Consultation on Oranga Tamariki oversight, repeal of subsequent child bill and new report on systemic racism

Wed 08 Dec 2021

The government has introduced two new bills to amend existing legislation related to Oranga Tamariki. Submissions are open on the first bill related to oversight of Oranga Tamariki. A new report confirms systemic racism is responsible for the over-representation of Māori in state care.

Submissions open on Oranga Tamariki oversight legislation

The Social Services and Community Committee is calling for submissions on legislation proposing changes to the monitoring and oversight of Oranga Tamariki, including changes to the Office of the Children's Commissioner.

The closing date for submissions is 26 January 2022.

The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People's Commission Bill is an omnibus bill which proposes to amend a number of Acts. The media release (17 November 2021) from the Social Services and Community Committee states:

"The bill would establish the office of the Independent Monitor of the Oranga Tamariki System. The objectives of the Monitor would be to carry out objective, impartial, and evidence-based monitoring, and provide advice. The bill would also strengthen the complaints oversight function of the Ombudsman. It would do this by ensuring that the Ombudsman’s investigations about the Oranga Tamariki system have a focus on improving outcomes for children, supports agencies in the Oranga Tamariki system to resolve complaints, and give practical effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi).

The bill proposes to replace the Children’s Commissioner with the Children and Young People’s Commission. The commission would be an independent Crown entity and be able to hold the Government to account on matters relating to children and young people. The bill proposes to carry over most of the current powers of the Children’s Commissioner to the commission. However, the commissioner’s current powers to investigate decisions about individual children would not be carried over. This is because the Ombudsman already conducts a similar investigatory function and would continue to do so."

For more information see the bills digest for background leading to the legislation and overview of the key parts of the proposed legislation and the December 2021 media release calling for submissions. When introducing the bill, Children's Minister Kelvin Davis said "Along with a Ministerial Advisory Board that will monitor that progress, these changes will ensure there is strong oversight of the wellbeing of children and whanau during that transformation."

Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said the legislation is "a huge opportunity to improve outcomes for all tamariki mokopuna." She highlighted a number of proposed changes in the bill which "...establishes a more comprehensive and greater-resourced monitor of the Oranga Tamariki System, to inherit and expand on the system monitoring currently undertaken by the OCC." She also noted that the Office of the Children's Commissioner will be advocating for strengthened independence for the new Oranga Tamariki System Monitor and for the Monitor to reflect a Te Tiriti partnership model.

The Green Party has said they will not support the legislation with spokesperson for Children and member of Te Mātāwaka Jan Logie saying: “Turning the Office of the Children’s Commissioner into a Children and Young People’s Commission should go hand in hand with giving it powers and resourcing for monitoring, alongside advocacy work. Taking some of the functions away from the Commissioner is a backwards step." Waatea News interviewed Dr Elizabeth Kerekere about the Green Party's concerns about the legislation.

In June 2021, the government announced that the Independent Children’s Monitor (Te Mana Whakamaru Tamariki Motuhake) would become its own departmental agency within government and be hosted by the Education Review Office. It will be led by its own Chief Executive who will be a Statutory Officer. Outgoing Children's Commissioner Judge Becroft has questioned this approach and VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has also criticised the decision.

Update: VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has published an overview of the bill and guide to making a submission. Many advocacy groups have raised concerns about the proposed changes. See related media below for more information.

Update: The bill was divided by committee of the whole House into two separate bills: the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Bill and the Children and Young People’s Commission Bill. Both bills have passed Parliament and received Royal Assent in August 2022.

New bill would repeal Oranga Tamariki subsequent child removal provision

Children's Minister Kelvin Davis introduced legislation to partially repeal the subsequent child provision. The Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill would amend the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 by partially repealing the subsequent-child provisions. When announcing the bill, Minister Davis said "While issues have been identified with the provisions in relation to parents who have previously had a child permanently removed from their care, those issues do not arise in relation to a parent who has a conviction for the death of a child in their care. For that reason, the retention of provisions in such serious situations will remain."

For more information see the full bill. It is expected the bill would be passed and come into effect in 2022. It has not yet been referred to select committee.

