State child abuse in religious-based children’s homes

With the welcome media focus of late being on the need for an Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, I thought I would add some missing korero to this.

Judge Carolyn Henwood, Sonya Cooper, Elizabeth Stanley, the Never Again stance from HRC[1] Susan Devoy[2] the Nga Morehu on the Hui[3], have all focused on the state abuse of young people in New Zealand institutions. FaceBook posts have also been proactive in pushing for the Inquiry, with almost everyone I know being very vocal and supportive. However, with all of this “speaking out” on our behalf, I’ve wondered about the voices of those who are no longer with us, about the women’s stories and the very small children who were incarcerated into religious-based children’s homes.

I’ve been posting on my FaceBook page about this and having contact with those who have been most vocal, like HRC.  The response has been almost a deafening SILENCE. It’s seems that whilst experts/advocates/panel members can be very vocal about state abuse in some of the bigger institutions…few seem to want to acknowledge that abuse happened to children in religious-based care.

In this piece, my focus is on those (under 8 years) who were placed in religious based children’s homes. My brothers Kanara and Tipene were still in nappies when we were taken from our parents to be put into one of these homes. Where in less than a week there, I was forced to perform an act upon the house-father…terrified, crying for dad to come back whilst choking on my own vomit…and within a month there, I heard my brother’s stifled screams behind a closed door but I couldn’t reach the door handle to help him. I’ve never gotten over not being able to help the boys more.

The house father (caregiver) a well respected church attending man, was super skilled at grooming small children. The narcissistic showering of fatherly attention making a vulnerable child feel special and wanted. Followed closely by the confusing withdrawal of that attention. So that a child craves for it back, not understanding that they have not done wrong; they were just being cruelly manipulated. The same person who used to turn my mother away when she came crying for her babies at the door of the facility. I still terror sleep of those places and the powerlessness we experienced as small beings.

These places where the vetting of caregivers was not a priority because the assumption was that, they were good Christian folk with children’s best interests at heart. The thing with religious based homes and non-vetting is that ‘caring’ folk from the community could access the “underprivileged” children on outings, camps, overnight stays, that led to weekends and school holiday stays. These good folk were Ministers, church elders and congregation made up of Doctors, Judges, Lawyers, Police, Freemasons and many others.

Sexual, physical, emotional, and cultural abuse occurred. In some places ritualistic abuse happened but that’s not being tabled as an abuse type. It’s in the ‘too hard to believe’ box and therefore not credible. Well I’m putting it on the table. What do you think happens when Ministers, church elders, congregation members put their hand up to take the underpriviliged children?  Yes, some of those placements were fun for the children and some were not.

Mark Solomon was right when he said “when it comes to abuse of children, there are three groupings.” Those that stand with the victims, those that stand with the perpetrators and the worst roopu, those that deny and bury it. I’d like to add another, the ones that stand silent scanning for which roopu they’re going to shuffle towards.

As long as people believe that state abuse only happened in ‘some’ institutions by ‘some’ bad social workers, it takes the focus and then serves those people that I think our current government are trying to protect.[4] And, if you know anything about children and abuse disclosure you will know that Māori and females are less likely to speak out about their abuse because of the insidious nature (double whammy) of racism and sexism. It takes courage to call out the whole of social work and the complicitness of those who know this abuse happened. Mostly, people DO NOT want to believe that nice white Christian folk abused children in their care.

The protecting of state abuse of children is at all levels and ongoing. The stats are being collected but state is no longer reporting on the abuse of children in care.[5] Why because it’s prolific and that’s only the children who are actually disclosing their abuse. Many do not because they are afraid of very real concequences, threats to be silent or that they will be shifted to worse placement…and lets face it, this abuse is rarely recorded.

Have you ever asked survivors about accessing their records? Often when they go to find their records to give evidence to a possible claim, to find their whakapapa connections, official records are conveniently lost, destroyed, or blacked out. Whakapapa connections wiped for hundreds. Abuse records wiped. My DSW file was blacked out, and no record of my childhood injuries, or the complaints I made on behalf of my brothers and I, ever found.

Finally the abuse of children in state care did not miraculously stop in 1992; it is ongoing. Different children, different social workers, different placements but the culture of abuse and covering it remains as active as it ever was. See, for example [6]

If you are vocal on this topic and then silent when it comes to calling out religious-based culpability then your hypocrisy is unhelpful. Like, on one hand you lift us up, speaking on our behalf, and with the other hand, punch us in the mouth! An Inquiry needs to include all orphanages, institutions and children’s homes of any description (either run by churches, charities or the State) – and either as a State ward, a home/welfare child or in foster care and all forms of abuse. Not just sexual abuse like the Australian Inquiry.

#BeaSpannerNotaCog

[1] https://www.hrc.co.nz/news/e-kore-ano-never-again/

[2] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11809895

[3] https://www.facebook.com/TheHuiNZ/videos/596718103870588/

[4] http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/70377103/catholic-priests-who-abused-new-zealand-children-will-not-be-investigated.

[5] https://www.facebook.com/MPJanLogie/posts/1901834233368019?pnref=story

[6] http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2016/06/cyf-caregiver-jailed-for-horrific-sex-abuse.html#.WOmt_ANDajo.facebook

Hauora Māori Summer School: Hands Off Our Tamariki (notes for attendees)

I hail from Ngati Porou through my mother and Weira through my father. However I did not grow up with my parents, I was raised in state care. So after 14 years of it, and 25 years in social work I consider myself an expert, on what it is truly like for a child with whakapapa, to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them. I had to fight to protect myself and my bothers from the abuse we experienced by adults charged with our care. Which meant that I whistle-blew every opportunity but it fell on deaf ears. I still whistle-blow today because of the thousands of kids in state care who don’t have a voice. Where as, all of us here do. We are their voice. (Unedited unreferenced notes).

As I look around the room I acknowledge the many gathered here, both seen and unseen. And that’s a really powerful concept to be aware of and what all social work needs to be based upon. The realisation that child is not born into this world without celestial connection direct to atua/tipuna. That is whakapapa and life and life is the point of everything. To sever that connection is to kill that’s child light potential. You have no right to do that, not EVER! Certainly not the NZ state.

I will speak to a selection of key issues about proposed changes to our child protection law, in particular the removal of priority tamariki placement protections. In the Bill we are told in an amended (Section 5) that when making a decision about a child or a young person who is Māori – The mana and wellbeing of the child will be protected whilst recognising the whakapapa and whanaungatanga responsibilities of their whānau, hapū and iwi; who can participate in those decisions…yeah ok maybe. A little later on in the Principles section, section 13, we are told that where a child is at risk of being removed from their whānau, that their whānau, hapū, iwi should be assisted to enable them to provide a safe, stable and loving home in accordance with whakapapa and whānaungatanga (unless it is unreasonable or impracticable in the circumstances). But who is going to know what these essential concepts mean, when it comes to frontline decision making, by mostly colonised/monocultural social workers?

What the qualifiers are saying is, that it’s ok for you to practice your ‘Māori stuff’ (tīkanga) as long as it’s within the law, a white-is-best law that defines the best interests of a Māori child. The “unreasonable and impracticable” are the ‘get out’ clauses. So if, a social worker deems it too hard basket, unsafe or doesn’t want to do the whakapapa search, they can decide not to return that child to whānau and place them with non-kin. “When did we decide that the future of our mokopuna should be determined with half hearted expression? (Tariana Turia, Iwi leaders Forum,2017). The moment we all pati pati round the garden, we diminish our collective mana and recovery.

One of the first red flags for me with the closing of CYF was the naming of Ministry of Vulnerable Children – Oranga Tamariki, tacking on a bit of Māori and with no mind of how ignorant it is to put, vulnerable and wellbeing together in the same title. One cancels out the other, like automatic uplift cancels out our tamariki. The ‘vulnerable’ however fits like a glove when we consider the extent of state violence upon tamariki, who continue to be removed in prolific numbers from their whānau and placed with non-kin. On selling our children to private owners, like we see happening to the last of our land and the law is changed so that there is no comeback for us. Māori are NOT vulnerable; it is the state that defines Māori as vulnerable, needing to be saved from themselves and fixed. It is this rhetoric that maintains the social work industry.

The new Ministry, with a re-furbished (Māorified) Scottish model of child protection, like every other imported, imperialist model has FAIL written all over it. And if you are in the process of being vetted to transfer from CYF to the new Ministry you will be aware of the clause in the VCA that states of you come from a “vulnerable” background you may not be approved as fit to work directly with children. The “unfit” is discretionary and whilst intended to protect children what it’s doing is vetting out Māori social workers in favour of white UK/Canadian imports. Another way of whitening the white-stream, and purifying the new model. Workers are being offered a primary, secondary (support role/non child contact) or offered exit packages, and concientised social workers threatened with dismissal if the comment publicly about the removal of tamariki placement protections.

Plus, law changes that will allow the CE to delegate the ability for non-social workers to remove children from their homes. For example, by doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, philanthropists who make the decision and Armourguard to do the lifting. Automatic up-lift and without the need to go through Court, in the same way 2 young Māori boys were uplifted from their whānau and placed by CYF senior staff with John Keys friends. All that is needed is a belief a child will at some point be in danger from their whānau, based on discretionary and predictive risk modeling information. We’ve already seen this occurred via the 90’s Risk Estimation System and the recent Tuituia Assessment Framework. It is legalised and profitable child trafficking! Nothing less.

The Minister continues to use the rhetoric that, Māori children returned to their whānau are at high risk of being re-abused. This is based on a weak, unpublished 2010 report, that when looking at the figures, has no credible intelligent analysis supporting it. It excludes factors such as biased, dump and run, patch and dispatch practice by social workers that are pressured to get their caseloads under control. So tamariki and rangatahi, particularly those deemed high needs, and/or difficult to place, are returned home before it’s safe to be. Of course they come round through the CYF door again. That’s what jacks the stats up. This report is used to justify the need for the removal of our children from their whānau. All the while the Minister denies clear evidence that the current system is highly abusive of Māori children, and that tamariki continue to experience serious acts of physical and sexual abuse whilst in state care. We know this from the burying of a 2011 HRC report and the shelving of the 2015 Confidential Listening and Assistance Service report, which mostly confirms what I talk about in terms of racist and incompetent statutory social work practice. Take a look at them.

