Revisiting the 2019 Oranga Tamariki inquiries: What did we learn, and what might that mean for the future of child protection in Aotearoa?
Keywords:Child Protection, Oranga Tamariki, Tamariki, Whānau, Hawkes Bay Case
Introduction: Widespread protests against Oranga Tamariki in 2019 led to six separate reviews in the following two years, the majority of which specifically focused on tamariki and whānau Māori. Now that the dust has settled on those reviews, what can be learned by revisiting them?
Approach: This article analyses the key themes of each of the reviews. It finds that there are areas of concern common to all six, but that there is a major split within them on how to achieve the necessary long-term changes. Some of the reviews suggest that improvements can be made within the current system, while others suggest that only radical transformation will improve outcomes for tamariki and whānau Māori.
Conclusions: Understanding the split between the reviews is important given the views of numerous child-protection researchers that more structural changes to the child-protection system are required if we are to address underlying problems. If the issues are more fundamental, then claims to reform may not only be inadequate, but they may also make the problem worse, by sustaining the systems which cause the underlying harms in the first place. The split in the approach of the reports reveals that it is not just “What do children and whānau need?” that matters, it is also “who gets to decide what children and whānau need?” Understanding these issues from a structural perspective remains crucial, and future reviews of the child-protection system which fail to address those underlying problems are unlikely to lead to effective long-term change.
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