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Māori need to stop operating within unhelpful western structures - Oranga Tamariki hui

Te Aniwa Hurihanganui of rnz.co.nz

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The hui is the first step towards a Māori-led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki, one of four taxpayer-funded probes into the ministry. Source: 1 NEWS

Māori language advocate Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi says Māori need to stop working for government agencies, and operating within western structures that don't prioritise the importance of whakapapa and whānau.

"As long as you bind to government you get the money, the fish-hooks come with it. The strength we've got, all the Māori entities come together and look at a Māori development plan, whether you're in education, health, kohanga, kura, TV or wherever."

Māori academic Sir Mason Durie agreed, saying Māori have already shown they can develop successful systems that work for their people such as Whānau Ora, kuru kaupapa Māori, and kōhanga reo.

It's one of many major issues at the centre of a hui in Auckland today, where more than 400 people have gathered to launch the fourth inquiry into Oranga Tamariki.

Four wananga are taking place where Māori social workers, clinicians, academics and whānau affected by Oranga Tamariki's practices will identify key themes to inform the inquiry.

Māori leaders say Oranga Tamariki is continuing to prioritise the removal of tamariki from their whānau without enough investigation or partnership with whānau, hapu or iwi.

MP Willie Jackson said Oranga Tamariki has demonstrated it does not reach out far enough to ensure a child who must be removed from their immediate family remains connected to their wider whānau.

He said the disconnection of whakapapa is traumatising Māori children and their families, and is urging Māori organisations to step in to ensure that no longer happens.

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Mr Jackson spoke at today’s hui launching the fourth inquiry into Oranga Tamariki. Source: 1 NEWS

Today's inquiry is being spearheaded by the Whānau Ora commissioning agency, Te Pou Matakana.

The high amount of interest has meant that the hui has been shifted from a Māngere marae to an airport hotel.

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait announced the inquiry following the backlash over the way Oranga Tamariki is removing pēpi from their families.

She said the catastrophic number of Māori children caught up in the system had fuelled the tide of unrest.

"From what we see and what we are hearing, the picture does not look good at all."

Ms Raukawa-Tait said Māori leaders had asked them to do something, and the inquiry would be reporting back to the community.

"Just to say 'this is what we have found, these are the things that need to be improved on, that need to be corrected, this is where iwi involvement must come' and we have to be front and centre of any solution around the uplifting of children," she said.

Ms Raukawa-Tait said the way Oranga Tamariki's was operating against its statutory obligations to Māori would also be a focus of the inquiry.

Amongst Māori, she said, there was a "complete lack of trust" in the ministry.

"Really, it's about trust that is not there, it is about a relationship that is non-existent with iwi Māori and so it's very very difficult to have confidence that a government agency will be able to do the best they can.

"I suspect that they are trying, but really I think they're flogging a dead horse."