Reviews and inquiries

In May 2019, our attempt to bring a new-born pēpi Māori into care in Hastings attracted media and public scrutiny.

This event also led to several reviews and inquiries into the way we work, including the legislation we work under, our policies and practice. The reviews but mainly focused on:

  • how pēpi enter the care and protection system
  • how Māori are impacted by the care and protection system.

The Hawke's Bay Practice Review

The Hawke's Bay Practice Review found that:

  • safety concerns for the baby meant Oranga Tamariki were right to get involved, but we made mistakes in how we worked with the whānau and other partners
  • we didn’t try hard enough to build good relationships with whānau members
  • we didn't explore options to place the baby with wider family
  • too much reliance was placed on historical information about the whānau instead of their current situation
  • the systems in place to check decisions didn’t work.

We accepted all the findings and recommendations and apologised to the whānau at the heart of the case. We also made immediate changes to our practice to strengthen how we work with others. These include:

  • providing the right planning and support for parents and whānau at the earliest opportunity
  • making sure whānau are more involved – unless there is a clear need to protect a child from immediate and imminent danger, all custody applications are made ‘on notice’, so whānau know what’s happening and are involved in the court’s decision
  • better training and greater supervision for family group conferences
  • when staff need to act fast to keep a child safe, every Section 78 ‘without notice’ application will go through additional checks to ensure it's the right action.

Ko te Wā Whakawhiti – Māori-led inquiry (Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency)

Ko te Wā Whakawhiti is a significant and comprehensive report focusing on historical and current cases of state removal of tamariki Māori from their whānau.

While the events in Hastings in May 2019 prompted the start of the Māori inquiry, we acknowledge Ko te Wā Whakawhiti describes issues that have been felt by whānau Māori for generations.

The key themes, messages and findings of the report are:

  • whānau want 'by Māori, with Māori, for Māori' services and solutions, with an emphasis on the need for these services and solutions to be collectively, and locally, driven
  • a stronger commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi is needed
  • whānau need better, more robust support and adequate funding from the government to thrive as whānau, best demonstrated through whānau-centred wrap-around support – some of the whānau interviewed in the inquiry noted Māori service providers were better positioned to give them the support they needed
  • hapū and iwi connections to whānau are critical for supporting whānau to thrive.

Ko te wā whakawhiti – a Māori inquiry into Oranga Tamariki (PDF, 69.5 MB)

Oranga Tamariki response to Ko te Wā Whakawhiti

Te Kuku o te Manawa – The Office of the Children’s Commissioner Report

Following events in Hastings in May 2019, the Children’s Commissioner announced a review to answer the question: 'What needs to change to enable pēpi Māori aged 0–3 months to remain in the care of their whānau in situations where Oranga Tamariki is notified of care and protection concerns?'

The Children’s Commissioner released the first part of his review in June 2020. This was primarily based on interviews with mothers and whānau of 13 pēpi across 10 iwi, who have come into contact with the statutory care and protection system. We acknowledge the courage and mamae of those who contributed to the report. 

The Children’s Commissioner released the final report (PDF, 2.84 MB) Te Kuku o te Manawa: Moe Ararā! Haumanutia ngā moemoeā a ngā tupuna mō te oranga o ngā tamariki on 20 November 2020. 

We also released a formal response and letter.

He Take Kōhukihuki | A Matter of Urgency – Ombudsman inquiry

The Chief Ombudsman investigated the following two areas of practice when a newborn baby is removed from their parents, whānau or other caregivers:

  • decision making around applying to the Family Court for a without notice interim custody order, including the evidence used by Oranga Tamariki to seek this order
  • practices around the removal of a baby when an order is granted – including looking at how Oranga Tamariki works with other parties involved, such as district health boards, iwi and Police.

The Chief Ombudsman released the outcome of his investigation on 6 August 2020 – we accepted all the recommendations.

The Ombudsman has recommended that we report quarterly to him on our progress in addressing his recommendations.

Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry: WAI 2915

The Waitangi Tribunal's urgent inquiry into the consistency of Oranga Tamariki policies and practice with te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) considered the following three key questions with a particular focus from 2015 to the present:

  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 practise 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?

 

Concessions made

In November 2020, Oranga Tamariki made some formal concessions on behalf of the Crown.

We acknowledged:

  • the Crown’s failure to implement the recommendations of the 1988 report Pūao Te Ata Tū (PDF, 551.4 KB) in a comprehensive and sustained manner
  • the presence and impacts of structural racism within the care and protection system and reiterated our commitment to addressing it
  • Māori perspectives and solutions in the care and protection system have been ignored.

To address this, we will partner and engage with Māori, so together we can deliver better outcomes for tamariki Māori.

Findings

In April 2021, the findings from the Waitangi Tribunal urgent inquiry (Wai 2915) were released. We acknowledge and thank all claimants and our kaimahi involved in the hearings for their strength and for sharing their expertise and experiences. The findings and recommendations will inform the development of the future direction of Oranga Tamariki. 

More information about the Waitangi Tribunal

Published: September 7, 2021