And where do we put all these uplifted children? There are not enough placements for them at the moment. Possible whānau placements are thwarted, by social workers that choose not to undertake whakapapa searches. Or where willing whānau who turn up at an FGC can’t not 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.  And this is why children are placed with unapproved and unsafe caregivers, or in Motels with Armourguard minders and in Police cells for days on end, or returned to unsafe homes. The Minister appears to have ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead consulting/engaging with and privileging organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation. It’s the same old mistakes again, policies of propping up foster care organisations, but failing to support parents and whānau as the first and fundamental carers.

And the notion that we could be returning to group homes like Epuni and Kingslea, Kohitere and Allendale. We are hearing about YP in residences who are forcibly restrained and illegally held in solitary as punishment. We have a ‘them and us – got to win’ mentality running these places. And whoops “sorry we didn’t know it was illegal” response. “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” (Stanley, 2016). I know because my bother was one of them at 9 years old and I couldn’t protect him from it. A slight little boy with blonde hair and big blue eyes, an angelic laughing child when he went in and a shell when he came out. It’s haunting and not something you ever get over.

The New Zealand government has never apologised for its historical child abuse and continues to fail in their duty of care to children, in their obligations to te Tiriti o Waitangi, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 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.” 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.” NZ has been doing that since forced urbanisation.

Other critical issues we don’t talk about in social work, is the pipeline relationship between child protection, police and the judiciary. Corrupt ‘us and them’ power dynamics occurring in the Family Court, that general public does not hear about. Institutional racism is rife across all the ministries and some of the worst biased practice is aimed at women, and Māori and if you are both, you get a double dose. Half to two-thirds of the notifications CYF receive are through Police resulting from family violence incidents. Māori women talked to me about being “microscopically scrutinised” in every aspect of her life because 1. she is Māori and 2. in a violent relationship. This is separate from whether she is actually a fit parent or not. We are seeing mothers having their babies uplifted from the birthing table and whilst still on the breast. A 100 babies from the whakapapa per year is pure genocide when you are only 15% of the population (Moyle, 2015: see Academia Edu). And we’ve heard about the practice of changing the ethnicity and the name of the child to suit whom ever the state decides that child should go to. This according to my research with whānau is still happening. Have you ever wondered why, truly why CYF are continually sited for their poor recording of ethnicity and other stats on Māori children? If you want the true stats you have to apply for them under the Official Information Act.

Also we hear about corrupt use of ‘place or safety warrants’ to uplift children, dodgy paperwork not approved by the Court, and Lawyers who won’t take on a women’s fight, because they don’t want to take on the state. This is prolific. Women are forced to have protections orders granted or their kids will be uplifted, or into ‘top tariff’ interventions where they have no choice but to take on the state through ex-parte hearings to fight for the custody of their babies. And the lack of legal aid funding causes women to drop legal action, or they represent themselves in family violence cases. Where they a put an unborn register because they are hapu again and they’re told that their unborn will also, be uplifted. It forces women and children to not seek the help they might need. The number one fear whānau have of the state since the 50s is, that their children will be stolen from them. This is state abuse and terrorism.

There are cases where social workers are known to perjure themselves to cover their racial targeting of Māori. Practitioners who might never say it to your face, that they believe our babies are better off with non-Māori. Where risk assessments, plans and reports are weighted against whānau, in favour of the state. Take for example the Tuituia assessment framework, more often used to justify a social workers decision to remove a child, rather than assess the strengths of a whānau. Where the practice of, predetermining the FGC in favour of removal, has become normalised. Some of our own Iwi organisations are now part of the web and the ngakau is sacrificed to maintain incomes. Where rūnanga are centred on capitalist profit-focused ideals and this overrides our kids in care. Twice iwi fought the Crown in Court but not once over our mokopuna. What is a fish without mokopuna? The whole care and protection industry rides on the backs of these babies.

Another serious issue is, how and what, we are teaching social workers. Many white-steam social work training programmes, are not equipping students with ‘actual’ competence to work with Māori. The core focus of social work training in Aotearoa is Western derived monocultural social work knowledge, so that practitioners are able to meet international requirements. What about NZ requirements? When we don’t require social workers to think outside their cultural context. If we do not require social workers to consider whakapapa and cultural connection, most will not. If we make our law colour-blind, in practice it will be white, assimilationist, colonising. And it will hurt children. Institutional racism, genocide and white supremacy, are not terms, students are encouraged to use, let alone have conversations about. Nor are we covering Māori principles and practices of healing and collective wellbeing, much less anti-oppressive knowledge that aligns with decolonising social work. Māori need their own body and process to approve social workers as competent to work with Māori. It is for Māori to determine, who are competent to work with our people.

Competent practice has moved into child centered practice which for Māori equates to a child alone and vulnerable. The Children’s Commissioner (2016) said we don’t even know what ‘child centred’ practice is. The Children’s Commissioner in 2015 also said that there was no evidence that children in state care were any safer than they were in the families they were removed from. The KEY issue here is where’s New Zealand’s accountability for the continued state violence on children? Where do our people go to be heard when the uplift of children has been unwarranted and those children not returned? Most often a family’s or a mother’s cries fall on deaf ears and their complaints buried in a mountain of corrupt bureaucracy and denial. Where is the Independent Complaints Authority that whānau and community groups have been demanding for decades? Where is the Royal Commission? New Zealand is shamefully one of the only commonwealth countries that have never had an independent investigation into historical institutional child abuse. Most of the NZ public remains blissfully unaware of the extent of horrendous child abuse that has occurred since the 1950s. Yes and like colonisation, it is still happening.

To protect children and undo the damage that the NZ state has inflicted on whānau, the enduring solution is to take that power from the state, and give decision making, resources and responsibility to appropriate roopu, communities, hapū, iwi. The state’s task then becomes supporting roopu to prepare for that responsibility. Our task is to work out how to make it happen.

So what can you begin to do? Removing tamariki placement protections from the Act is a direct attack on whakapapa, which was done by stealth and why we are only catching up with it now. Go to the Offical site or the Greens site and lodge your protest. Submission dates have been extended till 3 March. And if any of you are unsure how whakapapa connection plays an integral place in the wellbeing of children please be here when Annie and I present later on the “Essentialness of Whakapapa in Social Work” and knowing whom you are before you work with our people.

Finally, to be silent in the face of such abuse means that we are a part of the problem. War is when your Govt tells you who the enemy is (who to blame), a revolution is when you figure it out for yourself.

Be a Spanner for Whānau Not a Cog for the State.

Mauri ora

Unpacking the biggest lie ever told: The conversion of cultural disorientation into action

A GUEST BLOG from ANNIE JOASS (feedback welcome :))

Tēnā koutou katoa

Ko Longman Hill te maunga
Ko River Deveron te awa
Ko Monowai te waka
Ko Joass te hapu
Ko McDuff te iwi
Ko Shirley Bradley tōku whaea
Ko Barry Bradley tōku matua
Ko Paora Crawford-Moyle tōku hoa rangatira
Ko Annie Joass tōku ingoa

Nō reira tēnā kouto, tēnā tatou katoa

My name is Annie Joass, the Joass’s are a subtribe of the McDuff clan from the area of Banff / Mc Duff. These twin fishing villages are in North Aberdeen Scotland, separated by the River Deveron. My castle is Duff House. My ancestors arrived in Aotearoa NZ in 1893 aboard the Monowai via New South Wales. They settled in the harbour side village of Onerahi, Whangarei and lived and worked as fishermen, miners, grave diggers,  whatever work they could find to  make to a living. They married tangata whenua and other immigrants and had huge families. My great grandmother ran a ‘respectable’ boarding house in Whangarei working long, hard days in addition to raising many children and my grandfather worked on Limestone Island. My great Uncle made his living off Terenga paraoa, fishing with handmade nets and selling his catch to locals. I’m proud of my heritage, my whānau are mostly gentle, humble, flawed yet loving human beings.

I grew up in the lower socio economic suburb of Whangarei called Tikipunga. The majority of my neighbours and friends were Māori. I experienced these whānau as kind, generous and hard working. In contrast growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father, my home was often chaotic and unsafe. I found refuge in the homes of my neighbours and friends, always fed and safe. When my Mum left my father and was struggling to put food on the table one of these whanau took me on holiday to Tamaki makaurau with them and bought me a new pair of shoes to wear to school.

My father was unfortunately very much a product of his generation and not a terribly nice person to be honest. He was racist.  Our neighbours and friends were classified as either “good Māoris” or “bad Māoris”. Our own relatives of course were “good ones”. His criteria for the good ones were that they lived like us (the irony is not lost on me). The bad ones were those who didn’t, those still connected to culture and practicing tikanga. Even though this didn’t match my experience of my neighbours and friends, being a child I was unable to deflect the influence of my fathers thinking. I still absorbed it.

I doubt that any Pākehā child growing up in the 70’s in Aotearoa didn’t. Portrayals of “bad Māori’s” were all over the media, depicted as trouble makers, activists and criminals, images of Bastion Point on the news every night, cameras focused only on Maori anger, never the peaceful protestor, the academics, the lawyers, or the non-Māori supporters. The “good ones” of course were the Morrison’s, Buddy Walters, Billy T James and Kiri Te Kanawa. They entertained us and didn’t rock the boat.

I have had to be brutally honest about what I was raised with, both the good and the bad because it’s not until we understand where our racism begins can we start to unpick it, and it’s a slow often painful process not unlike grief. When we first start to look at it, all we can do is acknowledge it is real and that needs dealing with. This in itself is not enough but it’s the starting point. I liken it to cutting out a cancer, we first have to diagnose it and understand it’s pathology before we can begin treatment.

