Oranga Tamariki under pressure on taking babies from parents

The story about Oranga Tamariki  taking babies from parents continues to look troubling. Oranga Tamariki  has tried to legally suppress Newsroom coverage but has failed.

The original story: NZ’s own ‘taken generation’

Today we launch a powerful new video story by Newsroom investigations editor Melanie Reid into the attempted ‘uplift’ of a newborn baby from its mother at a maternity ward by the children’s agency Oranga Tamariki.

For the first time, the process involved in taking a baby from its mother is laid bare. The filming, carried out in the hospital room, shows the pressure a young Māori mother is subjected to as she tries to keep her seven-day-old baby.

The case, which Newsroom reported here and here, has iwi leaders calling for a new national approach to resolve the high incidence of Māori parents losing their babies through Oranga Tamariki applications to the Family Court.

All those spoken to by Newsroom accepted intervention could be needed in cases where clear risks arose to a child’s safety – but they argue there is strong whānau support for the mother and child in this case and similar examples exist of Oranga Tamariki refusing to revise its decisions to take children.

Three Māori babies a week are being ‘uplifted’ from their mothers and of 283 babies taken into care last year, more than 70 percent were Māori or Pasifika.

Increasingly, those aware of the level of removals of Māori babies are discussing the term ‘Stolen Generation’, reflecting the systematic policy in Australia of taking indigenous children from their communities.

The documentary, which can be viewed above, contains detailed footage from inside the mother’s hospital room as officials repeatedly attempt to persuade her to give up the child. At one point Oranga Tamariki officials arrived at night after her whānau had left her alone with her week-old baby in the room and did not relent until a 2am intervention by a tribal leader and police commander.

Newsroom: Judge declines OT action vs Newsroom

A Family Court judge has declined a bid by children’s agency Oranga Tamariki to force changes to a Newsroom video story about its attempt to take a newborn baby from its teenage mother.

The agency wanted the court to make Newsroom – and Stuff.co.nz which also published the documentary – remove details from the story but Judge Max Courtney said it wasn’t for him to rule on – either the law had been breached or it hadn’t and if so Oranga Tamariki could report Newsroom to the police.

Oranga Tamariki’s action, following an attempted complaint to the Media Council over earlier stories on the case, was lodged by lawyer Linda Clark for her firm Kensington Swan as an urgent memorandum to the court.

Lawyers for Newsroom, and website Stuff.co.nz which also published the Newsroom story, told the court they rejected Oranga Tamariki’s claims about alleged breaches of the Family Court Act and would oppose their bid for orders to have changes made to the video story.

The video showed a case at Hawke’s Bay Hospital in which three Oranga Tamariki social workers, with police support, tried over two days to take a week-old baby boy from his mother after persuading the Family Court to provide them with an uplift order, citing the safety of the child.

The whānau and the woman’s midwives say the young mother is being blamed by association with her and her partner’s wider family’s background and has strong, caring support.

After strident opposition from the mother and father, their two mothers and whānau, and two midwives and iwi representatives, Oranga Tamariki said it would not try to take the baby but returned at night, when the mother was on her own and tried until the early hours to persuade her to hand over the child. Her midwife and family were barred by the hospital, security and police from entering the hospital to be with her.

Finally she was allowed to stay with the baby and leave the hospital with the boy and stay at a care facility. A further court hearing on the bid to remove the child is set for next week, but the children’s agency has said in a statement that the mother and child have done well and it is ‘supporting’ them.

Oranga Tamariki attempted the court action against Newsroom on the basis this site had identified the child and mother, which Newsroom and Stuff reject.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Gráinne Moss defended her agency’s actions around uplifts to Parliament’s social services committee on Wednesday morning, saying 98.5 percent of Māori children were not in care.

“It’s one of the hardest things, if not the hardest thing, that a social worker ever does – but they do not do that alone, they do that with other professionals, they also do that with the Family Court, they’ve often worked extensively for a long period of time.”

This is a very difficult thing to deal with. Oranga Tamariki are damned if they don’t intervene enough, and damned if they do.  But this situation looks bad, and finding better ways of dealing with it should be a priority.

Politics, religion the annual Rātana ritual and babies

I thought that state and religion were supposed to be kept separate (is this true in New Zealand?), but there has long been a close link in New Zealand between religion and politics. This is still the case to an extent, with each political year now kicking off in force with a ritual visit to the Rātana church.

Some history from Te Ara: Religion and politics

The churches played significant, often controversial, roles in politics.

