Over the past week I have been informed of 2 serious allegations involving staff acting inappropriately towards young people in Oranga Tamariki residences.
This alleged behaviour is unacceptable and there is no place for it in our organisation or in our communities.
My priority is the safety and well-being of the young people involved in these allegations.
I have taken immediate action to remove the two staff members from our residences.
There are 2 investigations that have commenced to determine the exact nature and extent of any offending.
Police were brought in immediately and have active investigations which are ongoing. In addition, Oranga Tamariki is conducting its own internal investigations.
The allegations involve inappropriate sexual behaviour.
I know that there will rightfully be further questions about the specific allegations, but can I please ask that we allow the investigations to take their course. I give my assurance that the outcomes of these, at the appropriate time, will be made public.
However, I made the decision that I was not prepared to wait for the outcome of any investigation. Whilst these are currently individual and isolated incidents, one is one too many.
I am not prepared to compromise on the welfare of our tamariki. Children and young people in our care must be cared for. Young people in our facilities must be safe.
It is non-negotiable that every young person who is taken into Oranga Tamariki care and facilities will be safe at all times. There is no room in this organisation for any young person to be put at risk by the behaviour of staff.
Very shortly after this coming to my attention, I made the decision to bring former Police Commissioner Mike Bush into Oranga Tamariki to give me the assurance that I need.
As of this Friday he will take on the leadership of all Youth Justice and Care and Protection residences. In addition to the day-to-day leadership, he will lead a rapid review across all our residences including our Oranga Tamariki community-based homes.
He will be assisted by Whaea Shannon Pakura, former Chief Social Worker, and currently a member of the Government Ministerial Advisory Board to the Minister for Children. I have asked for this to be completed within two months, after which I will make the findings, and any work required to make change public.
I do want to acknowledge the majority of our staff who are also mums, dads, aunties and uncles, who come to work every day to do their best to make a difference in the lives of our young people.
That is why it is unacceptable that a few staff think they can act outside the values that Aotearoa demands and deserves.