The Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children says outgoing CEO of Oranga Tamariki Grainne Moss did the right thing by stepping down - and that it will allow the focus to go back on to improving children's lives.
Moss stepped down last week after four years in the top job after sustained pressure for her to do so, in the wake of the child uplift issues last year.
Five inquiries were also launched in 2019 after footage of a Hawke’s Bay incident was released where Oranga Tamariki social workers repeatedly tried to uplift a baby from hospital to the objection of the mother, her family and the midwife involved.
Moss said in a statement last week that "I feel the focus has been on me rather than how we work together to improve the well-being of children."
Glenis Philip-Barbara, who took on the role of Assistant Māori Children’s Commissioner last year to ensure a Māori voice among those at the top of Oranga Tamariki, this morning told Breakfast Moss had done the right thing.
"I felt a little bit sad for the fact that this organisation has struggled for so long," she said.
"This is a deeply-embedded structural and systemic problem that requires addressing urgently.
"I think it's incredibly difficult for a person at an individual level to be facing repeated calls to step aside - I think that kind of pressure if very, very difficult to withstand.
"She's a mum of four and has a family to consider as well, so yeah I wasn't surprised.
"I think when she said it has to be less about her and more about the kaupapa at hand, she was absolutely right.
"So yes, I think she did do the right thing."
Philip-Barbara has advocated for Māori leadership inside of Oranga Tamariki, especially Māori leadership on the organisation's handling of Māori families.
"I think Māori leadership at Oranga Tamariki is incredibly important, but when I say leadership, I'm not just talking about the top job, I'm thinking about leadership at every level of the organisation," she said.
"A chief executive sets the direction and the tone for the organisation, but at every level there are important leaders who make critical decisions about who they trust."
She said not just leadership roles, but everyday social workers were also responsible for some of the most important decisions.
"For too long we've focused on 'rescuing' children from people we perceived to be bad - I think the time has really come where we need to get a grip as a nation and think about how we support whānau to be successful."