Between the mid-1830s and early 1860s Anglican missionaries, clergy and laymen led the humanitarian campaign to uphold Māori rights and welfare. An even larger number of Māori Christians, also often Anglican, defended their land and political rights.

Between the 1870s and the 1930s Scottish Presbyterians joined forces with other dissenters – Methodists, Baptists, Brethren, Congregationalists, the Church of Christ and the Salvation Army – to form a powerful evangelical coalition.

In the 1880s, as political parties emerged, outsiders – dissenters, Catholics and secularists – often supported the centre-left parties in New Zealand’s relatively narrow political spectrum. The Liberal government (1889–1912) of John Ballance, a moderate freethinker, and Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon, an Anglican populist, attracted significant support from all three groups.

From 1912 members of the Protestant-dominated Reform party of ‘Farmer Bill’ Massey, a Presbyterian from an Ulster background.

Political success eluded Labour until 1935, when leaders such as Michael Joseph Savage (who returned to his Catholic roots) and Walter Nash, an Anglican socialist, moved the party closer to the ideological centre. A dozen ministers or ex-ministers of religion stood for Parliament in the 1935 election. Labour won a landslide victory by presenting itself as the party of practical Christian compassion, which it contrasted with the heartless and anti-family depression-era coalition government. Savage famously described Labour’s Social Security Act 1938, intended to provide security for all from cradle to grave, as ‘applied Christianity’.

One of the law’s chief architects was Arnold Nordmeyer, a Christian socialist who served as a Presbyterian minister at Kurow before entering politics.

Labour also forged an alliance with the Rātana Church, which lasted into the 1990s. Much subsequent expansion of the welfare state occurred under National governments, testifying to the enduring significance of ‘applied Christianity’ in the middle ground of politics.

Since then I think religion has been less prominent in New Zealand politics, althoughthere have been a number of Christian parties over the last couple of decades –  Christian Heritage, the Christian Democrats, the Christian Coalition and Destiny New Zealand – but all failed to make Parliament on their own.

The Christian Democrats purged Christian references from their policies, changed name to “Future New Zealand” and then merged with Peter Dunne’s United Party but dragged the resulting United Future Party down in acrimony and split.

Minister of Finance and then Prime Minister Bill English has strong Catholic links and follows some of their conservative lines on issues like abortion. National MP Simon O’Connor trained to become a Catholic priest but was not ordained. He recently spoke strongly against the End of Life Choice (euthanasia) Bill in Parliament.

There has been talk from Labour that they are returning to focus on more compassionate social policies, and Jacinda Ardern is often presented as a compassionate person, but although she had a religios upbrining she now says she is agnostic. From Wikipedia:

Ardern was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but left the church in 2005 because, she said, it conflicted with her personal views (in particular her support for gay rights). In January 2017 Ardern identified as “agnostic”.

Minister of Health David Clark is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Despite these connections religion is not prominent in politics for most of the year, except for the January Ratana ritual.

RNZ: Political year gears up at Rātana

The pilgrimage of politicians to Rātana Pā traditionally marks the start of the political calendar and has special significance this year as the centennial event.

This will be Jacinda Ardern’s first visit to Rātana as Prime Minister and Labour leader. Along with MPs from Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party, she is expected to arrive about 11am.

Ms Ardern said she was looking forward to the event, and acknowledged the church may have certain expectations now Labour was in power.

“I welcome that. Expectations are what keep driving you harder.”

National leader Bill English and his team would be welcomed in the early afternoon. He said he expected the reception to be “respectful and warm” as usual.

NZH (video): Highlights from Ratana

Stuff: Rātana offers support, special speaking rights, and a name for Jacinda Ardern’s baby

Even the Rātana ritual has been plastered with baby stuff.

It looks like babies in politics will be far more prominent than religion in politics, despite it being an anniversary year for the Rātana church.

It is significant that Ardern is pregnant, but the importance of that looks likely to be trashed by truckloads of trivia.

‘You don’t beat babies’

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley on the basics of child abuse:

“You can pass all the laws you want, but everyone knows, you don’t beat babies.”

“Families need to take responsibility..neighbours – pick up the telephone…the police can’t be in every household.”

Source – @PaulHenryShow

There’s three important messages here (not that they should need emphasising):

  • ‘You don’t beat babies’
  • ‘You don’t beat babies’
  • ‘You don’t beat babies’

Audio of the interview with Anne Tolley: What can be done about New Zealand’s horrific child abuse figures?