State Imposed Terrorism: Brief of Evidence for the Oranga Tamariki Urgent Inquiry

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.”

Treaty obligations

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 –

I get knocked down & get up again: Escaping State trauma and family violence

16th Annual Waitangi Rua Rautau 2019 – Kaupapa: Oranga Tamariki | Mx Paora Crawford Moyle Veteran Social Worker | Tangatarua Marae, Ihenga Whare Tupuna, Rotorua – Sunday 28 July 2019 | Part Two.

This is a long watch (45m), probably best suited for kaimahi working in child protection and family violence prevention. Click on the link below.

Rua Rautau Waitangi Lecture 2019

Email Paora at:

Opening the spider box: A perspective on outing abusers

‘Outing’ one’s abuser is not such an easy task. If you are one of those who thinks it is, or that a victim should then you might need to educate yourself a bit more on what’s involved. I think the onus should always be on the abuser/perpetrator/pedophile to out themselves.

When it comes to social media trolls, racists, misogynists, homophobes, I have no problem outing them. But ask me to name my childhood abusers, that is a different story. I could give you all the reasons from an experienced social worker, counsellor, educator, emotionally intelligent, survivor and healer perspective, why we should out our abusers but there are implications involved that need to be carefully considered.

This blog is framed in a way that hopefully allows people a lens through which, they can see more of what’s involved with naming abusers. It is intended to contribute to healing solutions and pathways forward.

Some of the questions I ponder are, what are the consequences of this for others as well as myself? If I am encouraging others to name their abusers, don’t I also have an obligation to do so? I had this conversation with some of my whangai siblings whom I grew up with in abusive State and faith-based custody.

My siblings are not ready to name their abusers. One looks at me whilst holding my mokopuna (first time ever holding a baby in 54 years) and says “I could never do this sis because it was too unsafe.” He was not talking about a fear of dropping the baby, but rather a decision he had years ago to never to be a partner and father.

Another of my whangai siblings had this to say, “I have spent 50 years coping with this shit in my chest so much it constricts my breathing. What would be gained from naming my abusers when they are all dead? When you name them, you ‘out’ their partners, their children, their mokopuna, their history. It literally blows whole families apart. And not to name them can be just as harmful. 

I think about other survivors who went through those institutions homes. It outs them too. When the cops go in there asking questions. It implicates the staff whom knew we were being abused and they did nothing. And we know because our case notes say never believe damaged children from broken homes, especially Māori.

And how abusive caregivers close ranks to protect each other and turn it back on small beings. They blame you for inviting the abuse and then chastise you for telling about it. And all the good touch bad touch teaching in the world does not keep a child safe. If an abuser wants to abuse he/she/they, will. The stench of their energy, thick like shit, so much so we become bloodhounds to it. They all stink the same.

They knew what was happening to me because even their own kids treated us like damaged goods. Bullying us, telling us we were nobody’s children. Enabling others to feel entitled to hurt us. All part of their little network which protected the abuse. I know you worry sis about all of those abusers and their networks (church elders, police, judges, lawyers, Freemasons). What will happen to us if we name them? Who will believe it?”

My many brothers and sisters who were raised with me in State custody are intelligent self-aware people. Some of them went onto be abusive in their own lives. Most went on to lead fairly normal lives, masters at managing trauma and successfully raising their children, based upon their learning of what NOT to do to children.  Being abused in State custody does not make you go on to abuse. That is a choice some make in the same way most of us chose to raise our children in love and safety.

I  talked to my siblings about the biology of how our bodies hold onto memories of whakapapa disruption and how we  learned to cope with that. An example being, and really the heart of this blog was the locking of me into a box with spiders. And now how the mere mention of the word “spider” makes me run for the outdoors. The experience becomes chrystalised into the cellular memory survival response and result in coping mechanisms. Much like a grain of sand in an oyster can be pearled as a protectant. Opening ones self up can be like opening the spider box that you have spent your whole life sitting on. My point is, be mindful when expecting victims/survivors to out their abusers, or  if you force out those abusers on the survivors behalf. What are the implications for them?

Be weary of those who refer to themselves as ‘experts’ on abuse of children, or on the disease of pedophilia and their gung-ho want to stamp it out. Remember that lived-experience of child abuse is essential to solution finding. For example, Māori at the table on research that directly affects them, or lived-experience of sexual abuse on inquiry panels tasked with investigating sexual abuse. Or academic ‘expertise’ of sexual abuse survival that is reliant on the testimony of sexual abuse survivors. 

We need to make the safe spaces and pathways available for all involved, whether they are victims, survivors or abusers. It takes planning with support wrapped with intelligent care and compassion. One doesn’t just out an abuser and hey presto they are healed. Some choose to sit with the shadow trauma as a part of themselves and manaaki it rather than cast it out. Going through a taimaha takes time, sometimes lifetimes.

Healing back our whakapapa from the present moment is powerful and requires an ethical approach, gentle un-layering, working with free will, choice and deep consent. WE (survivors) who walk the journey to enable others to return their hara to the light. Returning the toxicity back to the Universe where she disperses it into the time-less, space-less everything.

Paora Crawford Moyle

Email Paora at:

Reviewing the movie “Waru”

I watched the film “Waru” again.

I’ve been processing my experience of it. I feel like I’ve only now caught up with the child (in me) who ran from the movie whilst the adult stayed. It’s like sitting outside myself observing the two, identifying, sifting, shifting and reconciling.

