investigated were extremely distressing, including a rangatahi kept in an institution against their wishes for years, a young disabled mother whose baby was uplifted at birth never to be returned, as well as incorrect and biased information being provided to the family court. 

"There is some good practice in the country and there is some awful practice," Boshier said. "You just don't know what you're going to get and that's really what I find alarming." 

Despite the scale of change recommended, Oranga Tamariki boss Chappie Te Kani didn't front on Wednesday - instead it was Nicolette Dickson, a deputy chief executive. 

"He's very laser focused on the changes that we needed to make," Dickson said of Te Kani. 

Despite the report, new Children's Minister Karen Chhour has confidence in the agency's leadership. 

"I've enjoyed working with Chappie and he's on board with the direction we want to go," she said. 

And Oranga Tamariki insists it is changing.  

"Those changes are underway across the range of issues that are raised in the report," Dickson said. 

But Boshier said he was "rather tired of being told that things are being worked on".  

"It's time to see some action."

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