Oranga Tamariki uplift practices: media, advocacy, reviews

Fri 28 Jun 2019

Many calls for change to the Ministry of Children - Oranga Tamariki's practice have come following Newsroom's coverage of an attempted uplift ...

Many calls for change to the Ministry of Children - Oranga Tamariki's practice have come following Newsroom's coverage of an attempted uplift of a Māori newborn baby at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

Oranga Tamariki stated their concerns in the Hawke's Bay case were: family violence by the father against the mother, cannabis/drug use by the father, "lack of parenting skills" and transient home environments. The mother's family dispute that evidence.

Newsroom reported the baby's mother is 19 years old and the father 17 years old. The mother had a previous baby with the same father removed from her when she was 17. That child is in the temporary care of a British couple. Newsroom understood Oranga Tamariki was planning to place her newborn baby with the same couple.

The Government has announced three separate reviews, to be conducted by Oranga Tamariki, the Children's Commissioner and the Chief Ombudsman.

North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has announced a Māori-led inquiry into the Ministry of Children - Oranga Tamariki. Further detail on all the inquiries is below.

Calls by advocates

Te Ao Pēpi, a group borne out of the Hawke's Bay uplift attempt which includes a number of prominent Māori leaders, has called for a number of actions including:

  • An inquiry by independent persons to look into the Hawke's Bay case, with the persons appointed and Terms of Reference to be agreed by the Prime Minister’s Office, representatives of the mother, and the Children’s Commissioner 
  • An inquiry by independent persons and/or a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the overall processes, policies and conduct of the Ministry (noting the two current inquiries before the Waitangi Tribunal, for Māori)
  • A discussion on resourcing to address the flood of "dozens of calls and emails, all from desperate, desperate women wanting help in relation to their situations" members are Te Ao Pēpi are receiving
  • A review of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, with the objective of an overhaul of the entire system: "Māori are to design their own system of support and intervention for their own people."

The lawyer who acted for the mother in Hawke's Bay, Janet Mason, has expressed her view that the making of many orders to uplift newborn babies ex parte (i.e. without notice to the mother or whānau) are not justified and she expects court action.

Lawyer David Stone has written an article describing some of the stories he has been told. He is preparing an application for an urgent hearing to the Waitangi Tribunal about this issue.

Tina Ngata, Khylee Quince and Aaron Smale have written media articles on colonisation and Māori experiences of state systems.

More than 16,000 people have signed an open letter and petition written by Hands Off Our Tamariki. It calls for a range of actions including:

  • not one child is removed by the State from their whakapapa context of whānau, hapū, iwi
  • the current system overseen by the Ministry of Children be "restructured in line with Kaupapa Māori and strengths based approaches that ensure tamariki remain connected to their whānau"
  • during the restructuring, a Māori transition panel be put in place to oversee all of the Ministry’s activities in regards to tamariki Māori.

The group has also organised a rally for Tuesday 30 July 2019 at Parliament.

A new parent advocacy group, Whānau First, has called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children and reissued the call.

Chair of the Māori Council and Ngā Ngaru, Matthew Tukaki, called for a number of actions including:

• A jointly develop service delivery model
• A jointly developed workforce development plan
• A jointly developed community and Māori engagement plan

The Backbone Collective of survivors of violence against women states it fully supports and endorses the open letter from Te Ao Pēpi and calls for:

  • The urgent establishment of interim measures to keep women and children safe in family violence and child protection cases being brought before the Family Court.
  • The urgent establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the processes, procedures, conduct and culture of the Family Court and Oranga Tamariki in relation to cases of family violence and child protection, with powers to subpoena witnesses, interview judges and officials and review case files.

Co-founder Ruth Herbert has also written a piece about patterns the Backbone Collective has observed in the hundreds of stories they have heard from women about how the state funded system responds to family violence.

Further analyses and comments are available in the media list below.