The beginning of my unravelling was as a student of Social Work some 22 years ago. Looking back now I realise how crippled by denial and fear I was then, very resistant to acknowledging my white privilege. I honestly believed that because I loved Māori and was related to Māori that I was not racist and whilst I was never overtly racist to anyone I grossly under-estimated the depth and tenacity of my conditioning.

I was afraid of it because I knew it would reflect back to me thoughts and behaviour I would be ashamed of and more importantly have to change. It felt too hard, did it mean I had to be ashamed of the very skin I lived in? Did it mean I would have to personally pay somehow for the sins of my people? Mostly though I just didn’t want to see this aspect of myself or my family whom I knew to be a kind, loving people, mostly. But as challenging and painful as it was, I know now that this is the most important work I have ever done. It is personal, spiritual, political, healing and it never stops.

I recall as a student, that many of my Pākehā and tau iwi cohort also struggled with this and ultimately most were unwilling to do anything but skim the service, write what they had to just to pass (not unlike what most social workers still do when applying for registration with the Social Work Registration Board, write a couple of case studies proving yourself to be culturally competent, assessed by mostly non-Māori assessors)

I know this to be so of my fellow Pākehā students because it was overtly expressed when Māori were not present. Advising each other to “just write about whanaungatanga, aroha, manaakitanga…”, questioning why attendance at the noho was compulsory, supporting each other to “just get through it”. To challenge this rhetoric as a Pākehā was perceived as being a traitor to my own “side”. I did anyway which led to losing some friends and being labelled as a “wannabe”.

These people and many more are still working with Māori without ever having done the real work to ensure their entrenched conscious and unconscious bias is not doing harm. Let’s be clear about this, if Tau Iwi or Pākehā practitioners enter the field without doing this work, we will do harm. All of the Māori models, karakia, kia ora’s and waiata in the world won’t prevent it. In the same way a woman instantly recognises a man who has entrenched gender bias no matter how hidden, people of colour recognise racism. This causes harm.

The second part of my unravelling was to wake up to and acknowledge that I am the beneficiary of white privilege. This was a hard one for me because I wore my own hardship like a badge. I thought that a childhood of poverty, chaos and abuse gave me a get out of jail free card somehow. As if I understood all oppression through my own experience of the classism, addiction and mental illness my own family had experienced.

My education around this however began when my Ngāpuhi partner at the time was following me home in her car one evening. We came to a check-point, my car was unwarranted and yet the constable was lovely to me, I was smiled at, spoken to nicely, told to get the warrant as soon as possible and waved on. My partner was not treated in the same way. She was asked to step out of her legal car, breathalysed, her license and ownership of the vehicle checked, and her car was illegally searched.

I recognised in that moment what white privilege really was. I saw that my partner was treated badly by the authorities and I wasn’t only because I was white. And as is the way of the universe I was then subsequently shown this time and time again, when we went to the hospital, restaurants, service stations, the list is endless. I could and still do rock up to any service station and the pump will instantly flow, not so for my partner who always had to go in and pre-pay. She would say to me, I’m used to it, it’s not your fault, and you’re not personally doing it. I was never comforted by this because even if I wasn’t personally “doing it”, I was personally the beneficiary of it. To do nothing was perpetuating it, silently consenting to its presence is supporting it.

This was 20 years ago but I still see it every day. Every day I am afforded privilege because I am white. I have the privilege of walking through a world where all of the signs, documents and forms are in my language, the news is read in my language, the rugby is commentated in my language… it’s only when you go to another country where your culture is not dominant and your language is not spoken do you realise what it is to not have some of that privilege.

This is not a foreign land to Māori, this is Māori land, stolen and confiscated land, and yet I still have the privilege of living here with everything set up for me, to support the world view of my people, for the benefit of my people.

Once I became more awake to the extent of my own privilege as a Pākehā I became more committed to trying to do something about it. I realised that it allows me to be heard by other Pākehā and Tau iwi. And while that’s cool, it’s also a little bit scary because it means finding the kaha to challenge people you love, things you love, institutions you work for and that is hard. Sometimes you want to just sit back down and take a break but you can’t because until racism is no longer an issue in this country, on this planet, you cannot sit back down. So you find yourself on a fairly fast moving trajectory to losing some friends, feeling and dealing with people’s anger and fear, being ridiculed and isolated in some situations, but my question is this, what is the alternative?

Racism hurt us all. It hurts first and foremost its victims (let’s never diminish the pain it causes for the recipients). But it also hurts us, it degrades our humanity, it detaches us from our own integrity and deprives us of experiences and learning that would enrich us greatly. It hurts our self-esteem, we have all felt the feeling of ‘yuck’ when we’ve said something we didn’t mean or didn’t even believe but for some reason we said it anyway. The ‘yuck’ is because we know we’ve not been true to ourselves or the situation. Sometimes it’s laughing along with a joke that’s racist or homophobic or misogynist, we know we should have said something. The ‘yuck’ descends and reinforces that it’s too hard to take people on. But here’s the thing, it will not go away until you make a conscious choice. None of us was born racist, we were taught to be, it is not inherently us, our wairua is not racist. But it’s scary to take it on. It is.

Once you see racism and all of the entities that support it for what they are though, which is the biggest lie ever told to ensure one group of people retains power and control over another; it’s my belief that you are morally obligated to take it on. Especially if you claim to have something to offer Māori as a practitioner. You have nothing to offer if you don’t see this as your responsibility too. You have nothing to offer Maori if you have not done this work.

Over the years I’ve been trying to do this I’ve learnt that one of the best ways to counter-act ignorance and fear is the confidence of knowledge. Through reading and research on the real history of Aotearoa and Te Wai Pounamu, I felt increasingly able to not just challenge my own but I could back it up with sound research. If you can back up you’re whakaaro with verifiable facts then this is half the battle won, we Pākehā love facts, “Where’s your evidence?” It’s not enough to just know in the Pākehā world view, verifiable facts is what we want.

The biggest lie ever told has been manured for decades by a lack of accurate information, by the whitewashing of our history. Our shared history which we are all entitled to. I constantly hear from my own students as young as 17 and 18, recent school leavers in fact “why wasn’t I taught this stuff in school?” “Why was I taught such a skewed, factually incorrect version of our history?” and it makes these students angry. It’s like finding out that your favourite Aunt is a member of the KKK. The lie has hurt them too.
That Māori are vulnerable, sick, unable to care for their own and need our help is also part of this biggest lie ever told. Māori know and feel the impact of trans-generational trauma because whakapapa is a living entity, even for those who don’t know it, even for us “white” folk. We carry the history of our own ancestors with us in our very DNA. Many Pākehā are from Irish and Scottish ancestry, we will be carrying the trans-generational trauma of the potato famine which killed over a million people, the highland clearances which drove Scottish highlanders off their ancestral lands forever. There are numerous studies looking at the health and wellbeing of the Irish which show similar outcomes to all other colonized indigenous populations.

Māori know what Māori need; Māori know how to heal themselves, what will turn the “negative stats” around. In order to do this though non Māori must be willing to stand aside, share power, resources and decision making, all the things guaranteed to Māori under Te Tiriti O Waitangi incidentally. This is a difficult thing for us non Māori to get our heads around, it really is. No matter how hard we try there is still a yes, but…

Here’s how the “yes buts” work. When we ‘give’ Māori organisations funding, we audit those organisations at 8 times the rate of non-Māori. The success or failure of those organisations is measured by non-Māori definitions of success. Tiriti negotiations are defined by non-Māori rules of engagement (timeframes, who they are prepared to negotiate with and who they aren’t).

At best we “allow” space for Māori to practice tikanga within Pākehā institutions (thank you to Donna Flower for teaching me this). Why don’t Pākehā create space, why don’t we advocate, challenge, move and shake along with our Māori colleagues? Because of the biggest lie ever told, that our culture, Pākehā culture is the norm and Māori culture must be tolerated as a by-product of living here.

In Pākehā institutions tikanga is tolerated at best. We all know that most hospital staff still see the presence of large whanāu groups visiting hospital patients as a nuisance. The hospitals haven’t created space for whānau to express and practise culture and if an attempt has been made, it is generally one room. Tolerated.

I once worked in an institution where women were provided with terminations of pregnancy. For many of our Māori clients this process was less traumatic if they had access to karakia and being able to view or take the products of conception home. Nurses were generally not fond of these “hold ups” and I remember being asked not to tell women this was available unless they asked. Barely tolerated.

What might it look like if we turned that rhetoric around? I mean really turned it around. Where Pākehā find the humility to learn from Māori a different way of doing and being in the world? Where the indigenous culture of Aotearoa and Te Wai Pounamu is valued, celebrated and practiced daily. I often reflect on the gift I was given when my ancestors came to this land and by some divine act I have lived in a country where I have access to this beautiful, ancient culture, unique to this land. Māori values of uninterrupted connectedness to our ancestors, to the land, to each other and the inherent value and mana of all living things, have all contributed to my own healing and in turn the healing of others around me. This is the richness that comes with letting go of the biggest lie ever told.
My challenge to Pākehā and Tau iwi then is this. Take all the time necessary to reflect on how much of the biggest lie ever told you’ve really bought into. What were you told growing up, how was it reinforced? How much has the media influenced your perception of Māori? Be as honest with yourself as you can, and be prepared to feel the feels, embarrassment, shame, and fear. It won’t kill you to feel these things. In the same way that secrets and lies within a family impacts every member of that family’s health and wellbeing so this lie impacts the health and wellbeing of all of our communities and our country.
Research your own cultural heritage, understand why and how your people came here, get to know yourself through your people. Unless you can see and feel the value in this you will never understand whakapapa and if you don’t understand whakapapa you have already missed one of the fundamentals elements of being able to work with Māori. You will find stories you wish you hadn’t, but I promise you will also find some hero’s and a pride that goes much deeper than being “white”.