Watching Waru, I had the distinct feeling of being cemented to my seat, of my breath white-fist-clenched in my chest. In every vignette I was there, because in my life-time I have been there. Unseparated from every frame, each moment in time, raw, in my face, laid frozen, naked for all the world to see. The stark truth of violence and abuse, the normalising of it. I couldn’t leave because I was intimately connected to it. I am supposed to be. If I am not, then I risk being one who gets to go home at 5 pm, to turn off from the purpose of it.

I am not that, don’t want to ever be that…my lived-experiences of state abuse, self-medicating to cope with child rape, beatings, cultural alienation, partner violence and participating in codes of keeping abuse, protected. The self loathing, alone in the universe, invisible, silenced, trauma, fear filled feeling like I am nothing, and the fear of fear itself. This has to amount to something, to have a purpose.

I am not separate from it because it keeps me connected, to know it, understand it and to drive what I do, to make a difference. Aware of it or not, we are all healing through one another, bringing light, fighting the fight, in our own way. None of us are separate from the vignettes in Waru. We are every frame, every moment, and we have a choice about what to do with it.

Colonisation, historical trauma, institutional racism through white saviour mentality…the targeting of the poor, brown and powerless. Perhaps though only the watcher can determine if they are separate, or some variance of the in-between. Why because everything comes back to the ‘self’ and our oneness with each another. To collective consciousness.

I have been asking myself over the last few days “am I enough”… is what I do to make a difference in peoples lives, enough? What is enough?

I think about my contribution to knowledge building in NZ social work. My activism, calling out structural bias. Calling out abuse to our women and children. Thinking about how I haven’t been able to write anything substantial for over a year, that I am a fraud, not as clever as others, not academic enough, not Māori enough, not anything enough. But that is just the conditioned human in me, that serves perpetrators of violence, rather than uplifts our babies. Again, I have a choice to stand up or remain on my knees.

I think about how my indigenous survivor contribution to social work often gets used without credit or worse, ignored. How lived-experience is not valid knowledge, yet our experiences are what white academics rely upon to elevate their own “expert” status. Who continually get to be at the change table on the backs of those they are trying to ‘fix” but they miss the opportunity of seeing the true expertise. That we are in fact, here to show them what they most need to learn about themselves.

Expertise in understanding that Māori knowledge is held in our DNA, in-between the layers of whakapapa. Our lived lives are a continual film reel of key information and solutions, of coping and resilience. I think of my Indigo boy who at a very young age, talked about being a warrior…not the kind with a weapon in hand, but a pen and a voice.

Waru reminds me of how people’s pain can be misunderstood as something that needs to be fixed; or worse profited from. When I have learned from my boy, that vulnerability is the birthplace of potential, of greatness…it is a privilege to grow from that place.

I am reminded of the value of lived-experience that I am connected to. It is who I am, why I came into this life, and how I know that whatever I am calling-out in social work, it is always enough. You and what you do is always enough, until it is not, and then you will either rise to it, or choose to stay where you are.

Keep the faith, keep loving people, our people with every fibre of our being. To give up, or not to try, is to pass ourselves over. Stand in your truth, your mana, and speak out on all social justice issues that keep our people stuck. Do it for our babies, our mokopuna.

Listen to the voices in Waru. Take away judgement and see the historical context, understand the journeys and how they keep us connected, focused and on the change waka.

Nga mihi aroha to the producers, writers and actors in Waru. All are survivor stories.

Today I am able to get back to writing talking to key people about pathways to supporting abuse survivors, breaking cycles of secrecy and helping rebuild peoples wellbeing.

Submission on the Terms of Reference for Historical Abuse in State Care Royal Commission

My name is Paora Crawford Moyle. I am a proud descendant of a long line of Ngāti Porou wāhine toa and also many strong Celtic women through my Welsh ancestry. I write on behalf of my siblings (both blood and whāngai) who spent our childhoods raised in New Zealand state and faith based care (Read our story here).

When my only child was just seven years old he announced confidently, you’re not a state care kid, you’re a shero mum bjecause how would we ever know what it’s like for those kids if they didn’t go through that. It teaches us what we most need to learn about ourselves.” I never saw my 14 years of being raised in state care in that light before. My son was expressing how he saw vulnerability as a privileged position and how we have a choice to either see that for what it is, or to ignore it.

From the mouth of a babe, I was given permission to speak out about what it is like to grow up disconnected from my bi-racial parents, my culture, my whenua, tikanga and reo. That vulnerable positioning has become my life’s purpose. Thus, I use my experience to speak about the need for positive change in New Zealand’s child protection system. This positioning also inspired my 27 year career in social work, and to be the kind of parent where there was no chance of the state taking my child.

Thank you Sir Anand Satyanand for inviting me to comment on the draft terms of reference (TOR) for the Historical Abuse in State Care Royal Commission (RC). In your letter you outline the four elements you would like me to comment on. The first being the “scope and purpose.” The second element being a “suitable reference to the Treaty of Waitangi.” (I will not comment on all as many others will also provide their views).

My first key comment is te Tiriti o Waitangi as a founding document of this nation should be first and foremost in the RC going forward to address multiple failures of the Crown to keep our tamariki safe in state care. Particularly when it is Māori who have been the predominantly targeted people over the time frame stated in the draft TOR.

