“The issue and impact of the removal of Indigenous children is on the agenda of virtually every Indigenous nation globally” states Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute, University of Waikato. “We have an opportunity in this country to take a lead and say ‘no this will not continue’ by placing the needs of tamariki and their whānau at the forefront and to do that in a meaningful way we must start with removing the silence of what has happened to many generations that were placed into the State Welfare system”.
Dr Pihama believes that it is critical that a formal inquiry be held into the abuse of children within State institutions and it must take place before any changes are made to the Investing in Children Legislative Reform outlining legislative changes to Children Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 and related legislation.
The report ‘Some Memories Never Fade: Final Report of
The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service’ by Judge Henwood (2015) highlights that over 60% of children that enter into the State system ‘cross over’ into the Juvenille justice system. The Henwood report states:
“As many boys as girls were sexually abused. About 57% of the men we saw had been sexually abused and 57% of the women. The damage done sometimes seems to be irreparable. Many people reported that they felt helpless and enraged that there was no one to whom they could report it. Many of the children who had been abused in State care fell into anti-social and criminal behaviour and ended up in prison or psychiatric hospitals in later life. It is estimated that about 40% of prisoners grew up in state care. Their lives were set on a dangerous and damaging path during this time. There are many people who have been living on the edge ever since their experience of State care as children.” (p.12)
The 1988 report Pūao Te Ata Tū highlighted the lack of successive governments to understand these issues,
“At the heart of the issue is a profound misunderstanding or ignorance of the place of the child in Māori society and its relationship with whānau, hapū iwi structures.“ (Preface)
It has been advocated by the vast majority of organisations that presented in the Social Services Select Commmittee process that Māori children that are raised within whānau with connections to their cultural identity and strong support systems in place thrive, whereas those that the State place into contexts where they are institutionalised and disconnected from their whānau are more likely to have longer term traumatic impacts upon their lives.
The call for an Inquiry has been at the forefront of the current debate surrounding the legistative changes proposed and to be reported on by the Social Services Select Committee. The organisation ‘Ngā Morehu – The Survivors of State Abuse’ held a rally at Parliament on July 6th to call for justice for the many thousands of children that were placed by the State into institutions and homes where they experience psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
“The institutional racism and abuse within the State system must be formally investigated in order to ensure that this does not continue to happen to Māori children, that are forced into state institutions and processes through no fault of their own.“ states Associate Professor Leonie Pihama.
“The testimonies of the survivors of this system of State removal tell us over and over again that this system does not, and will never work, and it is time to hear those voices and to develop ways of caring for tamariki and mokopuna in ways that ensure their wellbeing”
Ngā Mōrehu – The Survivors
The Government should not keep refusing to deal with this appropriately and properly. Enormous damage has been done. And much of the damage is unresolved and ongoing. 100 thousand NZ children were removed from their homes and placed in state care facilities. Many suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse. Tomorrow (now today Sunday), we dedicate our programme to four former wards of the state. We call them Ngā Mōrehu – The Survivors. This is their story… #TheHui Sunday, 9:30am on Three.
Ngā Mōrehu – The Survivors
#Hands Off Our Tamariki : An Open Letter
Posted on October 9, 2016 by Te Wharepora Hou
An Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations
Video Clips by Paora Moyle