The term “white” incidentally was a fairly recent development in the history of race identity. It stemmed from the need to differentiate Europeans as the “superior” race with the rise of European colonialism and slavery. So being proud of being “white” is being proud of a history of exclusion and oppression. Black pride, Māori pride, Aboriginal pride is being proud of a history of survival. Let’s be proud of being Scottish, Danish, Croatian etc. and leave the “white pride” in the history books where it belongs.

Accept the genocidal behaviour of our ancestors, it just was. Denial of this does harm. Through researching my own family history and culture, the good and bad, I feel more rooted in time and place, connected to my past and present. It has helped me to overcome the diminished sense of self created by my own historical trauma of lost ancestral connections, lost spiritual beliefs and practises, loss of my own ancestral lands. All the things that kept us whole, the same things that keep indigenous cultures all around the world alive despite our efforts to eradicate them.

Acknowledge the privilege you have. Acknowledge the privilege you have.
Listen, read and learn about the experiences and aspirations of Māori, to the many voices of Māori. Winston Peters doesn’t speak for all Māori, neither does Hone Harawira or Te Uroroa Flavell. We need to educate ourselves about the issues facing Māori today as well as the true history of this nation. What we should not be doing is expecting Māori to teach us. Look first perhaps to the area you live in, what is the true history of that area? What happened to the traditional owners of the area? There are endless resources out there.
Finally immerse yourself in the beauty of the indigenous culture of this land and your own culture. As I have had opportunities to engage with Māori culture, spirituality and world view I can promise you I am a richer person for it. My own world view expands and yet my own culture has in no way been diminished by this. I’m proud of my cultural heritage which is also shared with many Māori and I am proud to be situated in this time and place where I too belong and so do you. But with this belonging comes the obligation of self-awareness, de-colonizing ourselves first and finding the courage to expose the biggest lie ever told.

Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui

No reira tēnā kouto, tēnā tatou katoa

Contact Annie Joass: ajoass@northtec.ac.nz
Links

https://web.archive.org/web/20070502063801/http://www.uwm.edu/~gjay/Whiteness/Whitenesstalk.html

https://www.google.co.nz/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjBnYOJ3fzRAhVCH5QKHXobALEQFggdMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffile.scirp.org%2Fpdf%2FAASoci20120200001_81443251.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGob6abgSyQoe1Xh2zZmSozsVv9fA&sig2=LuQfYe0AbCj9AIyRXKEHjQ&bvm=bv.146094739,d.dGo
https://www.google.co.nz/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&uact=8&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjQ0-zz3vzRAhUBmpQKHW0hBQAQFgg-MAY&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tartansauthority.com%2Fresources%2Fthe-highland-clearances%2F&usg=AFQjCNHpLhJSeq-Ehi2-gtC5iO_Zrmp_9w&sig2=vtaED4KrbqWMQ6IpaxCNrg&bvm=bv.146094739,d.dGc

The essentialness of whakapapa in social work (rough notes)

This korero is about decolonising who you are, waking up or as I call it ‘coming home’ to the Self. I talk about connection, wairua and whakapapa… the concept of whaia te iti kahurangi…the recognition of the little blue light in all of us, our higher selves that we draw from when working with whanau in need.

How many of you really know what whakapapa is, how to chase a child’s cultural connections or indeed how important whakapapa is to the healing of our people? Really, how do you competently investigate those connections when you don’t value them? When you enter into working with a whānau, you are saying that you are competent in working with them. You understand and value celestial connections to tipuna and atua: all that is, tika, pono, aroha, tapu and noa. Do you even recognise that to sever a child from their whakapapa connections is an act of colonial violence upon that child? You are killing their light potential and interfering with their soul purpose? And No colonisation never stopped, nor did Māori cede sovereignty. Take for example the confiscating and non-return of Waitara lands, what you do to the land you do to the people and on selling our babies to private owners and changing the law to prevent any challenge to have those babies returned. Removing tamariki placement protections from the Act is a direct attack upon whakapapa. The source of our connection, the high wire direct to the atua, and a child’s personal power. This strategy is a racist, ignorant, short sighted plan for the wellbeing of our children. Remove the strategy and remove the advisory panel who conceived it.

Many Maori leaders have stated don’t work with our people until you know yourself. Look your past in order to know where you are going in the future…so we avoid making the same mistakes. Not just our past ‘in this life’ but in other lives lived. In social work, your back-story, is everything. From a Maori perspective, who you are and where you come from is essential to working with us. That is the ONLY shining badge that you flash, not your BSW cert or your SWR card. Think about it, you study 4 years about Western modes of social work whilst barely touching on the historical oppression and genocide of tangata whenua in Aotearoa. White-is-best anything has never worked for tangata whenua…yet they keep on trying to Maorify or Indigenise introduced models that have absolutely no applicability to Māori.

For Indigenous peoples all over the world, you are representative of all your ancestors. For tangata whenua we talk about coming from the love of thousands, we carry their DNA, their blueprints, their resonance (vibration signature) and thus, their memories and lived-experience. Our tipuna exist unseen within the physical spaces we occupy. DNA is its physical storage medium and the human brain is its physical processing device. Knowledge of old, of our eternalness, the secrets of the universe, is held there. Of how creation works which includes neurosciences around molecular change and sound vibration as ways of healing, cleansing and clearing. Hence, the importance of rituals of mindfulness, meditation, and karakia to be able to draw from that storage device and bring it into the physical. This is not an add on, or something that can be quantified or assessed as to, how much you are, or are not. If, you don’t know about this I am saying, you are not qualified to work with our people.

Painful experience is also carried through DNA. When a people experience colonisiation through massive land loss, belief systems, language, self-determination, and stolen generations…what our grand parents and parents experience is passed onto the babies…genetically pre-disposed to the effects of colonisation. We have historical or accumulative trauma showing up in the collective whakapapa. It also builds up in the physical spaces we occupy…it leaves a residue signature that hooks onto the ethos, or it’s held in the molecules of matter, air and water. Toxic psychic waste collects like rubbish in a garbage dump in thoughts, behavior, dwellings and communities. It has to be cleared.

We have extensive Kaupapa Māori research available to us that talks about this science and healing potential. That clearly provides evidence to show that imported white-stream interventions do not achieve significant positive life outcomes for Māori. There are solutions being advocated both nationally and internationally, that are grounded within Māori and Indigenous approaches. Why does the white-stream continue to deny this research in favour of their own? Because they think what we are talking about is a load of hocus pocus, superstitious non-sense, which is why their only solution is to repeat themselves.

Historical trauma like chalk, is not suddenly wiped from a blackboard with empathy, some counseling, or holding the space, or when we’re told to get “over it” It doesn’t go away when you experience the barrage of racism on a daily basis and told your people are to blame for their own demise, because they are violent, criminal, lazy and dumb. Our babies are carrying that self-hatred, passed on even before they are born into this world, and we wonder why suicide is so high globally across colonised peoples. They haven’t had time to heal from the last colonising hit before they get another. We need to practice holistic healing that address historical trauma and non-Maori modes of right now pati-pati round the garden as in child-centered practices do not cut the mustard! No matter how much you want it to. No matter how well intentioned you are.

So what is whakapapa and why is it essential in social work? There are many meanings provided by far more enlightened minds than myself Ranganui Walker, Irehapiti Ramsden, Moana Jackson and Leonie Pihama. But I am sharing my story to act as lights along the runway, to encourage you to OWN your potential and what you bring to the social work table…because none of you have the right to stand in the way of your own greatness and ability to work well with our people.

I grew up in state care. We had to attend Sunday school and I learned about the power of talking to Jesus. So one night I did. The response I remember getting from Jesus was like when you are starving hungry and you finally get to eat that delicious hāngī that has been infiltrating your nostrils all day long. The way the ‘warm full’ feeling rises up from your belly and envelopes your whole being. In that moment for the first time I heard a primal call of “e tū my girl” and so I did. From that time on I never stopped trying to whistle blow about the abuse we were experiencing from those charged with our care. The way an adult hand slides across your mouth stifling the cry, the breath and the voice. There will always be those who do not want you to whistle blow, be truth tellers.

One day my brother Tīpene’s leg was broken. He does not remember it but I do; the crack of the bone pinging the air and my sick gut feeling. He was not attended to straight away and consequently when it was finally set in plaster, his little calf muscle had shrunk and his leg mended shorter than the other. The boy had to wear a built-up shoe so that he could walk without limping. Around this time (1970’s) there was a lot of public focus on Christianity, faith marches and faith healers visiting communities. I remember Tīpene being taken to our church where he was prayed over by a faith healer. I felt the warm full feeling say “e tū girl” so I did and prayed for my brother. My eyes shut tight and face all tensed to show Jesus that I meant business. When all was done, Tīpene a little blonde haired boy limped from the stage because his built-up shoe now made one leg longer than the other. His legs were now the same length. He took off his shoes, stared in wonderment at his feet squarely side by side and then skipped in circles. He didn’t want to put his shoes back on after that. That was wairua weaving its healing magic and showing us that we were not alone.

When I eventually left care, as most kids in care do they head for what ever they know to be home. I headed for the East Coast where my mum’s mum lived. Nanny Ma was already on her way to greet me. Wairua had told her I was coming and upon reaching me wrapped me up in those big arms of hers. I melted into her ample bosom and for the first time in years I felt the deep sobs of my childhood surface. I let it come. I got to know Nanny Ma who shared much with me. This included our extensive whakapapa which goes all the back to Ruawaipu who lived about the same time as Toi. I became immersed in my whakapapa on both my Ngāti Porou and Welsh sides. I also went home to Wales and met my father’s relations. I came from a long line of matriarchal influence and wahine toa.