One of my gravest concerns is that the government officials who put the TOR together appear not able to think and operate in equal partnership with Māori. Despite the RC website stating, “the Inquiry will adhere to the highest of standards of professionalism and integrity” and “we will work in partnership with Iwi, Māori and whānau. How do you do this when the RC operates from a dominant white-stream worldview? Being secondary speaks volumes of a deep underpinning assumption that we as Māori are incapable of deciding for ourselves, much less looking after our own child protection needs. Why does my tikanga have to be less than yours?

I stated in my opening address to you at a two-day survivor hui in February 2017 Sir Anand, “Te Tiriti was not even mentioned in the draft terms of reference and if we are to get this get this right, we must begin how we mean to carry on. Māori MUST have their own stream within the RC.” This means, our own panel of experts (including lived-experience) and advisory survivor roopu, if we are to engage successfully with our hard to reach people. Our world view, our experience, the loss of our mokopuna (grandchild) to genocidal, policy and practice in Aotearoa, is not EVER secondary. It is first and foremost in our living breathing existence. Has the state become so immune to the continued disproportional statistics of our tamariki in state care that, when we call for our own safe processes, we are still treated as an add-on? I don’t think Taika Waititi was kidding when he said “New Zealand is as racist as f..k!”

An example of “racist as f..k” is the way the TOR, (p5, 2.2) lumps Māori in with other groups of people. “In considering this, the Inquiry is also invited to have particular consideration for Maori and any groups where differential impact is evident, e.g. by gender, LGBTQI people, Pacific people and people who have experienced mental health issues.” Genocide and inter-generational trauma are not merely a “differential impact.” Please cease othering your te Tiriti partner. Is this truly adhering to the highest of standards of professionalism and integrity and working in partnership with whānau, hapu and iwi?

My second key comment is there have never been any safe spaces/processes for our Māori state abuse survivors to tell their stories. (Which is why we have had to take our concerns to the Waitangi Tribunal: Wai 2615 – The Māori Children placed in State Care Claim). A best example of this is voiced by my whangai brother who at 8 years old (among a raft of other abuses) was put into psychiatric care with adult patients. He had this to say:

“Your MSD historical abuse claims process is there to make YOU feel better. It blames me and you get to distance yourselves from an unpleasant occurrence and thereby confirm your own invulnerability to the risk. Your process puts the onus on me to ‘prove’ that I was raped, beaten, abused and in doing so it labels me; makes me responsible for all that happened to my small body.

The whole claims process is like facing your rapists again. Like the Judge who took a fancy to me and would take me in the school holidays and on long weekends. A Judge although much older now, is very senior and still there. I see his face, when you all sit there assessing my words, my innocence, my stolen childhood. Where I have to recount the detail and you look at me with eyes, that spell out neon words in the air between us, “troubled” “broken” “dysfunctional” and “cognitively impaired.” Your labels and pathologising is like a knife to my guts, cutting me into bits and telling me I am to blame for your re-rape of me.

You have no understanding of inter-generational trauma, layered like whakapapa…heck you don’t even know what that means. How the mamae and energy of it is passed on through our cellular memory. Your homogenised approach is an affront to me and re-traumatises my being.

You all (MSD process/panel) can then see yourselves as different, impartial and independent (the good guys, expert, well-intentioned). You are NOT! Your espoused tīkanga process does not help us, it repels us. Your victim-blaming marginalises me as a survivor. Your offer to access my notes for me is a load of BS also. I get my DSW notes and they are all redacted. Further, confirming to me that I am to blame and that you are protecting yourselves as state representatives, as colonisers, allowing me little to draw from.

My file notes were written by culturally ignorant social workers to cover their racist missionary-styles decision-making and NOT for my well being. Nothing in my notes remotely relates to my recollection of how I was treated. You (MSD) call yourselves “a tīkanga informed process with culturally competent professionals.” You are not even able to voice your knowledge of Māori models, modes and methods of healing that are vital to us as Māori. Even my medical notes were not to be found which, could’ve corroborated many of my injuries. Such as the burning of my genitals through electrical convulsive treatment (ECT) intended to punish me for telling or crying out for my mother.

All your white arrogance and assurances that you offer a “flexible” and thus “tīkanga” approach are just more lies; more fracking my Māori’ness. When you ask me to prove my rape to you, you ask me to undress to offer up my small body, so that you may inspect, poke and prod, measure, sodomise me and then calmly get up, and leave me lying exposed whilst you wash your hands and make your findings.

There are thousands more of us, whom my sister and other advocates are tireless in providing us with a voice. We want and deserve our own process according to our rights under te Tiriti” (Personal communication: June, 2016).

My third key comment is with the time frame of the RC. Genocidal policies and processes impacting our mokopuna did not miraculously end on the 31 December, 1999. Sir Anand, your stated reasoning for the draft time frame is, “After 2000, people were not in institutional care, by and large; people were in the community, and New Zealanders had available to them a number of mechanisms — Human Rights Commission, Health and Disability Commission, Ombudsmen, etc.”  With respect, this a monumental cop-out because those processes and others since (such as, CYF/MSD/CLAS), have not provided a true tīkanga space for Māori survivors to tell their stories. Just because Big Tobacco says smoking is good for you, does not make it so. In exactly the same way posters adorning OT offices declare that they are “tika, pono and with aroha.”

