The head of beleaguered Oranga Tamariki has told the Waitangi Tribunal today “structural racism” at all levels of the agency has negatively affected the experiences of Māori children and their families.
Gráinne Moss, appearing before the Tribunal’s inquiry into the removal of Māori children, made the concession the Crown “should have identified the need to tackle structural racism head-on in the establishment of Oranga Tamariki”.
Moss also said the agency had failed to implement the recommendations of landmark racism report Puao-te-Ata-tu from 1988.
"It has undermined Māori trust and confidence in the Crown and undermined confidence in its willingness and ability to address disparities,” she said.
The inquiry is one of no less than five separate reviews into the government agency following publicity around the taking of newborns, many of them Māori, from their mothers.
Her comments also follow data analysed by the Children’s Commissioner in January, which showed in 2019, Māori babies were five times more likely to be placed in state custody than non-Māori.
But Moss said Oranga Tamariki had halved the number of Māori baby uplifts since 2017.
She dismissed speculation that she was resigning, after calls from Māori, including from former Māori Party leader Dame Tariana Turia, that she step down.
"I'm absolutely committed to the kaupapa, and we've made really good progress,” Moss said.
She said she had “no idea” where the rumours came from that she was resigning.
But some are still looking for answers.
"I think it's very clever that you come in and you agree with certain aspects of the reports, you disagree with other aspects of it, and you don't answer some of the questions,” Turia said.
The Waitangi Tribunal hearing continues tomorrow.