When I told Nanny Ma about the e tū call she said to me “Listen, your tīpuna speak to you through your thoughts. No one can define your completeness based upon who you are not. You are the sum total of all of your tīpuna before you. E tū, my girl, and reclaim what was taken from you.” Nanny Ma died in 1990. I am forever grateful for the brief time we got to spend together. What Nanny Ma had explained to me started to come from the periphery, into view. The e tū call was the embrace of my tīpuna willing me to stand up, to be resilient and free, so that I could do the job I came into this life to do. But it comes with challenges…

I have found over the last few years that, like the child who tries to whistle blow about her abuse, there are many in social work that intentionally silence Māori voices speaking up against oppressive practice. Called tone policing, we hear that non-Māori (and some Māori too) would listen if we just changed the words or the tone we use. As if the WAY a person talks about the racism they experience is much more important than the ACTUAL racism they experience. It can make monocultural practitioners or colonised minds uncomfortable. They want to deflect the attention away from their racist actions and refocus on how wrong the uppity native Māori is for pointing out racism. We have to have the hard conversations about racism in all of its facets and guise because it decimates whānau. The e tū call is the stepping up of a warrior, who will not be silenced so that others can remain comfortable.

I have come to realise that everything that I have ever done in this lifetime has intentionally prepared me for this work. In essence I chose this journey, this life and my purpose, just as I chose my parents in order to access this life. I speak out because of resilience, purpose, faith and hope…because of the essentialism of whakapapa. Life does not happen to you as in externally…it all happens from within. So you find you Pou’ness, be pou before you work with our whanau, my whanau!

Ko wai ahau? I am not just a social worker. 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. 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, then you are not qualified to work with our people. If, you fear Maori, if you do not feel confident in your ability to work with whanau, the problem is not with them it is within you.

Finally, your purpose in this life is not what you do, to bring home your paycheck. Your purpose is what you were put on this earth to do, with such intensity and passion, that it becomes a spiritual calling. KNOW that a healer is not just someone you go to for a reading or a mirimiri – in the same way social work applies, it’s someone who flips the switch in you, that wakes you up to your own ability to heal yourself, to be free from a colonised mind and in doing so your light transforms others. So it is important to know who you are, why you are here, doing what you do; what ever it is, it is not enough to just do it. When you know your own greatness, and you are able to follow wairua without hesitation “whaia te iti kahurangi” you have all the tools you need to change anything. That is how it works.

BE ALL THAT AND MORE.

Mauri ora koutou

Na Paora Crawford Moyle

Be a SPANNER for Whanau Not a COG for the State

This blog speaks to the structures, organisations and people that contribute to maintaining the child protection social work status quo in New Zealand. Namely, the abusive transacting of our mokopuna through state care, which has not significantly changed for them since forced urbanisation. Particular attention is paid to the Social Work Registration Body (SWRB), the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) and the social work elite.

Organisations such as the SWRB and ANZASW seem less concerned with supporting social workers and more interested in maintaining the brown school to prison pipeline that keeps professionals in jobs.  We hear the same old rhetoric that upholds the social work industry and key positional people (the elite, good intentions are enough group, self-appointed white allies and some Malcolm X stylz house servants) who do not want their positioning disrupted. The same positional patch protecting that blocked Puao te ta tu (Daybreak) from ever seeing the light of day. People who will on one hand vehemently denounce neoliberal Child Youth & Family (CYF) reforms and simultaneously participate in passive racism sucthat keeps Maori marginalised (For an example, see this piece for later reading).

Take for example the SWRB, a government entity that in 2017 is set to make registration of social workers mandatory and once you register you cannot unregister! We heard recently from the SWRB CE (well-advertised on mainstream media) that unregistered social workers “Have the potential to do harm and if they’re not being assessed or monitored.” Since when did we have lone rogue cowboy type social workers out there preying upon vulnerable families? Where is the research to support this? It’s the same scaremongering rhetoric that justifies the need for a controlling mechanism to be in place. What do you see when the Emperor is parading around his splendid expensive new gears, with adoring white gentry lathering his ego of how wonderful he looks? Do you see his beautifully woven finery or a big white nono? The truth is that many of our most committed frontline practitioners are Maori, unregistered and work in the community. Who are happy to take less pay because they choose not to work in monocultural government environments. Elitism in social work is returning it to a white middle class profession. For example, changing the 3 year degree into a 4 year qualification adds greater financial burden on students with the impact felt most by Māori. Many Māori with essential lived-experience would make excellent social workers but who have no chance of becoming registered, don’t even bother applying for the degree.

The social work elite market mandatory registration because they believe that the professionalisation of social work needs to include improving professional status. That we should be seen as “experts” and thus have equal standing and credibility among the other helping professions (e.g. psychiatry, psychology, nursing, and counselling). Professional registration might provide you with a Gold Star however it conflicts with the true purpose of social workers and our ethical standing. This means we are supposed to reject the expert position and work in alleviating the power differential for vulnerable people in systems (check out the global standards for clarity on this point).

Professional registration is used by organisations as a control mechanism to prevent social workers speaking out about systemic issues of repeated failures in our government’s duty of care to children, institutional racism, underfunding, high caseloads, and organisational bullying. This is a KEY issue that is not being talked about in social work! Social Workers are being used by the SWRB to play a maintenance role and to promote conformity, not to address social justice issues. As concerned social workers who have alternative views about the SWRB and ANZASW, we are NOT saying that there should be no professional standards. Of course there should be but we want Tangata Whenua lead standards, in line with global standards that advocate for Indigenous autonomy. That’s right Tino Rangatiratanga! We want a Tangata Whenua based process that approves social workers as competent to work with Maori. Maori decide this, not Pakeha!

As for the ANZASW who espouse their commitment to te Tiriti and biculturalism at every opportunity. They do so with no explicit reference to the imbalance of power in their organisation or indeed unaware of how overtly they present as white supremacist centred. Most apparent when self-appointed Pakeha sit on a ‘by Māori for Māori ‘competency approval process for new Māori social workers,  whilst categorically denying the existence of any racism within their association (For further examples, see this piece for later reading). The point here is that despite only 10% (the elite) of their membership feeding back their views on mandatory registration, ANZASW is going to go ahead with supporting it. Pretty indicative of how aligned the SWRB and ANZASW are!

Questions asked about the SWRB often go unanswered so this blog seeks to put a few of them on the table.

  • Why is the SWRB not required to be transparent about their investigation processes? Why can you ask colleagues of a person you are investigating to provide statements about them but not share this with the person they are investigating?
  • Why are the bulk of the SWRB investigations/sanctions/fines on social workers for allowing their APC to lapse? Rather than on those who practice unethically, particularly those inside statutory social work?
  • Why is it that the SWRB ethical standards are not in line with global social work standards; particularly with Indigenous visibility, participation and partnership? (Is it because the same positional elite that maintain the status quo are the same ones who set the standards and advocate for mandatory registration?)
  • Why is it ok for our exorbitant fees to go into prosecuting individual social workers (APC lapses) but there is not enough funding to employ appropriate assessors to assess social worker competencies against the Kaitiakitanga framework? This is a KEY issue and speaks volumes about the SWRB priorities. Is it more about revenue gathering through sanctioning social workers rather than assessing their competencies to work safely with Maori?
  • Why does the SWRB allow unregistered, non-social work practitioners as investigators and tribunal representatives to sit in judgment of registered social work practitioners?
  • Why does so much time, resource and expense seemingly go into the smaller fry cases (APC lapses) and the public/controversial cases involving registered statutory social workers seem to get buried? Is there a pre-process the tribunal goes through where it considers cases that can and cannot be pursued by the tribunal? (e.g., because of the Privacy Act/Disclosure clauses or that a case is before the Family Court).
  • Why do senior Maori associated with the SWRB often have their names attached to Pakeha research to get around the cultural considerations involved? What if the research team wanted to take an outspoken activist (asking too many questions) before the SWRB and the Maori on the research was also a SWRB member? Is this a not a conflict of interest?
  • Why does the SWRB (who espouse their ethical stance to te Tiriti and biculturalism) employ Pakeha assessors to evaluate social work programmes frameworks on competencies to work with Maori? Is it not white supremacy to assert that Pakeha are qualified to assess training programmes that teach competency to work with Maori?

What is bicultralism and te Tiriti centeredness in social work? When it comes to social work training programmes, too many are not equipping social workers with ‘actual’ competence to work with Maori. (We like what Te Wananga o Aotearoa and Raukawa have to offer and basically where ever Maori are attending in bulk.)  The core focus of social work training in Aotearoa is Western derived monocultural social work knowledge so that practitioners are able to meet international requirements. Minimal attention is paid to the historical or even contemporary state of Maori here at home. Or indeed Maori principles and practices of healing and collective wellbeing, much less anti-oppressive knowledge that aligns with decolonising social work. Tacking a bit of Maori onto white supremacy does NOT work! Stop churning out social workers who believe that cultural ‘fluency’ is about knowing your mihimihi, a  waiata and a karakia. Yeah flashing that shiny as badge is going to get you in a door. And stop approving social workers as meeting a standard to work with our whanau and they are NOT. What standard, the Tino Rangatiratanga sticker in the front window kind? And if you have Maori students telling you that they experience racism in your programme and you are not dealing with it, shame on you for protecting your own nono. If it were sexism you’d be all over it. Train SPANNERs to work with our whanau, not COGs to work for the state! And please limit the tone policing!

Tone policing is interesting and has been vividly showcased on a couple of social work Facebook pages. Where social workers (Maori and Tauiwi) have been attacked for discussing topics such as white supremacy or black lives matter. Even the term “genocide” seems to trigger extreme white guilt responses from people who then question the posters right to be on the page. Of most concern was to find out that one of the offended people is not in fact a naive student but a lecturer in a social work programme. This screams white fragility and cultural incompetence across the whole of social work. Not even the page administrator appears to understand the dynamics of white supremacy and is either silent or aids the racist ranter. What is most shameful and the epitome of passive racism is that some of our social work educators/academics stay silent when they could be challenging this behaviour, there by giving it their stamp of approval. They are protecting their own positioning and reputations on the backs if our people.  Racism is a Pakeha responsibility to address and if you are not challenging racism on social media sites you are unlikely to be adddressing it within your social work schools. On the upside, this racism inspired te Tiriti centred social workers, Tauiwi and Tangata Whenua practitioners to form their own FB page. See  Resisting Genocide Perpetrated by Social Work a roopu of a strong activist voices who are gaining momentum.