New report documents impacts on Māori from system racism and colonisation

A new independent research report states that "It is clear from research analysis that the settler state and its care systems have been deliberate in intention and design in dismantling whānau Māori networks that were crucial for health and wellbeing." The authors further note:

"The over-representation of tamariki Māori and vulnerable adults in the settler State Care system cannot be separated from the socio-political and historical contexts of Aotearoa, and the deliberate dismantling of whānau Māori. The violent and enduring impacts of colonisation has significantly reduced whānau capacity and capability to care for their own."

The Crown Response to the Abuse in Care Inquiry website states the 480-page report, " believed to be the most comprehensive research ever done on Māori historical experience of State care, drawing together a vast range of data from State organisations and interviewing people closely involved in the care system during 1950-99."

The research and report, Haha-uri, haha-tea: Māori Involvement in State Care 1950–1999 (2021), was completed by Ihi Research and was co-researched and written with Māori researchers who are survivors of State Care. The research was commissioned by the Crown Response to the Abuse in Care Inquiry. Also see a summary overview of the research.

Te Ao Māori news interviewed some of the researchers including Paora Crawford Moyle and Dr Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll. For more information see the research overview from Ihi Research and a video from the Crown Response to the Abuse in Care Inquiry.

Related news

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry delivered its interim report, He Purapura Ora, he Māra Tipu – From Redress to Puretumu, to the Governor-General, Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro. The media release notes that the report "...makes findings and recommendations on how the Government and faith-based institutions can address the harm suffered by children, young people and vulnerable adults in the care of State and faith-based institutions." It is expected that the report will be tabled in the House in mid-December, and after that, made public.

Related media

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Child abuse bill flawed, Waatea News, 01.03.2022

Former staff critical of Oranga Tamariki bill, Stuff, 26.02.2022

Oranga Tamariki changes ‘deliberately preempt’ Royal Commission, Newsroom, 24.02.2022

Ministers differ on changes to Oranga Tamariki bill, Te Ao Māori News, 24.02.2022

Proposed changes to Oranga Tamariki could deter people from making complaints, welfare advocate argues , Stuff, 23.02.2022

Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill under fire: 'They want a lapdog, not a watchdog', Stuff, 19.02.2022

Questions left hanging as Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni hangs up, Stuff, 19.02.2022

Oranga Tamariki watchdog reforms ‘may perpetuate harm, dysfunction’, Newsroom, 17.02.2022

Demand for Children's Commissioner to be retained amid Government reforms, Stuff, 17.02.2022

Save The Children Presents 10,000-strong Petition To Retain New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner, Press Release: Save The Children, Scoop, 15.02.2022

Oranga Tamariki grapples with structural racism to turn the tide, Newsroom, 14.02.2022

An advocacy job too well done, RNZ, 08.02.2022

Monitoring committee no substitute for Children’s Commissioner, Waatea News, 27.01.2022

Push to ‘save’ Children’s Commissioner from govt reforms, Newsroom, 24.01.2022

Advocacy group urges Government to slow down on new OT laws, RNZ, 19.01.2022

OT: Expert warns against stripping Children's Commissioner role, RNZ, 19.01.2022

Concern raised over new Oranga Tamariki legislation: 'I don't trust the government to deliver', RNZ, 19.01.2022

Are we ready to scrap the role of Children’s Commissioner?, The Spinoff, 19.01.2022

Save The Children's Commissioner, NZ's Campaigning Superhero, Save the Children media release, 17.01.2022

Calls to retain Children’s Commissioner, Waatea News, 06.01.2022

Save The Children Calls To Retain New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner, Press Release: Save The Children, Scoop, 05.01.2022

Revealed: Violence in Oranga Tamariki care and protection residences increasing, Newshub, 10.12.2021

Oranga Tamariki Acting Chief Executive Term Extended, Press Release: Public Service Commission, Scoop, 08.12.2021

Judge calls for quick response to abuse remedies, Waatea News, 02.12.2021

Govt finally moves to repeal ‘subsequent child’ uplifts, Newsroom, 26.11.2021

Racism In Government Organisations Responsible For Māori In Care, Independent Research Reveals, Press Release: Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, Scoop, 11.11.2021

State racism caused historical Māori overrepresentation in state care, report finds, Stuff, 11.11.2021

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu hopes new research will improve outcomes for Māori in State Care, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu media release, 11.11.2021

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

Image: Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels

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