Government reviews

Internal review by Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children

Minister for Children Tracey Martin announced an internal review of Oranga Tamariki. The review will focus only on the case in Hawke's Bay. The terms of reference for the review state: "The review will be led by senior staff from the Oranga Tamariki Practice Advice and Māori Practice Advice teams (the PPG reviewers) with the oversight of the Chief Social Worker/Deputy Chief Executive Professional Practice." The Children’s Commissioner will also provide input into the design, progress and findings.

Tracey Martin said "A person appointed by Ngāti Kahungunu and with the relevant expertise, mana and connection will provide independent oversight. The Ministry is waiting for Ngāti Kahungunu to confirm who they wish to take on that role."

For more information listen to a Radio NZ interview with Tracey Martin.

Children's Commissioner review

The Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft has announced that his Office will conduct a thematic review of Oranga Tamariki’s policies, processes and practice relating to care and protection issues for tamariki Māori aged 0-3 months. The review will not consider the recent case in Hawke's Bay.

Update: The Office of the Children's Commissioner has published details about the scope of the review.

Investigation by the Chief Ombudsman

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has announced that he will conduct an investigation into the steps Oranga Tamariki takes when any newborn babies are removed (not only Māori babies). The Supplementary information attached to the media release provides an overview of the investigation purpose and process.

The Government recently announced changes to oversight for the child care and protection system. This included additional powers for the Chief Ombudsman to provide enhanced complaints oversight and investigations relating to Oranga Tamariki. In his full media release, the Ombudsman noted that these powers come into effect on 1 July 2019 and he felt it was important to start looking at this issue immediately. The Ombudsman anticipates the investigation will be completed and reported back to Parliament this year.

Comments by the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister has spoken to media outlets Stuff and One News about the Government response, including to calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Responses to the government reviews

After Minister Tracey Martin announced the first internal review by Oranga Tamariki, the mother's lawyer, Janet Mason, said the whānau was unhappy as they had sought an independent review. She said, "It is akin to leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank."

Backbone Collective co-founder Ruth Herbert also raised concerns about the limitations of the Children's Commissioner and Ombudsman reviews.

Māori-led inquiry

The North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency's Māori-led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki is driven and supported by Māori leaders including Dame Tariana Turia, Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Sir Toby Curtis, Sir Wira Gardiner, Dame Naida Glavish, and Dame June Mariu. In relation to the government reviews, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said:

"... that's all very fine, but it's not by Māori for Māori - which is the difference between the hui we're calling. I can assure you that when we set our terms of reference, believe me the Family Court will not be something we are going to leave out. It’s vital. It really is a crucial part of uplifting and taking the children. So we'll be looking at all areas to do with uplifting the children and that has to be one of them."

The inquiry will be launched at a national hui on 13 July 2019 at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae, Māngere. Māori organisations or individuals wanting to attend can RSVP by email to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.


On 28 June 2019, in response to the significant recent public interest, Oranga Tamariki published a range of information and data about babies and children being taken into state care.

For further updates, see the Media list below.

Related information

There has been ongoing attention on the high and increasing number of Māori children being taken into state care. A Stuff investigation in 2018 reported the number of Māori newborns being removed by the state has significantly increased since 2015 while the number of non-Māori newborns removed has not changed. Stuff reported on average five babies per week are uplifted by Oranga Tamariki, the majority of who are Māori.

Under changes in effect since 2016, "subsequent child" sections (s18A-s18D) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 mean that when parents have had previous children permanently removed due to abuse or neglect, or have been convicted of causing the death of a child they cared for, it is assumed any subsequent child these parents are caring for is in need of care or protection. The burden of proof then falls on the parent to satisfy the social worker that they are unlikely to allow harm to come to the subsequent child. Advocates have noted this provision applied to the Hastings case. Advocates have also previously discussed problems it presents for children, families and whānau and linked it to the rising numbers of children in care.

In April 2019, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced changes to government oversight of the children’s system including oversight of Oranga Tamariki.

Oranga Tamariki has previously announced three "strategic partnerships" with iwi (Te Rūnanga ō Ngāi Tahu, Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi and Waikato-Tainui).

