1. My name is Paora Moyle. I have genealogical links to Ngāti Porou, specifically Te Whānau a Tūwhakiriora.
2. I was raised as a ward of the State in various children’s’ homes in Aotearoa from the age of 5 to 18 years. Therefore, I have significant experience of State custody and I consider myself an expert on what it is like for a Māori child to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them. I had to fight to protect myself and my brothers from the abuse we experienced by adults charged with our care. This meant that I whistle-blew at every opportunity and still do so today because of the thousands of our mokopuna Māori in State custody who do not have a voice.
3. I am a graduate of the Massey University with a Master of Social Work (1st Class Honours), a Post Graduate Diploma is Social Services Supervision and Diploma in Social Work. Currently, I am completing a PhD in Māori Health. I also have a Trade Certificate in Carpentry and Certificate in Mixed Media Arts.
4. I am a registered social worker with 30 years of experience in community work and social work, in Aotearoa, Australia and the United Kingdom. Ten of those years were in direct child protection and family group conference practice and practice development.
5. In more recent years, I have been a Board member of the Aotearoa Association of Social Workers, a professional supervisor for social workers, a lecturer in several social work programmes, including Massey University. I continue to be an advocate for anti-racist child protection practice, as well as whānau violence prevention. I am a published author of several articles on these issues.
6. In 2016, myself and a number of key Māori women academics formed a group called Hands Off Our Tamariki, to take a stand as whānau at the increase of tamariki uplifts. I travelled New Zealand with Dr Moana Jackson calling for our child protection system to be overhauled and for the immediate halt to the removal of our children from their homes into State custody. As a result of the Hands Off Our Tamariki hui held in Ōtaki, we sent an Open Letter to all Māori Members of Parliament which is attached and marked Appendix “A”.
7. In 2018, I was appointed to Te Rōpū – Ministry of Justice Māori Advisory Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. A significant role that reported directly to Ministers on the Government’s performance in reducing family violence and sexual violence. The Honourable Tracey Martin being one of those Ministers.
8. In 2019, as a result of many years of supporting State abuse survivors and lobbying for a Commission of Inquiry into the abuse of children in care, I was appointed as a member of the Survivor Advisory Group to the Abuse in Care Royal Commission.
9. My brief of evidence seeks to address the following questions that form the scope of this inquiry, as set out in the Memorandum-Direction of Judge Doogan:
a) Why has there been such a significant and consistent disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori children being taken into state care under the auspices of Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors?
b) To what extent will the legislative policy and practise changes introduced since 2017, and currently being implemented, change this disparity for the better?
c) What (if any) additional changes to Crown legislation, policy or practice might be required in order to secure outcomes consistent with Te Tiriti and its principles?
Why has there been such a significant and consistent disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori children being taken into state care under the auspices of Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors?
Peeling Back 50 Years of Cultural Genocide
10. My PhD, Peeling Back 50 Years of Cultural Genocide, is a study of the removal of Indigenous children from their families by colonial States and how this continues to negatively impact the well-being of Indigenous people globally. The research employs a joint mana wāhine and historical trauma theoretical framework, within kaupapa Māori narrative case study methodology, to explore the impact of such child removal in Aotearoa. Exploration particularly focuses on the separation trauma that tamariki Māori and their whānau experience and the processes for their cultural recovery and healing. The research is a self-decolonising journey through my embodied lived experience as the researcher – both of being removed as a child from my whānau by the colonial State in Aotearoa New Zealand and of being a qualified professional working in child protection. The approach speaks to the absolute need for Indigenous peoples’ voices to be centralised within social research and asserts their understandings as the heart of the process and analysis.
11. This study supports the ground-breaking work of Elizabeth Stanley who really should have been asked to speak to this Waitangi Tribunal on these important issues. Elizabeth Stanley in her research states:
“From the 1950s to the 1980s, the New Zealand government took more than 100,000 children and placed them under state care in residential facilities. These children faced abysmal conditions, limited education, and social isolation. For Māori, these places were the equivalent of the Canadian and Australian residential schools, stolen generations. Children endured physical, sexual and psychological violence, as well as secure cells, knock-out sedatives and electro-shock therapy.”
12. The Crown has never properly addressed its historical child abuse and continues to fail in their duty of care to tamariki and whānau under te Tiriti o Waitangi. I first expressed this in a media story in 2017, a copy of which is attached and marked Appendix “B”.
13. The Crown also fails in its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
14. There are two relevant statements in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which New Zealand is a signatory. Firstly, the declaration recognises: … the right of indigenous families and communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well-being of their children, consistent with the rights of the child.
