Alf despairs of our Maori leaders. Or some of them.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett faced an iwi leaders meeting the other day and invited them to help deal with child abuse by identifying mothers who let “mongrel men” into their homes.
She also asked them to think about coughing up their own funding so abused children could be placed in iwi instead of state care.
This was greeted by some of the buggers as agreeably as Hone Harawira would greet a Pakeha boy or girl friend brought home by his offspring.
Professor Margaret Mutu went wobbly at the thought of Maori money being used to help Maori kids.
Frankly, Alf thought Paula was much too ingratiating, warbling about it being “an honour and a privilege to speak to leaders of such influence”.
She went on:
I stand here knowing I’m surrounded by the combined wisdom of many years.
It is that wisdom I am appealing to in the message I bring today.
I feel this is the place to have an honest discussion, I trust you will meet me in that.
With some, maybe. But not all.
These buggers might go along with her if she buckles to their demands. If not they will bleat about her being part of a system of institutionalised racism.
Paula went on to say that in her role as Minister, she received report after report of abuse
…and as I read how many are Maori children, it compels me to come and speak with you.
I am asking you to walk with me on what will be at times an uncomfortable, uneasy path as we look to address what is really happening to these children.
Professor Mason Dury as you know, has developed the Whare Tapawha model of Maori wellness.
Central to the model is taha wairua or spirtual wellness.
There is a hole in our wairua.
A great hole.
Let’s be clear here for a moment, in New Zealand we know that Pakeha hurt and neglect Pakeha kids.
Pacific hurt Pacific.
And there are Maori who are beating, abusing, neglecting and in extreme cases even killing their children, at a rate higher than we all want.
For me it’s not about comparing ethnicities, it’s about addressing this most serious of issues at all levels and for all ethnicities.
So leaders, I appeal to you all today, because our babies are being hurt.
Last year 56 Maori children were hospitalised because of abuse.
Of the nearly 21,000 of substantiated cases of neglect and abuse 11,003 were Maori and four died.
Those four dead Maori children account for half of all the child deaths by abuse last year.
Only a quarter of New Zealand’s children are Maori, but yet half of the children who are killed through family violence, are Maori.
When I talk about the 21,000 substantiated cases of abuse, I’m talking here about sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.
Every five days a child under two is hospitalised because of abuse.
Every year, eight children are killed by those who are supposed to love and care for them, often their own family members.
Those deaths and that serious abuse, is unimaginable.
Paula spelled out the details of one case and talked about the mother involved.
Quite frankly you know her like the Government can’t.
So, I’m here today to ask all of you as leaders, our kaumatua of Maoridom, to work with me to change the outcomes for Wiremu and his mother.
I need you to help me because I can’t do this alone.
I am one voice in Cabinet and I need the many voices you can lend within your communities.
Then she got around to producing a list of the iwi affiliations for about 71 percent of the 2,227 Maori children in Child, Youth and Family care right now.
Child, Youth and Family has 66 Tuwharetoa kids, 111 Ngati Porou, 80 Ngai Tahu. We have 393 from Ngapuhi, 21 Ngati Kahununu, 10 Te Atiawa and 59 come from right here.
I could go on.
All of these children are the responsibility of Child, Youth and Family.
I want these children in families, not in care.
You want them in whanau within their iwi or hapu.
Here’s the situation at the moment.
56 percent of Maori children under five are in whanau care – with another 16 percent of Maori children in the care of Maori, but not with whanau.
I know you would like to see more Maori kids placed with whanau and iwi.
So how about this?
What if we identified whanau now, who wanted children and are able to take them?
What if we asked iwi to look within themselves and ask what can we do?
What if we developed a way to have them checked and ready to go?
So the children in care now and those who’ll come in the future, don’t have to be placed by CYF, but can be placed by iwi with iwi who’re ready to take them.
Can it work? Are we ready to take that step?
I don’t come to you with the solutions, just suggestions that I would like to keep working with you on.
Paula had some more ideas, but – alas – didn’t have the funding for them.
This is not surprising. We are in tough times, financially.
But hey – why not persude Maori to tap into iwi money?
So I want to know if you’ll back me in this and by that I mean – will you put your hands in your own pockets and commit some resources to a joint effort?
Because the Government doesn’t have all the money for it right now quite frankly.
But also I would like you to consider being a part of the solution.
So today I’m putting the ideas on the table here, among this circle of leaders.
The first one is to fund a ‘whanau finder’ in Child, Youth and Family regions.
Their role will be to track down external whanau who can play a role in decisions around care for the children.
Many whanau are disconnected and sometimes isolated as you know, and this is a way to reach those whanau members.
It has the potential to be a powerful tool and I believe it will have real results both in increasing the number of Maori children placed within whanau or Iwi placements.
Another idea is for Child, Youth and Family to work on new marae-based Family Group Conferences for younger children.
This is for children under nine.
As you know, some FGCs are already being held on marae now.
But I’m talking about both increasing these numbers and offering it as an option to all whanau with young children.
It’s really important we hold FGCs on marae.
Because it means Maori children are hosted in an environment that’s culturally appropriate and means something to them.
The chances are greater they’ll be supported by their whanau in this environment too – that’s crucial because whanau must be part of the solution.
Moving early and getting the right services and supports into whanau before things reached crisis point was the objective of whanau ora, Paula then explained.
Putting whanau at the centre of the solution and helping them work towards independence is absolutely the way to strengthen our whanau.
From my perspective it’s about doing everything we can to protect children.
So I am here today to ask you to back me on this one.
I need you as respected leaders to go back to hapu, iwi and your whanau… and say it’s time to face up to this.
It’s time to face up to the fact that Maori children and Maori babies are being beaten, abused and killed and it’s time it stopped.
It’s time to look within iwi and hapu and have a back up whanau for children in care.
It’s time to introduce “whanau finders”.
It’s time to recognise the young women who are heading for a life of desperation and poor parents – and turn it around.
Let’s call it like it is.
For her troubles, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said her “demand’ that Maori leaders take greater responsibility for child abuse was “institutional racism”.
Did she hear what Paula said?
Ngati Kahu chairwoman Professor Margaret Mutu said the suggestion iwi provide funding and resources was ridiculous.
“We can’t. We don’t have them. It’s a state responsibility. We know how bad it is, we know the helplessness and hopelessness of it, and that we are the only ones who can save ourselves. But we also need resources and the support of the state to do that.”
So there we have it.
If it will make money, Maori like Mutu want to take it over a part of their Treaty entitlements.
If it will cost money, it’s the government’s job.
And whatever it is, it’s institutionalised racism.
This, Alf sighs, is why they are special people.