Minister for Children Tracey Martin spoke to Magic Talk Drive on the protests on Parliament grounds yesterday, calling for an immediate end to the uplifts by Oranga Tamariki of children – particularly from Māori families.
While the Minister defends the people’s right to peacefully protest, she remained adamant that Oranga Tamariki will not cease in uplifting children from families “not as long as there are children or babies who are in danger of being killed or seriously harmed.”
“The reality is, and that is exactly what this Government has funded, is that we need to do better in supporting all our families – including our Māori families – to be able to look after their children and keep them safe,” Minister Martin added.
When questioned whether racism played a part in these uplifts, given that Māori babies are represented in the number uplifted by her agency, the Minister argued this was not the case.
“Oranga Tamariki’s social workers come from New Zealand society. They are among the most educated around the diversity of society, but they do come from New Zealand society. They are a reflection of New Zealand.”
She instead argued that it is the social circumstances of these families that are the issue: “[The uplifting] has to do with the circumstances with which the families find themselves in and the way they deal with those stressors. What we should be focusing on, is on prevention and early intervention, so that those families don’t find themselves in places where they are responding and looking after their children at a level when we have to move in and take their children into our care.”
Minister Martin also brought to attention the far greater number of Māori children who are in good social settings, but who “nobody ever talks about”.
“There are over 270,000 Maori children who are loved and cared and looked after by their mum and dads on a daily basis and nobody says a word about them. There are 3,400 Maori children who happen to be under the care of the state because their families are unable to look after them.”
“Of those 3,400 children, 80% are either still with mum or dad, even if the state has guardianship to keep an eye for them, or they are with extended families, or they are with Maori caregivers. This conversation is not as simple as [racism], we have an issue in New Zealand around family violence and violence amongst ourselves and our children, and coming off worse out of it. At the moment, Maori communities are highly represented in those communities.”