15. Secondly, Article 7 of the Declaration recognises that:
Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.
16. These rights are not recognised in child protection social work. If they were, then we would not have the rate of pēpi Māori removal that we currently have under Oranga Tamariki.
White Saviourism (Supremacy)
17. The most essential right being that a child is not born into this world without celestial connection direct to atua/tīpuna and to sever that connection is to purposefully interrupt that child’s life potential, their whakapapa. This was made explicit in the document Puao-te-Ata-tu Report, but because of white saviourism (supremacy), the document was largely ignored.
18. There are many critical issues that contribute to the significant and consistent disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori children taken into State custody. One of them is “white saviourism” that as a term, has its beginnings in the missionary schools in Aotearoa. It is where a Pākehā person, or white culture, rescues Indigenous people from what is deemed to be an inferior existence. The white saviour (aka white knight) is portrayed as messianic in the process of rescuing others and saving their souls. A prime example would be Jesus who was not white; he was a middle eastern man of colour and would have looked more Māori than Pākehā. Jesus is a psychological tool because by creating the image of a white God this subliminally engrains the myth of white superiority into the subconscious minds of Indigenous people. This makes people more compliant with white dominance over their lives.
19. This is the rationalisation behind Western white feminism trying to “free” Muslim women from wearing the hijab, the forcing First Nations American and Canadian children into boarding schools, the stolen generations in Australia, and the increasing removal of Māori children from their families and communities.
Pipeline relationship between social services, police and justice sectors
20. A further critical issue has been the pipeline relationship between social services, police and justice sectors. For example, there are harmful ‘us and them’ power dynamics occurring in the Family Court, such as parental alienation that continuously put children in harm’s way (please see the Backbone Collective reports). Automatic up-lift and without a declaration or notifying or involving whānau of the need to go through Family Court. All that is required for a declaration is a belief a child will at some point in the future, be in danger from their whānau, based on Predictive Risk Modelling (PRM). We experienced this with the Risk Estimation System in the 1990s and now the Tuituia Assessment Framework; a tool that directly targets and ‘vulnerabilises’ Māori.
21. PRM tools are not so much to detect risk, but rather to foster professional conformity with managerialist risk-management systems (called KPIs – Key Performance Indicators). Mathematical predictions that support the social workers discretionary decision making. The PRM scaling systems are designed to assess risk to children according to a Pākehā world view (superior) which automatically negates the strengths of a Māori world view. Rather than a child or their family’s culture being at the heart of the tool, it is compartmentalised alongside health and education. It is a tool that serves to target Māori, rather than strengthen them, much like the family group conference (FGC).
Family Group Conferences
22. The critical issue of predetermining the Family Group Conferences (FGC) in favour of child removal in Aotearoa has become rife and normalised. I was an FGC Coordinator and FGC practice developer for 10 years. I also completed my Master of Social Work on the practice of FGC in both Aotearoa and the United Kingdom. The findings showed that whānau are not being assessed within their own world view strengths and FGC outcomes are being predetermined for them. This means FGC plans are often decided and drawn up for whānau by the social worker and whānau are told to agree to it, or the matter will be forced into the Family Court and orders made.
23. This, along with the lack of tikanga Māori, and the misuse of the FGC to forward the social workers agenda are all elements that disempower whānau and erode the quality of the FGC. My research highlighted the overwhelming structural discrimination that whānau Māori face in New Zealand child protection. It also looked at the cultural incompetence that exists which leads to Māori being misunderstood and treated differently than non-Māori based on ethnicity. These kinds of shortcomings arose because of the failure to investigate a child’s whakapapa or a whānau intergenerational involvement within the child protection system and the use of anti-Māori imported models with whānau.
24. In addition to this there was the ignoring of the Māori experience of FGC and related care and protection processes by generalising them into the mainstream mix of research, ministerial reports, and programme evaluations. FGCs are NOT the wonderful ‘Māorified’ process that is currently being flouted across social work (nationally and internationally) as saving Māori children. It largely rubber stamps the removal decisions of the social worker and is responsible for decimating many whānau who are forced to navigate anti-whānau child protection processes.
25. These are some of the reasons why I believe FGC need to seriously be investigated as a tool enabling genocidal practice.
Current Child Protection Model
26. When Child Youth and Family (CYF) was renamed Oranga Tamariki as a model of social investment reform, with neoliberal policy approaches across the social services, police and justice sectors, it set out to rescue and commodify intergenerational abuse through removing ‘vulnerable’ babies earlier.