Further, I contend that not a single one of these toothless processes has been able to STOP the tide of racist targeting of our most vulnerable mokopuna from the NZ state. 62% of youth incarcerated into care and protection residences and 73% in youth justice are our rangatahi. All part of the brown pipe-lining of our babies as fodder to fill NZ’s prisons. The proposed TOR time frame only serves to protect the current model (Oranga Tamariki) from being investigated as continuing to fall short in its statutory duty to keep our stolen mokopuna safe from harm.

The New Zealand government not only fails in their obligations to te Tiriti o Waitangi but also to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 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.” Secondly, the declaration recognises “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.” Let’s call it what it is, not “cultural genocide” but straight up genocide!

In 2014, I wrote about the new focus upon Māori newborns (aka under 5s) by CYF. “In New Zealand, the statistics of newborns uplifted by the state are not made public; these requested through the Official Information Act process. In the 2012 – 2013 year, 13 new-born Māori from a total of 26 were removed from the birthing table, and 80 Māori babies from a total of 157 were removed from their mother within 30 days of their birth (Bernadette McKenzie, Deputy Chief Executive, Child Youth & Family, personal communication, June, 6, 2014). In the first instance, these infants are most often placed with state approved non-Māori caregivers until the concerns held can be addressed via a FGC. Māori make up 15% of the total New Zealand population and the uplift of nearly 100 infants a year from their mothers, many of who are not returned, essentially wipes out future generations of Māori. The actual number of infants uplifted is likely to be much higher as the primary ethnicity is recorded by the social worker and often this is discretionary depending who that social worker decides the child may go to.” (See Moyle, 2014).

In 2018, I am still talking about our babies being uplifted where 45 over the last year were taken from their mother the day they were born. The number has increased in the last three years, with 225 in 2017 – 38 more than 2016 and 63 more than 2015. Over the last three years, 574 babies ended up in state care within the first month of their life, according to figures released under the Official Information Act (See article source here). The percentage of these infants being Māori has increased from 50% in 2013 to 70% in 2018.

This targeting of our mokopuna is the structural/systemic/institutional racism (not unconscious bias), that the Puao te ata tu inquiry spoke at great lengths of, and like the Brown inquiry of 2000, was largely ignored. These uplift statistics of our mokopuna also correlate with what is being reported in other colonial jurisdictions such as the USA, UK and Australia, that right now are greater than they have ever experienced before. For example, ten times that of the Stolen Generations and the 60s Scoop. And whilst our Chief social worker commented in this article, “some of the babies would have been taken for planned adoption rather than protection reasons.”  This is misleading in order to distract from the truth of the increase. There is a vast difference between children taken with a mother’s consent to adopt, and those uplifted for reasons of concern for their safety.

It is also not true that these infants are taken as a “last resort.” My FGC findings with over 30 whānau members showed that often the under 5s (including newborns) were often uplifted as a first resort in family violence situations (See, Moyle & Tauri, 2016 for further reading). Especially where predictive risk modelling type assessments were being used by police, social workers and contracted assessment services. They are deficit-focused rather than strengths, and they accentuate weakness from a white-is-right worldview. ‘Child centered’ as a policy/practice is about as state centered as the term ‘child poverty.’ It is ludicrous to assess a child apart from their collective environment and connections.

The under 5s are the largest growing uplift group under Oranga Tamariki. (A title that grossly misrepresents the meaning. Rather than tamariki ora, is more aptly Tamariki Trauma.) An organisation where the social work ‘elite’ fail to challenge the brown care to incarceration pipeline. That re-branded itself from CYF, promising to have NZ child protection sorted in 5 years time. And in 12 months of rolling over its same senior staff into the new model; it did so assuring the same “partnership with whānau, hapu and iwi” (stated earlier in this submission) yet minus any acknowledgement of te Tiriti or the need to address institutional racism. Not even the Expert Advisory Group with its ‘no social work experts at the table’ could utter the words ‘institutional racism’ in any of its shiny reports. A year on, under Oranga Tamariki the total number of children in NZ state care has skyrocketed from 5,600 to 6,100 and 63% of those are ours.

These numbers are unprecedented and result from racist practice window-dressed as cultural competence to work with our mokopuna. Supported also by Family Court practice that often put our women and children at risk of further harm (See Backbone Collective reports on this). Employing overseas social workers and new graduates (like interns doing fine brain surgery) to deal with complex cases, high workloads, in a robotic risk averse work environment, with little understanding of dynamics of colonial fallout/domestic violence, historical trauma and with no external culturally competent supervision, adds to the bush picnic (See more on institutional racism in child protection here).

In a recent report commissioned by the new child protection model, it quoted 12% of children in state care have disclosed being abused, since being placed in care. That is, those who have had the courage to tell. It, like other disclosure research states that the actual number is thought to be considerably higher. If we were to take that 12% and apply it to the 100,000 survivors that went through state care from the 50s to the 90s, then we are looking at 12,000 at the very least. And we’ve probably transacted at least another 70,000 children through state care since 1990.

Which leads to my last two questions. If it took the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS), 7 years to listen to 1,100 survivors, what does the RC hope to achieve with 12,000 potential survivors in 2 ½ years (by end of this political term)? And if it cost the Australian Royal Commission 500 million over 5 years, realistically what will we achieve with 12 million?