So where do social workers go to have their social justice and practice concerns heard? The ANZASW, SWRB or the PSA? The PSA’s submission on the CYFS Advocacy Workforce and Age Settings reads as weak. No mention of the critical issues for Maori, such as the impact of structural racism, that Maori are 73% of the total young people in youth justice facilities, epidemic social worker bias and cultural incompetence or recommending a return to blueprint frameworks such as Mātua Whāngai and Puao-te-ata-tu. No mention of historical trauma, decolonisation and te Tiriti.  If, ANZASW, the SWRB and PSA were truly supportive of social workers speaking out then we would be hearing about the critical issues from them. The PSA would have invited a range of Maori voices to speak at  their social work conference in September, not just the handpicked ones. These organisations mainstream mix Maori rendering them silenced in the same way elitist social work platforms do. We need to be able to have these conversations kanohi ki te kanohi, not in ANZASW board rooms or SWRB tribunals, not in CYFs or the new Ministry’s offices or in front of disinterested ‘expert panels’ who model all that is wrong with capitalist white supremacist hetero-patriarchy.

Another critical issues we don’t talk about in social work is the creme de la crème excuse of “unconscious bias” that is so fragrantly used to explain away covert racist targeting of Maori. It’s not unconscious when the Maori boy gets a supervision with residence (incarcerated) for the same thing the Pakeha boy gets diversion for and the social worker doesn’t challenge it. Social workers are not powerless and voiceless, children in state care are. I’m over hearing the spin by ANZASW and CYF that social workers do their best and are not blame, that dodgy child protection practice is ALL about social workers being overworked, under-resourced and time pressured. I’m over hearing the media narrative where a child has been murdered  that the public needed to do more. So often the public, neighbours, acquaintances reported incidents prior to a murder and the system failed to follow through on the reports. For example the Livingston and Moko cases. Yes there are some excellent offices around Aotearoa producing  sound examples of working successfully with families and whanau. You can tell because they have great local relationships with Police, Iwi and service providers and their numbers of children in care are low. Other offices are abysmal with high numbers and top tariff and corrupt practice occurring. Where is the consistency and shared best practice across areas? Where is the kaupapa Maori research about how social workers make decisions Mr Chief Social Worker? Maori are the predominant social service user group and Pakeha academics get to lead on potentially beneficial research for improved outcomes for Maori.

So what do children in state care say about their abuse? “I can’t tell because they will shift me to an even worse place” or “I did tell my social worker but she didn’t believe me” or “he said he would do it to my sister.” Most often these children are not given safety skills (good touch, bad touch) or encouraged to whistle-blow because the state of dodgy practice is so normalised in some offices that giving children permission to tell is like giving them a loaded gun to use against you. Think about it! Children are often placed without safety plans, risk assessments and supports every day all over this country. They are shifted, shafted and made vulnerable by the state and the state repeatedly denies and down plays the abuse. Children in care are kept from their whanau and their whanau kept from them. Child protection in this country is not child centred, it is state centred and according to the Children’s Commissioner (2015) we don’t even know what ‘child centred’ practice is. From a Māori perspective child centered equates to a child alone.

The problem of the abuse of children in Aotearoa is just bigger and deeper than we can really fathom. To begin to address this we need a solution that is bigger than the problem. Whilst it’s wonderful that we have Iwi leaders signing a covenant to STOP the abuse of children, we need it to be more than paper-based. We have to return to the frameworks of Puao-te ata-tu and Matua Whangai. What Tolley is trying to (“not on my watch”) fast track implement is a hit the repeat button exercise, because white is right arrogance refuses to consider Indigenous solutions.

If you are a te Tiriti centered social worker, you have a DUTY of CARE to the people you work with not to the machine that uses our babies as fodder to feul a profiteering industry. Be the SPANNER in the machine, not a COG!

Decolonising the self: A state care story

I stand and claim the right to ‘define’ what it means for me to be Indigenous in Aotearoa. It begins with who I am and where I came from. This is my story…

Ko Wai Ahau

My father, of Celtic/Welsh ancestory was raised in a little town called Tapanui in Southland. In 1958, working for the Merchant Navy between New Zealand and Australia he met and fell in love with my mother.

My mother Mia is of Ngāti Porou (Karawhata & Campbell) whakapapa.  She grew up in a little town on the East Coast of the North Island called Te Araroa with her eleven siblings who all moved to the cities post WWII to find work. Times were tough in rural areas as government policy prevented them from being able to build new homes on their own whenua. Mia went to Christchurch for the remainder of her nursing training where she met my father at a dance hall. They were quite the rock in roll pair and very quickly my mother became hapū with my older sister.

At the time the social expectation for young women was that they keep themselves for marriage and until then it was the women’s responsibility to say no to sex. Consequently, if she became hapū the responsibility for an ‘illegitimate’ child was hers. It was very difficult for single mothers to keep their babies as there was no long term state financial assistance. Even the family benefit was given only to married women as the Social Security Act (1938) would not recognise a child born out of wedlock. Many women (post WWII) were having  babies they could not afford to keep and thus were forced to give them up at birth. “The Adoption Act of 1955 legalised the secrecy surrounding adoption and a baby could be legally adopted at ten days old with neither the birth mother or child knowing anything about one another” (Coney, 1993: 78).

There was not much of a choice for Mia. She either married my father who was drinking and womanising or the state would take her baby. This was also a time when interracial marriages were frowned upon in Aotearoa. My Pākeha grandmother being a moral Christian woman was not happy at the prospect of having a Māori daughter in law. My Māori grandmother was just as disappointed to hear that her daughter was hapū to a Pākeha man. As a result of the animosity between the families about their union, my parents eloped and married in secret.

My parents went to live with my Pākeha grandparents until they could save enough money to buy their own home. My grandmother was particular about how to raise children and was quick to remind Mia of her shortcomings as a new mother. Mia did not have the immediate support of her whānau and with the pressures of living with her in-laws, opposing worldviews and a new baby; it meant she became increasingly unwell. My parents eventually moved into their new home, however their marriage continued to deteriorate. One day Mia smacked my sister and left red welt hand marks on her. When our Pākeha grandmother saw the marks she reported it to Social Welfare (Crawford I. 1998: oral source).

As a result of the report of child abuse our home had to be regularly monitored by a social worker. On the 28th of October 1965, my grandmother made a further complaint of “a detrimental physical environment” to the DSW and our family was placed under a 12 month supervision order (DSW records, 1965). These orders being the most common intervention by the state with families at this time. The notes in these reports described my mum and dad as less than competent as parents because of their interracial union (likely fueled by my grandmother). The notes could also be describing the inside of any home occupied by a mother and very young children. Nowhere did these reports talk about the love that was given to us as babies by our mother. I still remember her funny faces and embraces.

The pressure of being at home alone with four small children and no whānau support took its toll in the form of Mia attempting to take her life. She was referred to a psychiatric doctor, who advised her that she was having a nervous breakdown and to voluntarily commit herself for a stay in Cherry Farm Psychiatric Unit. Further, if she did not he would commit her which meant she would not be able to leave voluntarily (Crawford I. 1998: oral source). Again my mother had no choice. Mira Szaszy (1973) states, “After thirty years of urban living…Māori women are now exhibiting the same symptoms as their Pākeha sisters. The total disorientation of rural born women, the cultural deprivation of the city born, plus the continuing traditional customs of subordinate status as well as lower socio-economic status…has taken its toll on Māori women and children. Māori women have the highest rate of mental breakdown” (Szaszy, M. cited in McDonald 1993: 178).

Mia was deemed to be unstable and cultural factors that contributed to her presenting state were ignored by Pākeha social workers handling the custody of my siblings and myself. The single source of strength Mia had at the time was her babies, who were taken. I believe the fact she was Māori and a woman acted against her and this discrimination can be seen throughout the records attained from DSW. Mia continued to be miserable and unwell. Her choice was either to sink or swim. She chose survival, which meant having to leave her children. Our mother left because she loved her children, not because she was abandoning them. She believed we needed to be without the abuse we were being exposed to (my father’s alcoholism and abuse towards our mother). To remove herself was to  protect her children (Crawford I. 1998: oral source).

Entering State Care

In 1968, a Family Court Judge awarded my father legal custody of us. At the same sitting, and without her being present, my mother was judged as “having abandoned her children Mrs Moyle is failing and unwilling to exercise the duty of parenthood.” My father then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care as he was unable to work and care for us at the same time. On the 31 March 1968 my siblings and I were admitted to a state children’s home. I remember this date vividly because it was my 5th birthday and my father delivered us there (rather than social workers) to ease our transition. I was so concerned for my father’s distress that I wrapped myself around him tight. He had to peel me away from him. He whispered “keep your bag packed my girl, I will come back for you.” I waited every day for weeks and months but it would be many years before I saw him again. He had only said that to make me let go. So as a child love to me meant being left alone and waiting without end.

After a year of being in state care I was told by a social worker that my father was not coming back for us. Up until then I remember being a really happy kid. My child hope died and I stopped crying. Like a shadow of myself the ‘emptiness’ set in. The social worker who told us that our mother was unstable also said that our mother had started a new family and no longer cared for us. Not great things to tell very young children about their parents. However, from the DSW notes I gather the social worker had wanted us to settle into the placement and forget our past.

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 Social Welfare was doing a wonderful job. However, often our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to. The house father in that first state home was a well respected church attending man. He was also super skilled at grooming little girls to become part of his harem. The narcissistic showering of fatherly attention making a vulnerable child feel special and wanted. Followed closely by the confusing withdrawal of that attention. So that a child craves for it back, not understanding that they have not done wrong; they were just being cruelly manipulated. And when a small child tried to tell, she was deemed to be attention seeking. However, not all of our caregivers were unkind; some were very loving people but just not good at believing a child’s plea. We lived in a time where adults were infallible and children from broken homes, particularly those of Māori decent, were not to be trusted.