Related news

A number of changes will come into effect on 1 July 2019 under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. These include imposing a range of specific duties on the chief executive "in order to recognise and provide a practical commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti o Waitangi)." (new section 7AA)

Related media

See Newsroom's full coverage of the uplift attempt and follow-up

Iwi partnerships critical step for child protection, Waatea News, 22.01.2020

Ombudsman calls in Maori advisors, Waatea News, 13.12.2019

Chief Ombudsman announces advisory group of rangatira, Press Release: Office of the Ombudsmen, Scoop, 12.12.2019

Low Māori awareness of government watchdog, Waatea News, 18.10.2019

New uplift figures paint disturbing ‘racialised’ picture, Newsroom, 27.08.2019

Hands Off Our Tamariki marchers reject collaboration, Waatea News, 01.08.2019

Tracey Martin on uplift controversy: Oranga Tamariki 'believed the child was in danger', Stuff, 04.08.2019

Independent baby uplift inquiry refused, Waatea News, 05.08.2019

Māori children over-represented in state care harm figures, RNZ, 23.07.2019

AUT Professor Denise Wilson on Paakiwaha, Waatea News, 23.07.2019

Hands Off Our Tamariki: a Rally, Press Release: Hands Off Our Tamariki, Scoop, 22.07.2019

New law returns child to whānau in Oranga Tamariki dispute, RNZ, 22.07.2019

Babies in Oranga Tamariki care - safe or seized?, RNZ, 21.07.2019

Simon Shepherd interviews Maori leaders, Press Release – TVNZ, Scoop, 20.07.2019

Māori mothers fear and mistrust 'systemically racist' authorities, Stuff, 19.07.2019

'Systemic inequality' in Māori involvement in child protection, RNZ, 19.07.2019

Not one more Māori child should be left in isolation from its whānau, Stuff, 19.07.2019

Research finds ethnic disparities in NZ child protection, Press Release: AUT University, Scoop, 19.07.2019

More residential homes could stop Oranga Tamariki uplifts, RNZ, 19.07.2019

Māori plant flag over uplifted children, RNZ, 16.07.2019

The children come first: A day at the Oranga Tamariki hui, The Spinoff, 16.07.2019

Māori unite to declare ‘enough is enough’, Newsroom, 15.07.2019

Hui endorses Oranga Tamariki inquiry, Waatea News, 15.07.2019

Should the practice of Whāngai be recognised in New Zealand law?, One News, 15.07.2019

Māori 'at war' with Oranga Tamariki, Newshub, 14.07.2019

Historic hui gives overwhelming agreement for Māori Inquiry, Press Release: Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, Scoop, 14.07.2019

A sense of injustice too large to fathom, Newsroom, 14.07.2019

The call from the hui was loud and clear: give us back our kids, The Spinoff, 14.07.2019

How closed adoption robbed Māori children of their identity, RNZ, 14.07.2019

Baby uplifts: Māori-led Oranga Tamariki inquiry launches at Auckland hui, NZ Herald, 13.07.2019

Māori inquiry into Oranga Tamariki: 'We have a right to stand up for our babies', Stuff, 13.07.2019

Closed adoption rears its ugly head again, Newsroom, 09.07.2019

Iwi strategies provide alternatives to Oranga Tamariki, Waatea, 08.07.2019

Whānau, whāngai and Oranga Tamariki: What Māori families look like, The Spinoff, 05.07.2019

Labour’s Māori MPs begin to stir on uplifts, Newsroom, 04.07.2019

Open Letter to Hon. Tracey Martin (Minister for Children), Press Release: He Paiaka Totara (Māori psychologists rōpū), 03.07.2019

Sorry, Minister, you’re wrong on the video, Newsroom, 02.07.19

The Hui: Sunday 30 June 2019, ThreeNow

Oranga Tamariki stats: Increase in Māori children taken, RNZ, 28.06.2019

QC questions legality of uplifts, Newsroom, 28.06.2019

Hands Off Our Tamariki urges PM Jacinda Ardern to acknowledge Oranga Tamariki abuses, RNZ, 28.06.2019

Hands off our Tamariki Press Release, Press Release: Hands Off Our Tamariki, 28.06.2019