I, my whāngai siblings and wider whānau have contributed multiple times to this kaupapa over the years. My/our final comment, is if we are to learn anything about what we are not getting right for mokopuna ora in Aotearoa, then we have to listen to, and cease dismissing the experiences of those most affected. Lived-experience is everything. It is true knowledge. It is vital that the voices of Ngā Mōrehu and all survivor groups are centralised in this RC. It is essential that as Ngā Mōrehu/survivors are supported to speak out. Our silence does not belong to Oranga Tamariki, MSD, the Family Court or any system, and positional people that trough feed off the backs of our mokopuna. We will no longer be silent so that others can remain comfortable. These systems have no right to keep us from protecting ourselves, our whānau and future generations of our people!


  • Tangata whenua must have their own stream in the Royal Commission, their own panel of chosen experts, and advisory survivor roopu, all with appropriate resourcing.


  • Change the timeframe to include current abuse experienced by our young people state care.


  • Consider an appropriate restoration process that includes not just an apology but compensation for all survivors that come under the final terms.


  • If faith-based institutions want to be open and accountable for the way they failed to care for some of their wards, I suggest they combine their resources and establish their own inquiry. Perhaps run it alongside the Royal Commission, with an appropriate resolution process and compensation for survivors.


  • In the learning about how to make it different, the RC must investigate how institutional racism within the current model of child protection contributes to the gross over-representation of our mokopuna in state care.


  • Look to establish a totally independent (of MSD) quality assurance and accountability body to act as oversight to the practices of Oranga Tamariki. A body which also processes compliments/complaints from families and individuals experiencing this practice.


  • Look into a tangata whenua model/body responsible for approving social workers as culturally competent (fit and proper) to work with tangata whenua in need.


  • Look into the need for OT social workers to engage in external ‘culturally competent to work with Maori’ supervision for OT social workers.


  • If, the RC cannot do anything to put matters right for survivors (both present and historical), then just hand it all back to us, our lands, resources, our babies, everything!


Paora Crawford Moyle

Email Paora at:

Image (with permission) from Robyn Kahukiwa

My name is Luca and my nana is magic

My name is Luca
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes I think you’ve seen me before

I said this to a man that left my nana’s whare
He couldn’t see me but I saw him

I saw the hurt in his eyes
The hurt from many lives
I saw how not even scary he was

I saw the change
The smile as he bounced out of my nana’s door
A smile because my nan is magic

I’m not here yet
But I talk to my nan at night

Once before I tried to come downstairs
When my nan was my mum
But it wasn’t safe then
Her seed was too hurt

But now I’m coming through my mum and dad
My nan is excited and waiting for me
She’s waited a long time

I asked nan what do you do
She said I am a social worker and a healer
I help people find their greatness

Nan said that we are all precious
Everyone has a seed
That nothing can take it from us

But seeds are often damaged in the downstairs
So muc, that a person might not know they have one

My nan is magic
She helps people find their greatness

She holds the space and works in it
She communicates with the upstairs and pours in the magic

What is the magic made of nan
Star dust of course she says
We are all made of it

Everyone is different so the blend has to be just right
It might me a handful of kindness, with a pinch of nurture and always loads of love

The secret is in the transmutation she whispers
In the pouring
It gets right in like manure on a garden
It wakes the seed up

All the strangling weeds start to die off
It makes space for the sunlight and potential grows

My nan is a seed born of greatness
Just like I am

We are all born from the love of thousands
All of us magic and warriors of light
From Rangiatea

My name is Luca
I live on the second floor
And my nan is magic

My boy says you’re a hero mum

I am not seeking for you to feel sorry for me

I am not angry or broken or vulnerable or suffering ‘me-me-ism’

I am not any less intelligent
Or in more pain than the person next to me

I do not want your pity or worry for me
I do not need you to notice me
Or to fix me, treat me as soft or unstable

Ae, it absolutely matters that you leave me out, but I will still speak out
It matters that you hear us, include us and support our lived-kōrero

The saying “everyone is fighting a battle that others know nothing about”
Abuse survivors learn to navigate in ways that many have no idea of

They often carry post traumatic stress disorder, whakapapa trauma
and self-medicating coping mechanisms

Which means they might work twice as hard to speak up
Or three times as hard to be out in front of a crowd
And always the cannonball chained to one’s ankle drags

Where you have to force your own arm up your back, unsafe, terrifying

Or when we recant our abuse story to panels of blank faced people who have never experienced trauma

Some who look at us with pursed lips and it speaks volumes about their contempt

Or we feel insignificant when some speak passionately on our behalf and don’t quite ‘get’ it

To feel like a fraud and that the world might hate you
Or worse cave in on you

To be an ‘expert’ or legal minded, activist or academic enough
To dream, lead, fight, write, build, educate, believe, challenge & resist enough

To try to ‘be’ Māori, when so much of what is NOT Māori, or Māori enough is reflected back to you

Or to reconnect with one’s whakapapa if you are fortunate enough to find it
To even reconnect with one’s-self and Source

To carry all of this and still step up daily to be a light
To voice that lived-experience of state trauma is also expertise

To stand steadfast in ones mana and see everyone from a position of unconditional regard

To encourage the powerful to listen to the voices of those most impacted and therein lie the solutions

To understand that light-house people are born to us
Not to rush out and save floundering souls from the rocks
But to shine the light, identify the hazards and sign-post the way

And a little boy says, “you are a hero mum because you are here to teach others what they most need to learn about themselves.”


