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Hundreds rally to call for change at Oranga Tamariki

Article – RNZ

More than 300 people are at the Cenotaph in Wellington calling for Oranga Tamariki to stop taking children from their families.Hundreds rally to call for change at Oranga Tamariki

4:02 pm today

More than 300 people are at the Cenotaph in Wellington calling for Oranga Tamariki to stop taking children from their families.

Oranga Tamariki protesters march on Parliament in Wellington (PHOTO: RNZ / Ana Tovey)
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The Hands Off Our Tamariki Network are to hand an open letter to Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson at Parliament this afternoon demanding the State stop removing Māori from whānau.

Speakers at the protest told the crowd Māori should be the ones caring for their children, and the state must leave their mokopuna alone.

Sarah Taiapa said she cannot believe that children are still being taken by the state in 2019.

She said to preserve the Māori culture, tamariki must be kept with whānau.

“This here is raising the awareness and physically getting the people together to face the problem face-to-face.

“Just to show that we are here, we care, this is a problem, as something does need to be done about it.”

Protesters calling for change at Oranga Tamariki at the Cenotaph. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Sheilagh Walker, of Ngā Puhi, came down down from Whangārei to be at the protest.

She said it was time for a change, and the prime minister and politicians needed to step up and do something.

“Our prime minister really needs to realise, no disrespect to her – yes she supported the Muslim community – but hey, right here in Aotearoa [for] tangata whenua … the theft of our tamariki and whakapapa is a priority.”

Wellington protesters rallying against what they say is the unfair removal of Māori children from their whānau by Oranga Tamariki. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis said just like the video of the Christchurch terror attack, he’s never watched the video of an attempted removal of a Māori child from its mother.

Mr Davis said he did not need to watch either video to know something terrible had happened.

“I don’t need to watch it to know that something terrible happened, just like I haven’t seen the 15 March video to know that something terrible happened there. We know what the situation is.”

Sarah Taiapa at the Oranga Tamariki protest at Parliament today. Photo: Ana Tovey / RNZ

Mr Davis has spoken to a large group at Parliament today who are protesting against the removal of children.

He said his message is that there are too many Māori tamariki in care and too many dying but he accepts children do need to be removed from their parents when they are at risk.

Oranga Tamariki protesters in Christchurch Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

In Christchurch, more than 40 protesters have gathered to call for a change to Oranga Tamariki’s child removal policies and for the resignation of Oranga Tamariki’s chief executive.

The group marched from Christchurch’s Bridge of Remembrance to the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct.

There they have stayed to sing songs, share personal stories and performed a haka.

Organiser Piwi Beard wants the head of the organisation, Grainne Moss, to step down and be replaced with a New Zealand born representative.

She said the process is tearing families apart and many mothers are victims of abuse or have disabilities and to take a child away from them for that is unjustifiable.

One protester said the Oranga Tamariki policies need to change because it is an unfair and racist system.

“The common thing about every story is that they take the kids and then they find silly reasons to do the visits,” Tina French said.

Three inquiries have been launched after public outrage at an attempt to take a baby from its Māori mother in Hawke’s Bay Hospital two months ago.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Gráinne Moss said in a statement she acknowledged today’s protests and accepted people felt strongly.

“Our staff come to work each day determined to do their absolute best to keep tamariki safe, and help them reach their full potential,” she said.

“We all want the same thing in the end, and that’s for children and young people to be safe and loved.”

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