28 January 2021

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu calls for Oranga Tamariki to invest in whānau as a first resort

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu hopes that the recent changes to Oranga Tamariki leadership present an opportunity for a long overdue paradigm shift that will place whānau at the heart of the child welfare sector.

Pouārahi Helen Leahy says that Māori have been waiting for more than 30 years for this change, since the release of the Pūao-te-ata-tū report in 1988. In this context, the Whānau Ora commissioning agency welcomes an evolving environment of scrutiny and accountability signalled by the appointment of Tā Wira Gardiner as Interim Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki, and the establishment of a Ministerial Advisory Board announced yesterday by Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis.

“We see these latest developments as crucial to consolidate the paradigm shift needed to move the child welfare system towards assisting families when they are having difficulties rather than removing tamariki as the first response,” says Ms Leahy. “Our focus in Whānau Ora is always to ensure that there is investment in whānau as the solution of first resort. We must be listening and hearing the voices of whānau, ensuring their obligations and responsibilities towards their own are respected, and in doing so best serve the interest of all our tamariki and mokopuna.”

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has supported the Māori Design Group at Oranga Tamariki over the past three years and have been proud of its progress, including driving a number of strategic partnerships with iwi and a growing appreciation for the role of Whānau Ora Navigators in working with whānau.

“Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu is very supportive of any developments that focus on serving the best interests of children, young people, whānau and communities,” says Ms Leahy. “We welcome the emphasis on relationships with families, whānau and Māori as being one of three critical areas of advice from the expert group, and are happy to share our knowledge and experience with the advisory board as they undertake their important purpose for being.”


Pūao-te-ata-tū was a landmark report released in 1988, produced by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Māori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. It was a detailed commentary and enquiry into racism within New Zealand society, and in particular within the Department of Scoail Welfare. It described a “litany of sound”, stating that the Department’s child care processes were undermining the basis of Māori society, leading to a powerlessness and denigration of culture and a disconnect between generations: “the young and the elderly expressed heartfelt loss of each o ther through processes which keep them apart.” The conclusion of the

report was that: “the problem is of such magnitude that the response requires a major shift of social and economic resources among all social service and community agencies that can deliver them.”


For media enquiries, please contact:

Helen Leahy – 021 881 031

Anna Brankin – 021 190 2893