27. Under this anti-whānau reform some of the most biased (racist/sexist/misogynist) assessment and social work practice targeted Māori and at women. If, you are both you get a double dose.
28. In my current PhD research, wāhine Māori talked about being “microscopically scrutinised” in every aspect of her life because she is:
a) Māori; and
b) in a violent relationship.
29. They described Oranga Tamariki (OT) social workers as “inexperienced and culturally ignorant”, “narcissistic gas-lighters worse than my violent partner” and “they (OT) send interns in to do fine brain surgery”. A consistent theme being described as, “I am the safe parent, but they (OT) don’t care; their agenda is removing the brown baby now, so its raised white and doesn’t become a costly stat in the future. Dumb-arsed because they don’t account for that pēpi growing up hating Māori and so hates himself”.
30. All this is separate from whether a mother is a ‘fit’ parent or not. She still must endure the process of not only protecting herself and her children, but also from the scrutiny and stigma she experiences from agencies and frontline practitioners. These women/mothers are expected to be solely responsible for protecting their children. Thus, the responsibility of the perpetrator of the violence is often not a factor when social workers secure safety for children. Pēpi and tamariki are removed from these women in the main, because as mothers they are assessed as having failed to protect their children from being exposed to family violence. When in fact it is the perpetrator who is compromising the safety of the children. Why are we not removing the unsafe parent/caregiver from the situation?
31. The stigma of being Māori, a woman, in family violence and the onus on the mother to keep her children safe is why pēpi Māori are being removed at 5 times the rate of Pākehā babies. This is an alarming increase when in my 2015 research, the uplift rate of pēpi Māori compared to Pākehā was 52%. It is still grossly overrepresented when Māori are only 15% of the total population.
32. Participants in my research spoke about the corrupt use of ‘place of safety warrants’ to uplift children, dodgy paperwork not approved by the Court, and Lawyers who would not take on a women’s fight, because they don’t want to take on the State. They disclosed being forced to have protections orders granted or their kids would be uplifted; of being forced into top tariff interventions where they had no choice but to take on the State through ex-parte hearings to fight for the custody of their babies.
33. Where the lack of legal aid funding causes women to drop legal action, or they represent themselves in family violence cases. Where they are put on an ‘unborn register’ because they are pregnant again and they are told that their unborn will also be uplifted. It forces our Māori women and children to not seek the help they desperately need to save their lives. If forces them to stay in violence.
34. Throughout numerous reports, particularly the recent Whānau Ora and Children’s Commissioner report, the number one fear whānau have of the State since the 1950s is that their children will be stolen from them. This is State imposed terrorism.
Social Work Training Programmes
35. A further critical issue that contributes to the consistent disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori children taken into State custody is with social work training programmes that are not equipping students with the competence required to work with Māori.
36. The core focus of social work training in Aotearoa is Western derived monocultural knowledge. We are registering social workers as safe, ‘fit and proper’ practitioners with little to no anti-racist training. If your social work is not anti-racist it is NOT social work. If we make our law colour-blind, in practice it will be white, assimilationist, and colonising. Institutional racism, genocide, and white supremacy are not terms, social work students are encouraged to use, let alone have conversations about. Rather, ‘unconscious bias’, ‘cultural competence’ and ‘biculturalism’ have become the more palatable language, that are little more than myths.
37. Nor are we covering Māori principles and practices of healing and collective wellbeing, much less anti-oppressive knowledge that aligns with decolonising social work. Again, this is where white saviourism gets to privilege itself over the rights and needs of Māori. Māori have a right to their own process that approves social workers as competent to work with Māori. It is for Māori to determine who are competent to work with our people.
38. Being a registered social worker through the Social Work Registration Board does NOT make you a safe, ‘fit and proper’ practitioner. Especially when there is no accountability for social workers who for example perjure themselves in the Family Court. If the culture of the work place forces you to practice unsafely, then that is what you do.
39. In my 15 years as a social work supervisor, I have had many Child Youth Family (CYF) and Oranga Tamariki practitioners coming to me with horror stories of what they have had to ensure in their place of work. A work culture that is powerful, oppressive, and harmful not only to workers but to the children they are tasked with protecting.
40. It is no better today than it was 20 years ago when I worked in CYF. When I tried to raise the practice of children being placed with a known paedophile, I was immediately labelled as a troublemaker and threatened with being managed out of my role. Why, because the Area Manager was knowingly signing off on these placements, despite numerous concerns being raised by social work staff. This kind of practice is rife and always has been. After that, I had two choices; to be silent and complicit in the direct harming of children, or to leave and survive. Survive meant to go on and become a private practitioner who supports other social workers from burning out.
