"State care is a pipeline to prison" - Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

News 12/07/2019

The Chair of Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait has announced a Māori inquiry into Oranga Tamariki that will see a national hui held on July 13.

Merepeka joins Magic Talk Drive with guest host Brendan Telfer providing details of the hui.

Brendan begins the interview by asking if the hui scheduled for Saturday is an exercise in dialogue and conversation or something more direct to reduce the number of children being uplifted?

Merepeka answers that this hui was “initiated by Māori leadership saying we want to be involved, we know about these issues so let’s get in and do something.”

We need to be part of the solution.

Brendan then asked if the hui aimed to put an end to Oranga Tamariki uplifts? Merepeka explained that their top priority is the safety of children.

Our first priority is to see an end to the abuse of children.

Merepeka continues “we know that there are parents who do not have the skills to look after children.”

"We want to get in early, why do we support an agency that is there after the event."

“We have got to get in and clean up the families and have clear brutal conversations with those families.”

On the subject as to whether or not Oranga Tamariki will be present at the hui Merepeka confirmed that they would not be involved.

No, we don’t want to hear from them.

“There will be a time to hear from them in the future but right now this is our time to be heard.”

With Oranga Tamariki being absent Brenda wondered whether the hui would be at risk of losing objectivity? Merepeka refuted that possibility saying, “no, we know that side of the story, we have seen it and we have known it for a long time.

Merepeka explains that with the change of the Ministry of Children to Oranga Tamariki many Māori were hopeful of positive change.

“Many of us were prepared to give the Ministry of Children the benefit of the doubt but it has been two years now and it’s still happening.”

Brendan wondered in that case has the Government taken their eye off the ball, letting down abused children?

Merepeka sympathises with the Government, “I think the Government wants to do well but it is not trusted… you have to put the resources where we know they work.”

It has to happen within the family.

Asked if there will be any Government Department represented at this hui Merepeka explained, “we have had a request from the Minister of Māori Development, I have invited them  to attend.This is not for Government, this is for Māori to have an honest conversation about what we know and what we want to do.”

We also have to challenge ourselves.

“What have we been doing in recent years?”

“We know this has been going on, we know that 82 percent of Māori men in prison have been in state care.”

State care is a pipeline to prison.

Brendan then asked why is it that Māori leadership needed a documentary to bring this to their attention?

Merepeka pushes back saying, “no, we have known for a long time and we have been trying to change the Ministry of Children.”

They do not trust Māori to come up with solutions.

“If the families have nothing to do with the design of the support services that are going to be provided then they won't stay the distance.”

Merepeka then explains how midwives and other services could reach out to help teach young mothers and surrounding Whānau how to better raise children as many of the mothers are very young.

“Many of them have no idea about parenting skills.”

I mean half of them are barely out of childhood themselves.

Merepeka conceded when asked that the hui could get very emotional, but that it was important as many of the families just want to have their story heard.

Listen to the full interview above.