Tribunal releases report on Oranga Tamariki

The Waitangi Tribunal has released its report on Oranga Tamariki, He Pāharakeke, he Rito Whakakīkinga Whāruarua, in pre-publication format.

The Tribunal afforded the inquiry an urgent status, acknowledging that tamariki Māori were suffering or likely to suffer significant and irreversible prejudice as a result of the current or pending actions of Oranga Tamariki, for which there was no alternative remedy bar an immediate inquiry.

The inquiry covers three issues:

  1. Why has there been such a significant and consistent disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori children being taken into State care under the auspices of Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors?
  2. To what extent will the legislative policy and practice changes introduced since 2017, and currently being implemented, change this disparity for the better?
  3. What (if any) additional changes to Crown legislation, policy, or practice might be required in order to secure outcomes consistent with Te Tiriti/the Treaty and its principles?

At the outset of the inquiry, the Crown acknowledged that there was a significant disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori being taken into care. They accepted that the broader forces of colonisation and structural racism, alongside the ongoing effect of historical injustices on whānau, hapū, and iwi, contributed to this disparity. In addition, they recognised that they had failed to comprehensively implement the recommendations of the 1988 Ministerial Advisory Committee report Puao-Te-Ata-Tu.

In its report, the Tribunal finds that persistent and significant disparity can, in part, be attributed to the effects of alienation and dispossession. However, it also reflects the Crown’s failure to honour the guarantee to Māori of the right of cultural continuity embodied in the guarantee of tino rangatiratanga over their kāinga. As such, the report finds that disparities are a direct consequence of the Crown’s intrusion into the rangatira of Māori over their kāinga.

In addition to this intrusion, the Tribunal finds that there have been breaches of the principles of partnership, active protection, and options. Combined, these breaches operate to cause significant prejudice.

The Tribunal’s primary recommendation is that the Crown steps back from further intrusion into what was reserved to Māori under te Tiriti/the Treaty and allow Māori to reclaim their space. Māori should be given the right to realising rangatiratanga over their kāinga.

The Tribunal recommends that a Māori Transition Authority be established. This body must be independent of the Crown . and its departments. Its primary function will be to identify the changes necessary to eliminate the need for State care of tamariki Māori. This body should be established as a priority and given a wide mandate to consider system improvements both within and outside of the legislative and policy settings for Oranga Tamariki. The Tribunal recommends that the Crown assist the Transition Authority with information and advice as required and also that the Crown ensure that the Transition Authority has sufficient financial and administrative support to undertake and deliver a reform of this scope. The Tribunal recommends that the Transition Authority have a clear mandate to design and reform the care and protection system for tamariki Māori, coupled with the authority to work in genuine partnership with the Crown to ensure that a modified system is properly implemented.

The Crown must support this transformation, but it is not one that it can or should lead.

He Pāharakeke, he Rito Whakakīkinga Whāruarua is now available to download:

He Pāharakeke, he Rito Whakakīkinga Whāruarua: Oranga Tamariki Urgent Inquiry – Pre-publication Version [PDF, 7Mb](external link)

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