We were made to attend Sunday school and I heard about the power of talking to Jesus. So one night I did. The response I got was like when you are starving hungry and you finally get to eat that delicious hāngī. The way the ‘warm full’ feeling rises up from your belly and envelops your whole being. In that moment for the first time I heard a primal call of “e tū my girl” and I did. From that time on I never stopped trying to whistle blow about the abuse I was witnessing from the stream of caregivers. That all too familiar creeping of cold fat fingers that slide across your mouth and lock onto a small jaw, stifling the cry, the breath and the voice. The finger stabbing at the air in front of you, the being incensed at your audacity to tell and the angry responses of “you’re a little shit stirrer…a naughty girl who just wants to hurt good people” or when trying to be heard “it might help if you say it nicely” or “be more polite you little inbred.”   It did not make an ounce of difference if I was sweet or polite. These adults were always ‘hard’ because it was not about correcting the child; it was about silencing her to cover their guilt.

It was a difficult and lonely navigation for us in state care. 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 (e.g. disruptive behaviour, bed wetting) and some were repressed and long term (e.g. the inability to form trusting and lasting relationships with healthy living people). Again a common experience expressed by ex-care leavers.

One day my brother Tīpene’s leg was broken. He does not remember it but I do; the crack of the bone pinging the air and my sick gut feeling. He was not attended to straight away and consequently when it was finally set in plaster, his leg mended shorter than the other. The boy had to wear a built-up shoe so that he could walk without limping. Around this time (1970’s) there was a lot of public focus on Christianity, faith marches and faith healers visiting communities. I remember Tīpene being taken to our church where he was prayed over by a faith healer. I felt the warm full feeling say “e tū girl” so I did and prayed for my brother. My eyes shut tight and face all tensed to show Jesus that I meant business. When all was done, Tīpene a little blonde haired boy limped from the stage because his built-up shoe now made one leg longer than the other. He took off his shoes, stared in wonderment at his feet squarely side by side and then skipped in circles.

The impact of being separated from his mother was so obviously more pronounced in Tīpene. I describe his condition over the years as one of perpetual grief. My brother’s broken heart caused him to behave violently at school as well as in the state home. His violence was also his way of drawing attention to the fact that he was being abused by adults charged with his care. The psychiatric doctor (ironically the same on who had committed our mother) diagnosed Tīpene as having a mental health disorder requiring treatment through Cherry Farm. My brother was nine years old and the state incarcerated him to an adult psychiatric unit where he was further abused by adult patients. He described himself as a “rag-doll.” We also believe he was submitted to electric shock therapy, however this is harder to discern from his DSW records due to the thick black lines throughout most of his file. Incarcerating children who displayed difficult behaviours into psychiatric units was a common practice at the time. Just as we see today our youth being held in Motels with Armoguard minders and in Police cells for days on end because there are no suitable placements for them.

Rescuing Tīpene

I next saw my father when he found out that Tīpene had been committed to Cherry Farm. My father was furious and fought to have his boy released but to no avail. Although not a great husband or carer of his children, my father loved us. One day he picked us up from school in his new two toned Ford Prefect (without DSW consent) and we drove to Otepoti (Dunedin). We pulled up outside the Cherry Farm Unit and whilst Dad spoke to the day staff, I found the fire alarm in the foyer and set it off. (It was the kind of alarm where you break the glass and press the black button. I had always hankered to do it and I got to). Whilst chaos reigned my father located Tīpene, wrapped him in a blanket and we all piled into the car. Booting it, then coasting down the hills to save our petrol and laughing all the way; Tīpene’s eyes wide with delight watching his dad be a white knight. We were located a couple of days later and returned to the state home, Tīpene too. I was not able to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the change to my brother’s so-called treatment but I rather think it had something to do with our father’s vehement protest and threat to go to the media. Our father got into a lot of trouble with the authorities over the rescue of his boy and ended up fleeing to Melbourne.

In 1975, under section 27 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1974 my sister, two brothers and myself were made Wards of the New Zealand State and incarcerated into another state home (DSW records: 1975). In this place the house father supported by his teenage sons subjected children to varying abuses. Such as pitting (like dogs) children against one another to entertain drinking adults. We were all like brothers and sister in state care so this forcing us to fight each other added another layer of cruelty. Like some intentional means of keeping us from being close and finding comfort in one another. I usually felt no pain because of the fight or flight response. One time I did feel the pain and heard the “e tū ” call. With a fractured knee cap I stood up and put myself in between my brother and his adult abuser.

Tīpene resumed his violent behaviour at school and in the home. This was exploited and used as entertainment by the house father and his sons. They would bail him up into a bedroom, taunt and hit him until he was in such frenzy that the Police and/or Social Worker were called. DSW then took my brother (separating us again) and placed him in a youth offenders residence; convinced that they “had made the correct decision and that the new environment was controlling Tipene’s emotional state” (DSW records: 1976). However they neglected to consider that the boy was relieved to be free from the likely post traumatic stress disorder he was experiencing, a child’s equivalent of battered wife’s syndrome. There were many abuses over the years. This house father’s specialty with me was to bail me up on my own, accuse me all sorts of sexual perversions and beat me about my body (never my face). The last time he hit me was when the e tū call came. I stood up, looked this sad man directly in the eye and said, “You will never hit me again.” He never did, nor did he go after the boys. The house father died a few years later of complications due to alcohol related brain damage.

Report on Cruelty of Children in Social Welfare Homes

DSW was responsible for placing my siblings and I into a culturally isolated and abusive environment. Through studying our records I concluded that no attempt was made by social workers to place us with members of either our Pākeha or Māori whānau. We were never asked as children what we wanted, nor were we included into any decision making in our best interests. This caused my siblings and I to be alienated from our whakapapa and spiritual identity, which I believe impeded our ability to grow up as more fully intact, relational adults.

Our years in state care were finally brought to light in 1978, when an inquiry on the treatment of Māori children in Social Welfare homes was called for because of the refusal by DSW to investigate public allegations of cruel and inhumane treatment towards children in their care. The inquiry was organised by Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination and their report revealed that children were receiving cruel and inhumane treatment by staff members (i.e. violence and assaults of children and sexual violation of young women). They also revealed “Pakeha girls were treated better than Māori girls who were seen as stereotypically bad, and troublemakers” (ACORD 1978). One ex-staff member noted that Social Workers in the homes “Seemed drawn from the bottom of the heap and made ethnocentric, monocultural judgments in their reports of the kids, such as mistaking whakama for sullenness. There was a lot of cultural arrogance…and Māori’s were put down and treated with contempt” (Mitchell, I. in ACORD 1978). (This report along with a number of others, including Puao-te-ata-tu went on to be instrumental in bringing about the 1989 Children Young Persons and Their Families [CYP&F] Act).

The institutions we were placed in were racist and monocultural in their beliefs and practice. The caregivers and staff were most often Pākeha and I believe we were subjected to this abuse because we were of Māori decent and the state made us vulnerable through isolating us from the strength and support of our whānau. As long term care children, we were less likely to be visited regularly by social workers or family members. “By 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” (ACORD 1978). It is recorded in DSW documents (in between the large blacked out lines) that as children we often made complaints about the treatment we were receiving (DSW records 1976 –1979). I was labelled as a “troublemaker” and any complaints I made were ignored. (Many of these homes were closed down when the CYP&F Act 1989 came in and the newly released Rebstock report (2016) is proposing to return to these group homes under the new child protection model).

Leaving State Care

In 1980, I got to leave state care. Under the Children and Young Persons Act 1974 we could only be released when we turned eighteen or had the means to support ourselves. I had been really good in the last couple of years at school showing my aptitude for the work. I excelled in English and Art and where I had always occupied the lower form classes and in my final year I was catapulted to the highest form. This flare was showcased when my 6th form folder Art mysteriously disappeared after exam time and later when revisiting the school, I discovered two of my paintings beautifully framed and hanging in the school foyer. Despite my aptitude, I forfeited my final school year of school so that I didn’t have to stay another year in state care. I always felt so ripped off by this. It was also hard leaving the boys but we would meet in secret after school and go play space invaders at the local arcade. This way we were able to safely stay in touch until they too were old enough to leave. Within three years we were all living together in our own whare. Eventually the boys with our older sister moved to Melbourne to begin new lives with our father. I stayed around our mother and my new half siblings and tried to have a connection to them.

I got into an art course and later lead lighting, leather carving, weaving and making piupiu. However I also got into drugs, alcohol and toxic relationships. In fact anything that would fill the emptiness. Then one day the e tū call came again and like a magnet pulled me towards the East Coast. So I packed a bag and I hitched all the way North for the first time on my own. As soon as I hit the road I felt a huge sense of elation and freedom. I have a vivid memory of leaving and arriving but the time in between was fleeting and blurred, like being carried by a force unknown. I was heading to where I knew my Māori grandmother NannyMa lived.

Nanny Ma 

Before I even found her, Nanny Ma was already on her way to greet me. She knew I coming long before I did and upon reaching me wrapped me up in those big arms of hers. I melted into her ample bosom and for the first time in years I felt the deep sobs of my childhood surface. I let it come. I got to know Nanny Ma who shared much with me. This included our extensive whakapapa which goes all the back to Ruawaipu who lived about the same time as Toi. I became immersed in my whakapapa on both my Ngāti Porou and Welsh sides. I also went home to Whales and met my father’s relations. When I told Nanny Ma about the e tū call she said to me “Your tīpuna listen to your thoughts and speak to you through them. They will tell that you were born complete from your greater spiritual self. Never part this or that. No one can define your right to be here in the world or who you are, based upon who you are not. That is your right through whakapapa, of which you are the sum total of all of your tīpuna before you. E tū, reclaim what was taken from you.”

I used Nanny Ma’s whakapapa manuscript, interviewed older whānau members (all but one have since passed away) and I researched local colonial history to build upon the more recent lines of whakapapa. I had no idea at the time that this piece of work would later contribute to my PhD. Nanny Ma died in 1990. I am forever grateful for the brief time we got spend together. She still appears to me sometimes in dreams or through matakite (seer) friends who tell me “your grandmother is here and she has her arms crossed…and she just pushed right through your bouncers.”  Meaning she has my back in all that I do and nothing will stop her from being around me.

