November 29, 2023

New iwi-led plan paves way for child support after Oranga Tamariki’s controversial baby uplift

Watch: Oranga Tamariki has handed back power to local iwi Ngāti Kahungunu.

When Oranga Tamariki attempted to uplift a newborn baby from its mother in Hawke’s Bay Hospital in 2019, it was filmed and became the basis of an exposé on the Newsroom website, sparking an outcry and a national debate.

In direct response to that, Oranga Tamariki on Wednesday handed back power to local iwi Ngāti Kahungunu to look after the welfare of their own tamariki with their own support networks.

A celebratory song about aroha and working together now embodied in Te Ara Matua – a partnership between the iwi of Ngāti Kahungunu, local organisations and Oranga Tamariki.

“The Government they have a role but we need to bring it back to its source and that’s to us,” Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Bayden Barber said. 

Ngāti Kahungunu will now lead the decision-making for its whānau and children, not Oranga Tamariki.

“This is shifting decision-making and resourcing closer to our whānau and our communities,” Oranga Tamaraki CEO Chappie Te Kani said.

The iwi-led plan is in response to Oranga Tamariki’s much-publicised attempt to uplift a seven-day-old baby from its mother in Hawke’s Bay Hospital in 2019. 

Jean Te Huia was the midwife that night and while no other Ngāti Kahungunu baby has been uplifted since, she said Wednesday’s move is welcome.

“I think the voices of whānau has been heard and I believe that it’s timely. We can’t continue to ignore the plight of whānau,” she said.

At the time, Kelvin Davis flew down with former Minister of Children Tracey Martin. He’s delivering on some promises he made to the iwi.

“We are closing the loop where at that time Ngāti Kahungunu said ‘not one more child without us’ and here we have Ngāti Kahungunu who has developed the model for them to be able look after their own children, in their own way, with their own supports,” Davis said.

“This should have happened 50 years ago. Going right back to the 1970s there was a call for this type of model.”

Similar models are expected to be replicated with iwi around the motu.

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