Support for fourth Oranga Tamariki inquiry led by Māori, RNZ, 27.06.2019

Dealing with the Govt ‘agency from hell’, Newsroom, 27.06.2019

Emily Keddell: ‘Don’t give them a reason’, Re-Imagining Social Work, 27.06.2019

Many state ‘uplifts’ of babies could be illegal: lawyer, Newsroom, 26.06.2019

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait - Māori leaders consider own review of welfare policy, Waatea News, 25.06.2019

Ruth Herbert: Child uplifts: Stop trying to plaster over the cracks, Newsroom, 24.06.2019

Neville Baker: The answers were there in 1988, E-Tangata, 23.06.2019

Tamariki On Track, Media release: PSA, 22.06.2019

Liz Beddoe: What took so long? Time to right some wrongs, Newsroom, 20.06.2019
(see also the full original article, The spotlight is on us- an apology is due on the Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand blog)

Ngāpuhi tamariki in care nearly double any other Iwi, Press Release: Ngāpuhi, Scoop, 20.06.2019

How the three inquiries into Oranga Tamariki will work, Newsroom, 19.06.2019

Baby’s whānau rejects Minister’s internal inquiry, Newsroom, 19.06.2019

Tina Ngata: Uplifting children is not a Māori problem. It’s a colonisation problem, The Spinoff, 19.06.2019

Baby’s whānau rejects Minister’s internal inquiry, Newsroom, 19.06.2019

Oranga Tamariki - the health of children, Press Release: NZ Association of Psychotherapists, 19.06.2019

Aaron Smale: The Māori Problem, Newsroom, 19.06.2019

Ombudsman to investigate Oranga Tamariki uplifts, Radio NZ, 19.06.2019

Ombudsman unveils inquiry into Oranga Tamariki newborn uplifts, NZ Herald, 19.06.2019
(includes interview with Professor Tracey McIntosh)

Jackie Clark of The Aunties on Oranga Tamariki uplifting babies, RNZ, 18.06.2019

Bureaucrat hostility threat to Māori aspiration, Waatea News, 18.06.2019

Oranga Tamariki uplift another example of Māori faring badly – minister, RNZ, 18.06.2019

Govt reveals terms for Oranga Tamariki inquiry, Newsroom, 18.06.2019

Video a game-changer in child protection, Newsroom, 18.06.2019

Two inquiries into baby ‘uplifts’, Newsroom, 17.06.2019

Ngāti Kahungunu pleased with meeting ministers to find solutions, Waatea News, 17.06.2019

Oranga Tamariki - where to from here? Panel discussion, Marae, 17.06.2019

Unite in our Efforts to Support Whānau,

A tipping point for Oranga Tamariki?, Newsroom, 16.06.2019

We need a new OT complaints agency, Newsroom, 16.06.2019

Lesley Max: Big questions beyond baby uplift video, Newsroom, 15.06.2019

Māori will no longer tolerate the removal of babies by the state, Stuff, 14.06.2019

Advocates rally around letter demanding end to uplifting babies, Radio NZ, 14.06.2019

Oranga Tamariki uplift backlash taking its toll on social workers, RNZ, 14.06.2019

Baby grab leading to long term damage, Waatea News, 13.06.2019

Demands for Oranga Tamariki name change, end to 'uplifting', Radio NZ, 13.06.2019

Khylee Quince: Stop trampling the mana of children, Newsroom, 13.06.2019

Racist policies towards Māori children need to change, Press Release: Te Rau Ora, Scoop, 13.06.2019

David Stone: An injustice we can no longer tolerate, Newsroom, 11.06.2019

Time to disrupt family law with Treaty of Waitangi, Waatea News, 07.06.2019

Kaupapa-Māori approach urged for Māori kids in state care, Radio NZ, 05.06.2019

Researchers call for kaupapa Māori approach to turn around poverty, Oranga Tamariki care disparities, NZ Herald, 05.06.2019

The number of newborn babies removed from their parents is rising, Stuff, 12.12.2018

Image: Harakeke by Michael JasonSmith on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Image: Flickr

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