41. This is the insider knowledge so desperately needed for this Urgency. I raised this in an interview in June 2019, a copy of which is attached and marked Appendix “C”.
To what extent will the legislative policy and practice changes introduced since 2017, and currently being implemented, change this disparity for the better?
42. With respect, for the reasons I outlined earlier in this evidence, the answer is a resounding NO. There is no extent to which the current child protection law, policy and practice changes will improve anything for tamariki Māori and their whānau. The law has been tweaked and tinkered with (like trying to turn an old Ford into a Toyota Corolla) to the degree that it better enables white supremacist commodification and transacting of Māori children away from their cultural connections. The current model has become a dysfunctional corporate muffin-top, that is more interested in ignoring, arguing, denying, deflecting the multiple reports of State sanctioned harm of vulnerable children and families. Where children are fodder on a production line, shifted, shunted, stamped and bottle capped, without any worker conversing about that child to the worker next to them. We protested this vehemently through the Hands Off Our Tamariki Rally at Parliament Grounds in July 2019, a copy of an article covering the rally is attached and marked as Appendix “D”.
What (if any) additional changes to Crown legislation, policy or practice might be required in order to secure outcomes consistent with Te Tiriti and its principles?
43. In 2019, a letter from Hands Off Our Tamariki garnered almost 18,000 signatures calling for systemic changes to be made and for Kaupapa Māori Whānau Ora approaches controlled by Iwi and Whānau Ora organisations to be implemented. The letter included 16 recommendations that were delivered to the government as a petition, all of which remain relevant and urgent now. Those recommendations were:
a) That the State stop stealing Māori children;
b) That not one child more be removed by the State from their whakapapa context of whānau, hapū, iwi;
c) The affirmation of tino rangatiratanga and the right of Māori to make decisions and control the wellbeing of our tamariki and mokopuna;
d) That the State take responsibility for increasing State abuse of tamariki Māori;
e) That the current system overseen by the Ministry of Children be overhauled restructured in line with Kaupapa Māori and strengths-based approaches that ensure tamariki remain connected to their whānau;
f) That legislation and policies be co-designed with Iwi/Māori around an honourable Treaty relationship that serves the needs of whānau, hapū, iwi;
g) That during the restructuring of the current Ministry of Children that a Māori transition panel be put in place to oversee all of the Ministry’s activities in regard to tamariki Māori;
h) That Māori define whānau and whakapapa within our tikanga and mātauranga to ensure the wellbeing, connectedness, and care of our tamariki;
i) That decisions regarding the wellbeing of tamariki must be made by whānau, hapū, iwi supported by Iwi and Māori organisations supporting whānau;
j) That the recommendations of Puao-Te-Ata-Tū be revisited and an in-depth Kaupapa Māori investigation of the Ministry of Children be undertaken by Māori external to the Ministry;
k) That the State hand over resources to hapū, iwi and Kaupapa Māori organisations to ensure the wellbeing of tamariki Māori;
l) That successful programmes such as Mātua Whāngai be affirmed and revisited as processes by which to support Māori approaches to the wellbeing of tamariki and mokopuna;
m) That a long-term commitment be made to support the return of te reo, tikanga and mātauranga Māori to whānau to support wellbeing for current and future generations;
n) That Māori philosophies such as Te Aho Matua, Whare Tapa Wha, Te Wheke, and other tikanga based models be prioritised in the wellbeing of whānau;
o) That Whānau Ora be funded to enable the full provision of services for the wellbeing of tamariki and whānau; and
p) That Iwi/Māori and the Crown work in collaboration to create a whole of Aotearoa approach to tamariki and whānau wellbeing.
44. These recommendations out in my most recent media article as a Hands Off Our Tamariki spokesperson, a copy which is attached and marked Appendix “E”.
I am not just the physical body I occupy; I am connected to all that is, the sun, the moon, the stars, the awa, the maunga, the whenua. I come from the love of thousands of my tīpuna. I am the reason they lived and to them I will return. I am my children, my grandchildren and theirs to come. We are here in this life by divine choice, divine right; we are divinity itself. That is what whakapapa is and why it is precious for our mokopuna. Quite simply, if you do not GET the celestial infiniteness of whakapapa and the healing knowledge contained within it, or the right to determine or own child protection needs, then you are not competent in your self-serving white saviourism to work with our people.
Paora Moyle – firstname.lastname@example.org