Contact Paora at:

Adding to the conversation on an Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in NZ State custody

Recently we learned of Labour’s commitment to an Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care. This kōrero is written for women, particularly Māori women who experienced abuse whilst in state care. My karanga is for Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu and also for those who have passed on from this life with no acknowledgment for the abuse they endured. It is also for the many of our disabled whānau who are often forgotten in this converation. So while we are talking about the kind of Inquiry we might have, I thought I would take the opportunity to put a few truths on the table.

Just as many girl children were abused in state care as boy children

When I read a headline Abused Males Want a Royal Commission and I see the media coverage on the successful Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Conference recently held in Christchurch, I wonder if other wāhine survivors like myself feel like our specific experiences are marginalised? Thus, I wanted to make the absolute point that, female survivors want an Inquiry just as much as male survivors do and just as many girl children were abused in state care as boy children (see Stanley, 2016).

Apart from the recent Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu, female state care survivors (or care leavers) are almost entirely excluded from the Inquiry conversation. So why is it important to ALSO put women’s experiences at the forefront? If you know anything about children and abuse disclosure you will know that Māori and women are less likely to speak out about their abuse due to the intersectionality (what I refer to as the double whammy) of racism and misogyny/sexism.

Experiences such as, being used to trial gynecological and other medications, a practice of forced internal inspections for venereal diseases, forced contraception, and sometimes forced sterilisation. These practices were horrific and very traumatising for girls and young women. They have impacted generationally upon our whānau, from which we have not healed.

There are also specific issues from the past that directly correlate to what women, Māori women and whānau report they are currently experiencing in systems. In my research , Māori women speak of their experience of sexism, structural racism and cultural ignorance/intolerance in statutory social work and in the Family Court. This is linked to the increased number of tamariki Māori (0 – 5s) being uplifted by the state and fast tracked to permanency outside of their whakapapa. If, we truly want systemic change, we have to take a good hard look at everything and not just pati pati round the garden. This includes ALL abuse types.

All abuse of children in state care must be included into any Inquiry

It is vitally important that we have survivor groups out front informing the public (such as, the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Conference) about what historical state abuse is and who it impacts. We also need to be informing people about ALL abuse types being harmful to children and that they must be included into the Inquiry terms of reference.

Why would we consider excluding children like my 8 year bother who experienced electro-shock treatment in Cherry Farm, or those who were locked up 23 hours in solitary confinement? Or the perpetual emotional and cultural abuse we suffered, as evidenced in the 1978 ACORD Inquiry into the cruel and inhumane treatment…violence and assaults of children and sexual violation of girls and young women.”

Cultural abuse where we were separeted from our whānau, referred to as “imbreds” and “Pakeha girls were treated better than Māori girls who were seen as stereotypically bad, and troublemakers…put down and treated with contempt” and “they were stripping children of all their support systems and identifications and making them dependent on the internal system within the home…the institution makes the child obey in order to survive” (Mitchell, I. in ACORD 1978).

Abuse of children also happened in religious based care

I grew up in religious based children’s homes. From the outside they looked like any ordinary homely setting but within a week of going into care the abuse began. We know that 60% of all victims of historic sexual abuse were abused while in religious based care. The vetting of caregivers was not a priority because the assumption was, that they were good Christian folk.

There were also good Christian folk from the community who could access “underprivileged” children to go on outings, camps, overnight stays, leading to weekends and school holiday stays. They were Doctors, Judges, Lawyers, Police, and other respected community leaders. Any Inquiry needs to include those abused in religious based care, not just in he bigger institutions we hear so much about, or it risks excluding more then half the victims.

Any Inquiry must be independent

I am just one voice, a wāhine toa survivor, of Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu. I claim the right to speak out on this kaupapa, to be respected as a leader and an ‘expert’ on this kaupapa by virtue of lived-experience. I am one person but I speak powerfully on behalf of hundreds of voices who have been rendered silenced.

I do NOT believe that an Inquiry can be run by MSD/Ministry for Children. That is an instant failure that repels survivors, much like putting the head of the Catholic Church in charge if it. If we truly want systemic change then only a Royal Commission, with full powers and a dual focus on both redressing past injustices for survivors and creating better futures for children, will achieve this.

Hei aha, if we have to have the Minister for Children leading the charge then like Māori Women’s Welfare League did last week, I urge her to consult widely. Ensure that provision is made for lived-experience to be at the change table. Self-appointed expertise and ‘Officials’ who do a catch-up read of a report or two must not get to form the terms of reference. It must include a variety of lenses especially when considering previous reviews and recommendations such as Puao te ata tu.

Consultation must include survivors, survivor groups and organisations with a history of involvement in or supporting those in state care. We do not want a token Academic exercise producing a glorified literature review and the like. An Inquiry must include all institutions and children’s homes of any description (either run by churches, charities or the NZ state) and all forms of abuse; not just limited to sexual abuse. LET’S DO THIS!

Finally, for those supportive of a Royal Commission of Inquiry here is a survey intended to help shape the Inquiries terms of reference. Mauri ora koutou.

Paora Crawford Moyle

Excluding essential Māori knowledge in social work: The enhanceR2P project

Two years ago I challenged the (enhanceR2P) project because I believed it was really important research in terms of gauging ‘how’ and ‘what’ students were learning in NZ social work. (See this blog for background detail:

It presented as a one-size-fits-all, white-is-best team and research methodology. I questioned it because I didn’t want social work to miss exploring how institutional racism in mainstream social work programmes starved students of the knowledge they needed to engage well with Māori. Especially, since Māori are the predominant client group transacted through statutory child protection…and then pipelined to the prison system.

