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Archbishops back iwi Māori

Māori Anglican Bishop of Aotearoa Archbishop Don Tamihere was joined this week by Archbishop Justin Duckworth and Archbishop Sione Ulu'ilakepa to oppose the removal of Treaty-based rights of iwi, hapu and whānau from the Oranga Tamariki Act.

The Anglican Archbishops have spoken against repeal of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act (that deals with child protection), which they say would weaken the chances of tamariki Māori being brought up with an understanding of their mana tamariki (inherent dignity as a child), within the context of whakapapa (layers of story and geneaology) and whanaungatanga (ecosystem of familial relationships). 

The Archbishops pointed to the experience of church agencies, (both Mihinare awhi whānau providers and Anglican social service agencies) that report initial positive impacts of section 7AA, saying it has helped grow better relationships between iwi Māori and child social services, relationships that are now threatened by its repeal.

“We represent a national network of churches and church social organisations which operate at the front line with families and whānau in their daily lives. Many of our people are concerned at this retrograde step in care for some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The Archbishops cautioned the Government not to fall back into the days that saw iwi Māori kept out of decisions on the care of their mokopuna by Government staff. Their submission highlights findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State and Faith-Based Care, which revealed that state-mandated care has too often been a cause of serious harm to Māori children.

The Archbishops go on to caution the Government that turning back the clock on child protection law risks failing to recognise Māori cultural practices that can support families, such as whāngai (a traditional mode of open adoption, foster parenting or transmitting knowledge from elders to children).

They pointed out too, that removing iwi Māori from the conversation about best outcomes for children has in the past left disproportionate numbers of Māori children estranged from their roots and their identity, which has played out in poor long-term outcomes for spiritual and mental health.

The Archbishops outlined several further reasons they believe the repeal of the Oranga Tamariki Act Treaty clauses is an unnecessary diversion that will undermine moves toward best practice in care for Māori children:

  • Movers of the Bill have offered no evidence that outcomes for children will improve with the repeal of section 7AA– Mana whenua and social service agencies are already working better together with section 7AA in place– Section 7AA enables iwi Māori to contribute to the wellbeing and care of their children as a given.

The Archbishops concluded their submission with key points for Parliament to consider:

“We implore Parliament to retain s7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act.

  • We believe its revocation is a clear breach of the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

  • We believe that communities thrive when cultural ways of life are nurtured and supported.

  • We believe that robust systems of reporting, designed in partnership with iwi Māori, are necessary to provide the security and accountability that tamariki are safe, and to gather robust evidence of the efficacy of whānau-based care / care of Māori children by Māori.

  • We ask this government to be forward-facing and creative and to seek partnership in the spirit of Te Tiriti.

  • The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia continues to commit to its duty of care in working alongside state agencies to protect the vulnerable.” 

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