In my early twenties I got together with a mongrel mob affiliate. Although he was a beautiful man to look at and came from prominent Kahungunu whakapapa, he too was damaged by his childhood. Ours was not a good union. We were both adults needing to be mothered and all we did was trigger each other’s emptiness. My saving grace was our son. I remember being shocked when my doctor proudly announced (like it was his baby), “Paora you are pregnant.” However, that little boy like a gift from the Atua became my waka Maui stone, my trajectory, my grounding and saved my life on numerous occasions. Many a time I was at the door of just wanting to go home to my tīpuna, to the bosom of my grandmother because the world around me felt like wading through a perpetual sea of malaises. But my son would gently take my hand, look intently up at me and whisper, “please stay mama, I need you.” I miscarried at least two other babies because of the stress of existing like a shadow inside a toxic relationship. Had those babies come into the world they would most likely have witnessed the violence and ended up in state care. I am always aware of a boy and a girl with the Crawford eyes visiting me in my dreams. I often feel them close and listen to their laughter and play. Sometimes they appear when I am at a conference talking about decolonising social work and telling my back story. I miss my babies but I know that they will come into this world (soon) as my son’s children.

E tū 

As the years passed the e tū call began to make sense. Also what Nanny Ma had explained to me started to come into view. I recognised the emptiness as a response to childhood trauma and state imposed accumulative trauma that impacted a child’s soul. My relationship with drugs, alcohol and toxic violence were coping mechanisms. By engaging in activities that made the emptiness feel better, it seemed like I was controlling my circumstances.  These were mechanisms that both fed and numbed the deep seated feeling that there is no reliable safety in the world to be found. It manifested as a form of self harm and led all the way back to a child whose world had undergone a massive destabilisation.

The e tū call was the embrace of my tīpuna willing me to stand up, to be resilient and free, so that I could do the job I came into this life to do. I heeded and Women’s Refuge in all their wisdom helped relocate me to a new city. I raised my only child whom I love with a fiery passion inside the strength and support of the rainbow community; men, women, transgendered, straight, queer, takataapui, and the whole spectrum of whom many also had children. It was a good and vibrant life where we were loved up and safe. Each of these people are as much my whānau as anybody. Consequently my son grew up loving women, diversity and being comfortable in many non-straight settings.

I got involved in volunteer work through Refuge, Rape Crisis and Kohanga Reo whilst a single parent on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.  At the same time I trained to be a teacher of women’s self-defence and worked as a ‘chippie’ with the intention of helping rebuild our marae after it burned down in 1996. I went on to become a self-employed carpenter. The culmination of these experiences led me to Victoria University where I earned a Diploma of Social Work.  In the years following I worked for Child Youth and Family (CYF) initially as a social worker navigating rangatahi through the youth justice system and later as a family group conference (FGC) coordinator.  I was very good at it and I loved the potential of the FGC model.

In 2005, I accepted a senior management position in the UK developing the FGC as a decision-making tool for vulnerable adults (older adults and adults with moderate to profound learning disabilities) who were at risk of going into institutional care. The FGC project was successful and went on to be used as a social work intervention in adult services across Kent, England. Managing teams of social workers in the UK gave me an appreciation for effective supervision for practitioners. After a number of years of social work in the UK and missing my boy, I returned home to Aotearoa. From 2010 onwards I went on to formalise my supervision experience by completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Social Services Supervision. This developed into a Master of Social Work (with first class honours) that researched the care and protection FGC from the perspective of long serving Māori practitioners. The findings of which led me to want to explore whānau experiences of the FGC and related child protection processes, including the way Māori children are targeted and incarcerated into the care of the state.

Particularly right now when we hear that children are not being listened to or included into decision-making that could make a difference in their lives. Where we have 61% of the total kids in care are Māori and 72% of the total in youth justice residences (Office of Children’s Commissioner, 2016).  These statistics are unprecedented and are directly related to structural racism and white supremacy in Aotearoa. Which includes the silencing of the Māori experience by mainstream mixing them into monocultural research. We are told that children are no safer in the care of the state than they are with the whānau they are taken from (Office of Children’s Commissioner, 2015). We are told that CYF do not know what child centered practice is (Office of Children’s Commissioner, 2016). It takes these reports to confirm what whānau Maori have been saying their experience is for more than 30 years. And the proposed CYF reform that cannot even utter the word ‘colonisation’ or address the chronic family violence that we have in Aotearoa.

And like the child who tries to whistle blow about her abuse, there are many in social work who intentionally silence Māori voices speaking up against oppressive practice. This is a familiar story for Māori women who start out being polite, only to be shut down until we demand to be heard. Often, if you are both Maori and a woman your marginalisation is layered like stacks on the mill. We hear that non-Māori would listen if we just changed the words or the tone we use. As if the way a person talks about the racism they experience is much more important than the actual racism they experience. It can make non-Māori uncomfortable and they want to deflect the attention away from their racist actions and refocus on the Māori and how they are wrong for pointing out racism. The e tū call is the stepping up of a warrior, who will not be silenced so that others can remain comfortable. It is ridiculous to expect a person who as a child was abused in state care to then come out and speak ‘nicely’ about their experiences.

You see it wasn’t enough that I do this Phd, in order for it to reclaim the mana that was taken from my mother and my siblings, it had to have our story woven through out the text. I have come to realise that everything that I have ever done in this lifetime has intentionally prepared me for this work. In essence I chose this journey, this life and my purpose, just as I chose my parents. Ko wai ahau? I am not just the physical body I occupy, I am she who breathes life into all that is. I am 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. 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 understand the celestial infiniteness of whakapapa, and the healing knowledge contained within it, then you are not qualified to work with our people. So it is important to know who you are, why you are here, doing what you do; what ever it is, it is not enough to just do it. You cannot help others find their light until you know your own light. That is how it works. When you know your own greatness you have all the tools you need to change and heal anything.

This is why my siblings, my son and I share our beginnings. We are not interested in holding anyone to account for our experiences in state care. Tīpene said recently, “Our stories have to be told. How would anyone know what it’s like for a child to go through state care unless we all tell our story? Go hard my sissy.” Like me, he sees vulnerability as a privileged position when offering an opportunity to wake up New Zealand to the state imposed accumulative trauma on children in care. The ‘what NOT to do’ to our mokopuna is the key purpose of this PhD.

(The research will then go into the introductory chapter).

Duplicitous or ethical social work

Last night (14/04/16) I attended the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) special general meeting (SGM) to vote in another Board member to make up our core requirement (3 tauiwi Board members had stood down because I challenged their  ‘no Māori at the table’ research and as such, they deemed me unsafe to their professional positioning). The remaining 5 Board members (affectionately known as the tight five) chose to support my challenge, much to the disapproval of the three who stood down.

At the SGM, a motion of “no confidence” of the 5 remaining Baord members was carried (less than 10% of the total membership voted) and we were ousted. We tight five suffered the humiliation of being framed as unfit to lead, unskilled and dishonest in our conduct; called “duplicitous” by some of the elite. The five (kind, caring, long serving people in social work) were left shocked and devastated. It was a well planned and executed coup because (in part) we dared to try and bring some tangata whenua visibility back to ANZASW and not just lip serviced, biculturalism.

Last night I got to see the elite present their true colours. I witnessed hypocrisy through a rigged motion of voting out the tight five with no real alternative than our having to go with it. The elite also changed the constitution to support this motion without the change going out to the wider membership. Even the only resolution seemed pre-empted, similar to the common practice of an FGC  being predetermined in favour of the state. Later it was framed as “inviting” us to step down and we “did so honourably”…like there was some expectation that we would behave unprofessionally or as poor sports.

I saw theatrical outbursts (emotional defense that any concerns we had about the association were “racially based”), that I use my position as a “victim to have power over good people” and this “it’s not personal Paora, its process.” I heard too that “partnership works both ways” (meaning poor tangata whenua visibility in ANZASW is their fault for not engaging more). Would this not mean that ethical respect towards our colleagues works both ways? I also heard that tangata whenua only member with ANZASW for the title and work insurance offered because “they can get their Māori fix elsewhere.”

We learned last night that democratically elected TW Board members by their tangata whenua membership can be be voted off by the general membership and that’s not “racially based.” It seems that ANZASW does not want a Tiriti based relationship with tangata whenua, just a tino rangatiratanga sticker in the front window. I witnessed just how clicky and entitled these people are about keeping their status quo. For example, some of the social work registration board (SWRB) are also ANZASW members and tangata whenua voices in social work (TWVSW) as well as MSD (all its components and the major agencies that have captured most of the market).

These elite monoplise social work in Aotearoa and they get to set/revise ethical standards and competency to work with Maori. A concern for me is, if any one of my colleagues wanted to take a grievance over the treatment they received last night; just how ‘ethical’ ‘interest conflicting’ ‘unbaised’ would any process be under the SWRB? Take for example, this all started with my challenging the Er2p research project (I asked why there were no Maori at the table). And now the Chair of the SWRB is on the project team. Plus, two members central to the proceedings of stepping the Baords down last night were recently appointed to the research’s oversight group. So I question how I might fare if the research team took me before the SWRB? I bet about as well as I got last night?

My point being that elitism, multiple platforming/positioning in social work is dodgy as, especially if you choose not to or are incapable of speaking up about the critical issues impacting whanau Maori (such as our relentless incarceration rates, our children too). We need to call these people out who also influence/advise on the proposed modernising of child protection. I’m concerned for our tamariki Māori and whānau.

I reckon I’ve lost nothing and gained much by having it theatrically confirmed that the social work industry in Aotearoa is indeed a slick machine and (in part) attributed to those who want to keep their deck chair cushions well plumped. When the social work elite have to publicly denigrate the mana of kind, caring and loyal practitioners in order to justify your taking them down…you feed the Resistance! More to come….

See the vid at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S338qnpji7U