At the time I asked questions, the enhanceR2P team were all Pākehā academics. When I challenged them about having “no Māori at the table,” they vehemently denied the research was monocultural but rather it was “open” and “collaboarative.” Shortly, after they added the Māori Chair of the SWRB to their team. But as I said at the time, adding a nice Māori does not make the research “bicultural” or Māori inclusive or even friendly. Tokenism is still only littlebitism.

This week I got an email from the Social Work Registration Board (SWRB) stating that they support the enhanceR2P project and were sending the project’s online surveys to all registered social workers. Of course they support it, the SWRB Chair sits on the project team!

As a fee paying registered social worker who is Māori, I DO NOT SUPPORT this research! Even the Wananga refused to participate in it because they did not want to just hand over their teaching knowledge to Pākehā centred research. And why should they when they were not invited to be a part of the inception of the research/terms of reference, only the four involved Universities. It’s the same tiko as Universities calling themselves Wananga (when they are far from qualified to do so) and kicking up a stink when Wananga go to call themselves Universities.

Looking at the enhance2RP online surveys, nothing appears to have improved over the two years in terms of including Māori and exploring how institutional racism insicial work impacts them. Example, putting into your findings the use of “Te Reo Māori terms and terms from Pacific languages” does not reflect their “inclusiveness” into the project. Again it is veenering us on and boxing us to tick.

And the Project Advisory Group make up; just more social work elitsim that support the status quo. Same with the project’s Māori and Pacifica stakeholders groups that do not appear to have influenced the research methodology used. And all the Human Ethics approval in the world means nothing when it excludes approaches that invite essential Māori knowledge currently missing from social work education.

Here are just a few examples from the online surveys[1] that broadcast how this project will benefit indigenous NZs (about as much as a bicycle will Nemo):

  • No where in the surveys or online project information is Te Titriti o Waitangi referred to, or bicultual pracitce or indeed institutional racism that plagues social work. Yet “cultural sensitivity” (a term that went out with the Ark) gets to feature, but NOT “racism sensitivity.”
  • Question 19, in Survey 1 – the example of statutory social work given is, “removing a child.” Could you not use another example? Because according to the stats it is Māori under 5s that are the most increasing client group for uplifts whilst non-Maori are decreasing. If you as a team had a mind for how harmful cultural genocide is to Māori, you might have used some discretion here.
  • Māori and Pacifica are still, “othered” add-ons, veneered to your project. See examples, question 23 and 35, Māori and Pacifica are boxed as “service users groups” and under “specialist knowledge held by social workers.” Where is the box for Pākehā (who are also a culture) and if you were as “collaborative” and “inclusive” as you espouse your team to be, then I wouldn’t need to be pointing this out.
  • Under the “Supervision” section in your surveys, there is a question that refers to “cultural and kaupapa Māori supervison” as being “choices” and “are they helpful to social workers.” Once again ‘add-ons’ because the white-stream is the norm. I’d argue that Kaitiakitanga, or bicultural professional supervison needs to be a requirement for all social workers working with Māori, particularly those working in MCOT, where our babies are prolifically uplifted for being “vulnerable” (poor, brown and powerless).
  • Question 72 where “new social work graduates have mentioned certain topics they say they wished they knew a lot more about” your survey lists “Working with Māori” in the same column as, “dealing with hostility, aggression or conflict, assessing risk, good record-keeping, acquiring advanced and specialist skills and knowledge qualifications, the evidence base for your area of social work practice – what works” and more…This is very telling!

Now more than ever, social work needs to wake up to it’s racial targeting of Māori; not pretend it’s not happening so as not to offend white-fragility that permeates the profession. We need to work collectively on all research that has the potential to effectively challenge white-is-right myths. Such as MVCOT’s insistence on being a ground breaking model for addressing Māori over-representation and doing so whilst ignoring it’s rife institutional racism.

Th enhancer2p research is about as arrogant as any white streamed research could possibly be and the SWRB supports it! Challenge the status quo of non-Māori deciding what IS Māori and what’s BEST for Māori. Unlearn the lies and so too the lie that Academic knowledge makes one an ‘expert’. Pffftttt, lived-experience and indigenous knowledge, old and new is available to us all and that is where the real solutions are. What’s the point in having a voice if you havent got the courage to use it. Be a spanner for whānau, not a cog for the State!

Email Paora at:

Video of original challenge to the project team:

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts

Every time Anne Tolley and Bill English talk about the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, or oppose an inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, it sticks like a knife in my guts.

I am Ngāti Porou through my mother, and I’m Weira — Welsh — through my father. After spending 14 years in state care, and 25 years in social work, I consider myself an expert on what it is truly like for a child with Māori whakapapa to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them.

I was five when I was taken into state care, and 18 when I was finally able to escape it. My mother, miserable and unwell, had left us, for her own survival as well as ours, to escape my father’s violence. She was deemed to have “abandoned her children”, and so my father was awarded legal custody of us.

He then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care. On my fifth birthday, he took me and my two brothers (my older sister was placed with other caregivers) to a children’s home, and left, promising to be back for us soon. I waited every day for weeks and months after that, but it would be many years before I saw him again.

Over the years, other children came and went, but my siblings and I stayed in those homes. To everyone who came to visit and view the “underprivileged” children, we looked well adjusted and cared for.

But our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to: psychological, sexual, and other physical abuse over many years. It still makes me sick to say that.

I didn’t bear it silently. I fought to protect my brothers and me from the abuse we experienced from adults charged with our care. I spoke out at every opportunity. But I was never believed. I was labelled a troublemaker and my complaints were ignored. I still suffer from the guilt of not being able to do more to protect my brothers.

It was a difficult and lonely navigation for us. The perpetual emptiness was a feeling we all experienced. As property of the state, the effects of separation and abuse manifested in many ways. Some were immediate and obvious: the disruptive behaviour. Bed-wetting. And some were repressed and long term: the inability to form trusting and lasting relationships with others — a common experience for those who’ve been in state care.

We are survivors, although none of us came through that experience unscathed. Even after I left state care, the trauma followed me. For many years, I tried to fill the emptiness with drugs and alcohol, and toxic relationships.

But, as my brother Tipene said to me: “Our stories have to be told. How would people know what it’s like for a child to go through state-imposed trauma unless we all tell our story?”

There are still thousands of kids in state care who don’t have a voice. And too many of them are Māori. According to the Children’s Commissioner, Māori make up 61 percent of all kids in state care and 71 percent of the total in youth justice residences.

If that isn’t institutional racism, what is?

Many of us squirmed at the naming of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki — at the tacking on of a bit of Māori with no mind of how ignorant it is to put “vulnerable” and “wellbeing” together in the same title.

One cancels out the other, just as “automatic uplift” cancels out our tamariki.

The “vulnerable”, however, fits like a glove when we consider the extent of historical state abuses on tamariki who continue to be removed in great numbers from their whānau and placed with non-kin.

As I’m writing this, friends and followers of my activism are high-fiving me on the government’s backtracking on the removal of whānau-first placement protections for tamariki in the proposed Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) bill.

The bill is part of the government’s overhaul of Child, Youth and Family (CYF).

The current law gives priority to placing a child with a member of their whānau, or wider hapū, or iwi.

But the new bill, as it stands, removes that priority and instead puts the emphasis on the child’s safety.

After fierce opposition from many Māori, including the Māori Party and Tariana Turia, Anne Tolley said last week that she was prepared to reconsider the wording of the bill.

But I don’t believe there’ll be much of a backtrack at all. As Anne Tolley told the Stuff website, she won’t be budging on ensuring child safety is the single most important priority.

Her justification all along has been that Māori children are more vulnerable than non-Maori when returned to their whānau because they are at high risk of being re-abused.

But what she failed to mention is that this was occurring most often as a result of the dump-and-run, patch-and-dispatch practices by social workers who don’t value the needs of Māori children as highly as non-Maori.

What’s been happening is that tamariki and rangatahi in “the too-hard-basket”— those deemed high need, difficult to place, or “runners” — were returned home before it was safe, and often without safety plans in place.

Victoria University criminologist Elizabeth Stanley talks at length in her book The Road to Hell, about how Māori children were uplifted at 4–5 times the rate of non-Māori — not just for abuse and neglect but also for just being Māori.

As she writes:

“Child welfare officers encouraged the public, teachers and religious leaders in delinquency spotting. And complaints regularly saw the very presence of Māori children to be the problem. In their referrals “concerned” citizens objected to Māori because they were Māori and displayed an astonishing antagonism towards them. Māori children steadily came to notice for their potential delinquency, and this targeting was the starting point for the over representation of Māori within institutions.”

It is overwhelmingly Māori children who are returned to unsafe homes so that social workers can get their caseloads under control. It is not unconscious bias but racial bias that makes a senior manager target Māori, allocate and then de-allocate cases to get it off the waiting list and without actually doing the work of assessment and investigation.

I have witnessed all of this as a CYF social worker. And when you challenge this, it is denied, buried and you become a “troublemaker”.

And where do we put all these uplifted children? Possible whānau placements are thwarted by social workers who choose not to undertake whakapapa searches (as happened with me and my siblings).

Or because willing whānau who turn up at an FGC (family group conference) can’t be used immediately, or at all, because all members having contact with a household have to be investigated and police-checked before they can be used.

This is why children are placed with unapproved and unsafe caregivers, or in motels with Armourguard minders, or in police cells for days on end — or returned to unsafe homes only to come through the CYF door again.

Anne Tolley has ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead her ministry consults and engages with and privileges organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation.

It’s the same old policies of propping up white-is-right foster care organisations, but failing to support parents and whānau as the first and fundamental carers.

Bill English, interviewed on The Hui, denied again the need for an inquiry into the state’s epic abuse of children in care. What this says to survivors is: “It didn’t happen.” Or “You weren’t beaten or raped that badly”.

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts. And while it’s fantastic that Susan Devoy and others are calling for the inquiry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Māori have been calling out state abuse of our mokopuna for decades. For example, in the landmark Puao-te-Ata-tureport in 1988.

Bill English and Anne Tolley keep referring to April 1 when the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will kick in and miraculously make children safe. That’s like saying cigarettes are safe because Big Tobacco says it is.

Āe, we absolutely need an inquiry to know the scale of the state’s historical abuse on children. Without it, the cogs in the machine keep churning, trucking and trafficking.

(Credit to E-Tangata where this peice first featured, March 2017: )

Paora invites you to contact her at: