State abuse in faith-based children’s homes

With the welcome media focus of late being on the need for an indpendant inquiry into the herstorical abuse of children in state care, I thought I would add what I see is some missing kōrero 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 mainly focused on the state abuse of young people in New Zealand larger care institutions. With all of these good people “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 placed by the state into faith-based children’s homes.

I have been talking about this on various social platforms for months now and the response has been almost a deafening silence. It seems that whilst some experts (legal people, academics, key stakeholders) are very vocal about abuse in some of the bigger institutions…few seem to talk about the abuse that happened to children in faith-based children’s homes. Particularly to tamariki Māori who were disenfranchised from their cultural connections and this in itself caused trauma, from which many have never healed.

In this blog, my focus is on those tamariki (under 8 years) who were placed in faith-based care by the state. 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, the abuse began. 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 at the powerlessness we experienced as small beings in those places…of the hallways and endless rooms, leading onto more rooms, where there is no escape into the sunshine. Waking not being able to breathe.

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 others.

Sexual, physical, emotional and ae, 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 hands up to take underprivileged children?  Some of those placements cared for the children and some took advanctage of their innocence and vulnerability.

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 off and serves those people that the National 9 year reignhave been trying to protect [4] . And, if you know anything about children and abuse disclosure you will know that Māori and women are less likely to speak out about their abuse because of the insidious nature (double whammy/intersectionality) of racism and sexism.

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, dumb and run, or that they will be shifted to worse placement…and let’s face it, this abuse is rarely recorded.

Have you ever asked state care 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.

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].

An Inquiry needs to include all institutions and children’s homes of any description (either run by churches or the State) – and either as a State Ward, a home/welfare child or in foster care and all forms of abuse. Not just limited to sexual abuse like the Australian Inquiry where many abuse survivors missed out on telling their story.

It is most important that the  inquiry not become a legal exercise as that will keep the whole system in tact. It needs to ensure that there is a broad range of people speaking to the kaupapa and that the impact is not limited to a short term change in policy but reaches to include stronger Treaty relationships. All of our mahi shows it is whanau and hapu that know where our tamariki need to be if they are in an unsafe place so there needs to be strong advocacy in terms of tino rangatiratanga. Individuals need to be heard and compensated but it is tino rangatirtanga we need to end the abuse of our mokopuna in state care.

Finally, for those of you ‘good Christian’ folk who abused small children in your care, good luck explaining this to God when your time comes. And for everyone else, stand your sacred ground, honour the Treaty and be a spanner in the works for whānau, not a cog for the Crown!

Contact Paora at:









Transcript Interview with Paora Moyle on New Zealand State Care


8 Pipiri 2018

P: Kia ora kōrua – Jenni, Maria, I acknowledge all those that are gathered – unseen, and those that I occasionally see. I send up the love and am grateful very much for this opportunity.

I whakapapa to Ngāti Porou through my mother. Tūturu. She is a Karawhata, a transliteration of Crawford. We come from Te Araroa through Ropata Karapata and Keiti Te Ahurangi who was a puhi of the area before she married my great great grandfather. She used to argue in the land courts about the land blocks, and how the women were losing collective title because they were marrying into settler men. It was interesting to me, and it was recorded by my grandmother. Her name was Marcelles Crawford and she had in her whare, up in the ceiling, a manuscript and when she died I found and I copied it by hand. I left the original for the whānau and I’ve since studied it and recorded a lot of our whānau women’s herstories and what they were told by their mamas and their grandmothers. Out of that I have been able to fatten up, or put the flesh on the bones, of some of the women’s stories more in a contemporary setting over the last 3 or 4 generations. So from that I wanted to do a lot more work, in and around, how our people came to be. How my mother came to be and how I came to be.

I am a state ward of 14 years and my story is fairly much public. I did that purposefully for a lot of people who have been through state care, who have been adopted, who have been whāngai’ed out – whilst there are lots of wonderful experiences out there captured, there are some extreme and painful experiences, that people have incurred and it’s not always easy to talk about that. Why because it makes us appear weaker than others, and somehow marred, somehow we have asked for it, somehow we’ve invited it, and it keeps us from telling the world of the deep, dark secrets. But I chose to have a voice because, my reckoning right from when I left state care, was I always spoke about what was happening to us. I had to to stay alive, when I kept my voice to myself, I would get sick in the throat. I had really bad tonsillitis/Quincy where my throat poisoned up – you know our throat chakra – we hold a lot of the harm, repression there, and there’s no flow and the lack of flow keeps the toxins in. And of course I didn’t know it then, but I recognise now much later in life that a lot of the reason I was sick is because I was carrying the mamae for myself and my brothers. It was telling me,  my old people compelling to speak up, and I have written down my experiences, so there is a record of my lived truth.

I spent all those years in state care with my 2 younger brothers. There is about a year, between us all. The boys were in nappies when we were taken into care. And we were taken by the state because of nothing short of racism. When you look at the DSW notes, you can tell from the decisions that the social workers were making at the time that interracial unions were frowned upon. Children who came out of an interracial union – that wasn’t tika at that time, we’re deemed to be marred, or less than. You either had to be Māori or you had to be Pākehā – you can’t be a mix of the both. And it wasn’t so much a case of Mum and Dad arguing and fighting, or giving each other the bash – I can remember seeing this go on – even now I look back on my early childhood memories, I would much rather have stayed in with my parents, than being brought up in state care –  shunted, and shifted, and sexually abused, and fucked around, and beaten up, and my brothers have said the same thing. So we were taken by the state from our parents who were quite capable of bringing us up and we were never returned.

The thing that pains me the most is I still have nightmares. I can understand and accept everything from the past, but the thing I can’t quite get over is I still hear the cries of my baby brothers and not being able to get through the door to find out what was going on with them, to protect them. And the last thing my father said to me before he dropped us off was, “Take care of your baby brothers, they’re too little”. And the thing is, he was telling me to do something that I was too young to do myself. I was 5 years old, I couldn’t even reach the door handle of the door of the room where I knew my brothers were being abused in. Anyway, that’s one of the memories that I have. I might talk all over the place, but what I am saying is that we were taken and we didn’t need to be.

Once you are inside state care then they have to justify having taken you in the first place, and often they will demonise a Mum and Dad further to justify the taking. And I’ve heard that from hundreds of my state care whāngai and adoption brothers and sisters over the years – that when they’ve gone back and they’ve tried to make heads and tails behind the decisions made by social workers, other state care representatives at the time, they all said a lot of it was based upon outright racist decision making. The whole idea that white supremacy was deemed better for our well-being. When I talk about white supremacy, its about them not understanding whakapapa connections, what happens to children when they are taken away from their family links, the whakapapa loss, the wairua, and those linkages to your blood bonds. And when you look at those Department of Social Welfare notes they tell you a lot, they tell a lot of back story, and you can compare it to the decision making today that social workers and white-stream front line workers, working with families in need make, it’s the same sort of decision – all based on ‘white is best’, ‘white is right’, and ‘why can’t you be more like us’, ‘this is our way’, ‘it’s our way or the highway’…

J: What time period was that, was it in the 60’s or 70’s?

P: Yeah 60’s and 70’s, I was aged 5, ’67 when I went into care and I grew up in care into the 70’s it was 1980 when I got to leave.

J: So you were born in 61 62?

P: 63

J: I was born in 61 and was with you in the era of that time.

P: We were the ones you know where um Donna Awatere did her research, as part of the oral Accord Report.

J: In the 80’s

P: We were the ones in care that her research was based around – that whole blowing the whistle and actually examining what was going on for children and particularly Māori children and Māori girls. They talk at the moment about Māori boys going through Epuni, Kohitere and Lake Alice and the like, but when you look at some of what Māori girls experienced based on them not being ‘enough’, more ladylike, more white, more feminine. And a lot of my kōrero today is we need to realise that those state of minds, those attitudes, are still prevalent right now, specifically in the Oranga Tamariki and the Family Court. That you are not white enough, you are not motherly enough, you are not protecting your children enough, you don’t know how to make the right decisions; we have to do that for you. That level of misogyny, and the whole intersectionality between being Māori and being a woman. Wearing the layers of ignorance down through the generations, as a result of colonisation. Colonising Christian values, spare the rod spoil the child, women are secondary, all of that, and why our men behave towards our women the way that they do.

Anyway, what I can say, is that as a child growing up in state care, I was always aware of never belonging to anybody, and you’re constantly told that growing up – “you’re nobody’s child, nobody wants you”. You begin to believe it after a while, and then after a while you stop fighting. My brothers stopped fighting. They stopped. They would tell me, “Don’t tell, don’t tell! Stop it! Stop it! You’re getting us into more trouble”. But I would never stop trying to tell the social workers that we were being, we were being abused.

When we got a little bit older, they were pitting us like dogs against one another for adult entertainment. That’s where I learnt to fight. That’s where I learnt how to physically stand up for myself. They made me a fighting machine. So they would put me up against really big boys – and we loved each other, we didn’t want to hurt one another – but we would have to. The caregivers are not screened, and they have their mates that come over on a Friday or Saturday night, and they get the children out in the back-yard for entertainment. And so they’re having a few drinks, and got the chairs out, and they’re watching children fist fighting. You know actually rolling around wrestling and fist fighting one another, and hurting one another. And they would keep on putting me in because I was really good at what I did. And the reason I was really good, is they said they threatened to pit my baby brothers in if I didn’t. So I learnt how to maim other children and in doing so how to be maimed and handle the pain.

And then one day I turned on the caregiver – and I still remember him – the smell of the beer on his breath, and his cigar, still a smell I find really hard to stomach… I stood up to him, and I beat him. You know I was about 13 or 14, I stood up to him and I physically hurt him. I beat him back. Kicked him fair in the balls, and I got him down, and I just kept on putting the boot in. I got done for beating him. And nobody asked why I did it. And what it did it just confirmed what he had been telling the social workers every time I told stories about some of the injuries that the kids were getting. You know the bite-marks and bruises, that I was making it up and I was one of the children that was so damaged that I was causing the fighting between the kids. I was blamed as the instigator. Children don’t do that to each other. Why they did it – it was a way of keeping children separated from each other. Separated from comforting one another, because we didn’t have anybody else. It’s an age old British ploy, you know if you look at it, taking the layers away… the British keep the commoners fighting among themselves and the gentry sit back and watch it happen. Entertainment, extreme power and control. And then you learn to doubt yourself, and be nothing, to feel nothing.

So I guess what I am talking about is that I had this compelling need to always, no matter what, to speak up about it, and even though I wasn’t believed and I was always called names, and told that I was the trouble-maker – I hate the word the trouble-maker – I never stopped speaking out and telling. And I think once I started to grow up, and leave the state care, and talk about some of this stuff, my throat got better. And there was a period where I got into the self-medicating that comes after a traumatic time and post-traumatic stress disorder. The norm for me was being in fight or fight constantly having adrenalin running through my body – you know watching for the next incoming – that becomes a norm for those who are in a constant state of not being looked after, not being cared for. There was hardly ever periods of happiness, or children actually playing, we were always looking over our shoulder waiting for something else to happen. So the self-medicating is something that a lot of trauma victims or survivors talk about.

My fallout was drugs and alcohol and getting in to a violent relationship straight away. Then I had my boy. And I lost a couple of other babies because of the stress and the beatings. But I think my boy was my saving grace. And like I said, he’s my best friend. He came to save me. And he still talks about it “I came to get you out of there Mum, I came to make you stay”. And consequently he’s a great inspiration for me and we talk to each other a lot and I speak up and I talk about state care survivor-ship. I talk about the fact that our tamariki are still being tracked through a system, in fact more so than ever before, like a conveyor belt. Straight from care to incarceration, and it’s our people that are being targeted. So once you begin to wake up and understand the historic nature of your whānau, which I did – you know with that historic manuscript that I did, and the need to talk, or express myself, also comes out in teaching. I taught myself how to write, and I got in to social work. I escaped the violence of my boy’s father. He was a Mongrel Mob prospect, and whilst I understood a lot of the history around what makes people get into gangs, there’s some not so good stuff. And my path was not to go down that one. My path was to be solo really. So I brought my boy up on my own and I had a lot of help from Women’s Refuge to do that. And my calling was to go back and study, and I did.

One of the things that they always told me as I was growing up is, and this is part of the isolating and fucking with your head, so that you won’t rebel, is that “You will never amount to anything. Never, ever amount to anything. You will always be nobody”. Well I’m not a fucking nobody. And if you fullas that did all the abuse, who are still alive now, I would be quite happy to shove that right down your throats. And I hope that my whānau are telling you over there, with a digit in your face “She’s amazing! She came here to do what she came here to do, and you guys will have to just go back and live another life until you wake up to yourselves”. I get to go home and celebrate don’t I? I don’t have to come back to all of this.

So state care … I guess what I’ve learnt over the years, that it’s a machine. And it’s built on racism and white supremacy. And it’s built on telling people what they want to hear: that child protection is needed, colonial justice is needed, that Māori cannot do it for themselves, we have to do it for them. It’s just built on lies, and more lies, and it keeps us from being able to be self-determining. I come from both Welsh as well as Ngāti Porou whakapapa and people say to me “Yeah Paora, you’re so fair your both Māori and non-Māori”. But I say to them yeah it’s not about blood though. I stand and claim my whakapapa on my mother’s side, because that’s where I am needed the most. And I guess what I am saying is that I’ve learnt so much from an insider perspective. And that is – if I’m to say to the powerful, “lived experience is powerful”. And vulnerability can be a state of privilege and I got that lesson from my boy. What he was saying is those that live the hardest, or have the hardest journey, who live closest to death, or extreme hardship, are the ones that bring the light. Because how would we know had they not done that. What we need to wake ourselves, what the world needs to wake up to itself and what it’s doing – to one another, to each other, to mother earth, to the whole global being here. What is means ‘to be’.

Well the state care journey was necessary, and I’m really grateful for it. I might be a survivor, but I’m not a victim. I don’t see myself as a victim. I see myself as privileged. And that I was given a divine job by my tūpuna to come here and speak up about what’s not ok that is happening to our people, what’s not ok that’s happening in a wider sense. Globally. But my specific focus is on tamariki. Our babies going through state care at rates twice that of non-Māori, and the lies that come out… I find it very difficult to say the words ‘Oranga Tamariki’ because it’s such a bastardisation of the concept. And I don’t mean the surface, floating around on the surface, concept -I  mean the depth-of-the-Pacific concept of well-being of our children. And I’m not saying when I’m talking about our tamariki, that only Māori children matter – all children in Aotearoa. But Māori are the ones that are predominately targeted because of racial decision making, racial profiling and ignorance, and the reason why I am always barking on about Oranga Tamariki and it’s change from Child Youth & Family, it was never a change. It was just a rebranding cos they rolled over the same senior managers that have been there for fucking forever, into the new child-centered model – child-centered to me means child exclusion. To separate them out from all that they know. Which is exactly what happened to us as children. Because when you make children separate from their connections they are much easier to target and get them to conform, to be voiceless and silent. And we’ve got more uplift happening now in our child protection system than before we had Puao-te-ata-tu. And when you look at the figures we’ve got 6,545 children that have been uplifted just in the last year. When the target, the cut-off, the red light cut off for government was 5000. And we know when Puao-te-ata-tu came out that, that was a result of lamenting, and holes in the whakapapa, and nannies crying out that their babies are being stolen. They’ve been picked up for reasons other than care and protection – because they’re Māori, because kids gather together, because she’s running away from wherever it was and they pick her up and put her right back..

Here’s something, I’ve been around hundreds and hundreds of survivors that have been through state care. When we talk together almost all of them say… It was very rare to come across a child – now in their adulthood who said “I was never harmed whilst I was in state care.” All the rest will nod their head and go, “It happened when we were in state care!” “Yes I may have had some of that going on, yes and we had Jake the Muss fucking going on, but I would much rather have gone to my nanny or my uncle than to have been shunted, and shifted, and fucked around, in abusive state care.” Who did not take responsibility, or have any accountability measures in place for how they look after their children, the screening and properly encouraging and training and awhi of and resourcing care-givers.

We were brought up in faith based care, which in those days because it’s a good Christian third contractor party – it’s not a direct state care institution. They call it third party contracting. And so they contracted this service to a faith based institution who were supposed to provide children’s home services for children that were taken from their parents. 

J: Family homes?

P: Yes family homes. Now we weren’t, you know, offenders or children who were breaking the law and unruly. We were really well behaved and really young, too young – and they put us into a faith based family home. And the attitude then was that if you were good caring Christian people the screening wasn’t really required. Well they found out later that in one of the homes that we were put, that the father had been done for rape of a 2 year old. They had a record of it. We found out this years later, it was all very hush hush at the time. The onus was on his wife who was a good Christian woman to become caregiver in the home and he was out working. But he still came home at night time, and that’s where a lot of the pitting of us happened. I’m not going to name the faith based institution because that just kind of it narrows it down, I haven’t decided what I am going to do about that yet. Whether it is even worth it. He died a painful death, he fell off the back of a truck drunk and he also had liver damage. He reaped what he sowed. I do believe that things come around again and you get your just deserts. That’s why I choose to live a life in unconditional love. And whilst it may sound, I’m angry and I still carry pain, I’m at peace with everything that I’ve ever incurred. But it doesn’t mean that I have to talk nicely about it. Who talks nicely about the rape of children? I have had Pākehā social workers say things like “Paora maybe someone would listen to you if you only talked a little bit nicer. You always sound so angry and aggressive”. That’s an annoying thing for me when know-it-alls,  with their white fragility, tone police us. That they think they have the right to tone police us. Well you can go shove it up your jumper because you have no idea, and until you do have an idea, just…

So whilst we are on that, there are several things that I want to say, I’m saying that the system, Oranga Tamariki is horribly flawed. It should be called ‘Tamariki Trauma’ instead of ‘Tamariki Ora’. You are uplifting our children at the rate of Fort Knox, why? Because of predictive risk modelling – such as the Tuituia Assessment Framework which was a predictive risk modelling tool that came from overseas, that was Māori-fied by some very nice Māori academics who now work for the Oranga Tamariki. Tuituia means to weave together which is an absolute lie, another contradiction of term,  to weave together – it does nothing but separate babies from their whakapapa. And whilst there might be some really good stories of children saying “we’ve gone on and had a wonderful time in care” –  I would put my life on the line to say that the majority of stories of children in state care are about separation and trauma. And who are you, who are you to work in the Master’s house and then degrade the name of some of our front-line activists for speaking out. Your’e actually helping the Master.

I’ve talked about the assessment process that the Police are using, that social workers are using. The research that’s coming out about predictive risk modelling from Auckland University – I think her name is Emily Kiddell, she’s a member of the Reimagining Social Work platform – and she’s got some really good research that talks about how we were never supposed to go down the predictive risk modelling track. But we have gone down that track, and predictive risk modelling is supporting those in power, their decision making against those wishes, or plans, or wants, of the wider whānau of the children that have been uplifted. It supports the state and not the whānau. It doesn’t strength assess the whānau. It assesses their limitations. That’s a problem. Another problem is that you’ve got ignorant social workers going through often poor social work training programmes. And the only ones I’ve got any time for is Raukawa and…

J: Te Wānaga o Aotearoa?

P: Te Wānanga o Raukawa and Aotearoa. They’re two Wānanga that I have had a lot to do with in the way that they train their social workers in a Kaupapa Māori Wānanga styles. Where they come out with deep knowledge of how to work with whānau rather than against them. What you’ve got elsewhere is often half-arsed, deliberately not taught, lack of bicultural or Te Tiriti centered training over a four year period. Tagging a little bit of Māori on does not make you culturally competent. We’ve got culturally incompetent social workers working at the frontline as interns doing fine brain surgery with our whānau. We need to stop that. The other thing that we need to do, is we need to have our own approval body to approve who are competent to work with our whānau. Not a Pākehā body and registration standards, that are say paper based from a Tauiwi perspective. Yes you’ve ticked all the boxes, you sound like you are competent enough to work with our whānau, and as soon as they are in the seat, a powerful seat, whānau are saying, “We can’t work with this young 20 year old she has no children and no idea and when we try to tell her that it’s not working, that we’re not understanding, or she’s not listening to us. She calls us confrontational”.

That’s not happening in one or two offices, that’s happening across the motu. You can tell a really good office that works with our people when they have low uplift rates and high alternative ways of working with that whānau. Passing them onto NGO’s that actually do the collective work with them. Where you’ve got high uplift you’ve got cultural incompetence and that is something that we need to be addressing. What we’ve got is a production line now that is working so well with a tinkered around Oranga Tamariki Act by a bunch of fucken amateurs who have taken whānau first out, helicoptered a few Māori kupu in – in replacement, and then that law says that Māori have no right of recourse. Once the Family Court judge signs on the bottom line, slams down that gavel, that these Māori children can go to this forever loving home if that whānau have not been involved in the process and try to come back and claim their children, their mokopuna, they have no right of recourse, why? Because the one recommendation that came out of Puao-te-ata-tu to go into the Children and Young Persons and their Families Act has been cleverly lifted by the National government and we lobbied and we fought and we called ourselves Hands Off Our Tamariki but we lost the battle.

It becomes a forced production line to ‘forever loving homes’ –  within six to twelve months if a social worker’s saying that these parents are not complying so we can put these children into forever loving homes. The whole forever loving homes myth is so that the government can sign themselves off from these children and its another way of forced adoption. It doesn’t work! A lot of family members are saying we’re not getting the resources, we’re not getting the support, this is happening too quickly. We’ve got these damaged children and some caregivers are really anti the whanau. They have no idea what it means, whakapapa and wairua connection, and the power of that. And the power of our own to stand up on their own two feet and say NO! You have no idea about us. You have no right to make decisions about our babies – that is for us to do. You are not experts – you are not! You put yourselves there, and the system allows for you, for white supremacists to put themselves into positions of knowing. Hell, even a white woman can take our moko kauae taonga put it on her face and claim it! Well maybe I should get the Union Jack tattooed on my arse for all of the abuse that my brothers and I incurred – that’d be something!

So a lot of my work at the moment is around lobbying. Has been for years. Lobbying for state care survivors, to give voice, to have a say – especially women. And I think it was when I challenged, a few years ago, I challenged ANZASW. A couple of their people, who were trying to do research without any Māori at the table – and they treated me so badly that I put it into a blog. And that went viral. And they were really, really, angry with me. And I started to get a really bad name in social work as being a raging activist, because basically I was calling them out saying ANZASW was not bicultural. They’re monocultural and waving their Tino Rangatiratanga flag every time the Queen goes by, you know, or some Māori business comes up, it was littlebitism rather than their espoused biculturalism. And anyway they didn’t like it. And I’ve been challenging social work ever since. Because my premise is that you are still transacting our people to clip your tickets on,  filling your jails, and also creating an industry where you collect your pay from. And the start line is over here with our babies, and you’re picking them up for reasons other than neglect and abuse. That they come from poverty.

You know, when you keep on putting people into damp housing and you see how often their children are going to the doctors, or not going to the doctors cos they can’t afford to fucken pay for it. And they keep on getting the croup, and rheumatic fever, and then their children are taken off them because they appear too many times in the health system. Somehow the parents have caused that! When you look – if you’ve got off your fucken arses and really investigated what some of those frontline reasons are, what’s underneath it all – that you are taking the babies – and that was made public you would find that mostly there’s a small, there’s a much smaller section of children being taken from parents where they absolutely have to be taken, because they are beyond reproach, beyond being able to help. And those children need to be made safe. But don’t put them where they’re never going to have any connections back with their whānau. When you take the whānau first out, and all of that, and whānau hapū and iwi, and you basically whiten the Act that allows your neoliberalist privatising, which is another vinyl layer on the production line, so that can slip and slide a little bit better, straight into the arms of the abusers. And I don’t mean that everybody, every caregiver and foster caregiver in Aotearoa are abusers, a lot of them are good people, but they are not resourced, they’re not trained enough, they’re not looked after enough, to really be able to cope with some of the behaviours that these children have…. Complicated babies need really well trained people, not just normal Joe Bloggs over the back fence. Stop uplifting where you don’t need to uplift, and concentrate on the ones that really need the care. You change the model and then you start uplifting more thanthe system can cope with. There’s no places to put these children. When there’s no places to put these children – you know what social workers do – they don’t do the checks. They haven’t got the time to do the checks. Haven’t got the time to have the relationships. They’ve only got time to pick them up in the first instance, and then we’ll sort it out later. You know how traumatic it is for a child to be taken from their whānau? That is where the biggest trauma occurs.

Is there anything else you want me to talk about?

M: Thank you for sharing what you are sharing…

P: It’s an absolute industry, it’s an absolute machine. And it’s slick. And they changed the laws and a whole lot of amateurs came there. That Children’s and Young Persons and their Families Act was actually fine. The one thing it didn’t do, is that it didn’t give iwi the powers that iwi were supposed to have, equal to the General Director of DSW. And that was what, it was supposed to do. But what happened it was blocked left, right, and centre. So that the vision, that the visionaries who put it all together to the best of their ability, was that iwi were supposed to be their own decision makers and look after their children. But the system didn’t resource that did they? They resourced family group conferencing for a while and then they gave them a chocolate biscuit and a cup of tea inside the CYPS office. And it didn’t become family centered decision making around the caring for their babies. It became a state centered process – and that’s what my masters was based on. It’s a big fat lie that the family group conference is an amazing piece of [legislation]. It does the opposite – it actually rubber stamps what the state wants, in the main, not what the family want or need.

M: I really liked the connections you made with how things were, and how they’ve continued under different names and kupu Māori, so that it looks one way, while it still operates at another level.

P: It’s very slick and it sucks people in. And then you’ve got very powerful legislators and ministers who blatantly – at the moment, you know for example, have a nice Facebook page and they’re only posting the really nice stories from children who are celebrating getting a trophy, and have been in care, and have lovely caregivers. But you see some of the comments that are coming from people who’s the complete opposite – and they are white. So it’s very PR. They put a lot of money into their PR. They’re putting it out there. And children are still getting locked up in residential centres that are supposed to be care and protection. And they number 63% are Māori in the care and protection residences. And 72% of the kids in youth detention centres are Māori. Now that’s targeting, and it’s still happening. In fact, it’s worse than it’s ever been. And people say to me “How do you change that?” and I said well here … in fact, I presented just last week to the restorative Practices Aotearoa hui. Dame Nadia Glavish and Moana Jackson and a few other choice people that believe in restorative justice…

J: The one in Rotorua?

P: Parihaka. I presented there and they were shocked. I was talking about the same stuff and they were shocked and they said “Surely not, surely not” and I’m saying “Why are you guys working in restorative practice, working with our tamariki, if you do not even know what the stats are. I’m not just making this up because I’m a state care survivor.

Here’s another story. Went to a hui with Oranga Tamariki staff who are doing the nice PR thing – “we’re going to be up and running in 5 years’ time” she was talking about the new child centric model and the various stats and different things, and I get up and I said “Yeah but you’ve got 73% there, 62% there, and the rate of uplift between zero and 5, and uplift off the birthing table is this many”. And she says, “I don’t know where on earth you’re getting your stats from Paora but it’s just the same sort of thing from you isn’t it? We’re here to show you that we’re doing really well”. I said “Um those stats aren’t made up. They’re not my stats, they come from your website”. And she said “Oh no that can’t be right. Those stats are way off”. And I said, “They come from your website”. And I had to tell her 3 times, hell she didn’t even know about her own Oranga Tamariki stats from 2016-2017. They don’t even know their own numbers. That speaks volumes.

Just yesterday a social worker who has graduated and got a job in Oranga Tamariki, she tells me this story of her very first experience of uplift. Her colleague who sits next to her, this Pākehā woman uplifts two Māori boys from their parents – quite justifiably so, because they’re terrible P users. But it’s the way in which she did it. She brought the boys into the office and locked them up in an office where they couldn’t get out. There’s no windows there and they’re holding on to each other crying. And this older Māori woman goes in to the office and picks these boys up and starts to awhi them. Pākehā woman comes in and says, “What are you doing?” “She says, “I’m giving these children some love and care. Why are they sitting in here alone and crying?” She says, “Well I tried to console them but they don’t want to come to me” She says,“because you took them from their parents!” Where is the manaaki? Where is the awhi of these children? We’re supposed to be a child centered, you know, where is best practice? Putting them in an isolated office where they’ve got nobody to care for them is not conducive to the wellbeing of those children. It’s traumatic. And these are the things that we are not talking or hearing about.

But what we see are lovely posters up on the Oranga Tamariki office with brown smiling faces of our babies and Oranga Tamariki declaring “we are tika, we are pono and we do it with aroha.” And I’ve just been in the WINZ office listening to a woman, an older woman, she had wet herself because she had been going between Oranga Tamariki down to WINZ to try and get the benefit for her mokos, and WINZ wouldn’t let her use their toilet. She ended up wetting herself because she couldn’t go with her mokos across the intersection to the public toilet across the road. There’s a lot that is happening at the frontline. Where is the compassion gone?

And the other thing you need to be listening to is the stories that the Backbone Collective have been talking about. They’ve captured a lot of Māori women’s stories,and  Pākehā women, through surveys and talking to them. But exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last 5 years, especially in my PhD research, the uplift of children because of family violence. The onus is on the mama to protect herself, well protect the children from witnessing family violence. All the mamas are saying that they’re doing all they can do. I’m not talking about the ones that are out of it on P – that’s a small group. Most of them who are in family violence relationships and 2/3 of the incidence reports that come through from the Police to Oranga Tamariki, because they’ve got children in the home they have to report, and those social workers are picking up those kids based on the Police predictive risk assessments. They go in and they pick them up straight away, regardless of the degree of which is going on. Even in the first instance. So the children are getting uplifted and when you’ve got 2/3 of the notifications coming through from Police where there are children present, that’s a very big number. And again, just like what happened to me, it’s very hard to justify an unnecessary uplift and use of resources. So therefore, it’s easier to demonise the mother and justify it later on.  

I don’t believe that Oranga Tamariki are there to protect children, they’re there to be an industry, to be a machine. I’m saying give it back to us. Give it all back to us. Let us do it. Let us, who number in our thousands, who are qualified enough and care enough, to actually get a machine going for ourselves that is led by women and men on an equilibrium basis. And that we can have the resources to provide and capture these children. Not uplift them completely from their homes, and their schools, and their communities … and uplift. If Papa’s doing the fucken abuse, then uplift Papa. Put him over there in a supported house, give him all the stuff that he needs to be taken care of over there, programmed, and whatever – but don’t, don’t uplift our women and children, so that the children lose both Mum and Dad, and their wider whānau. That’s happening too much. And when we take them away from Mum and Dad, often it’s our older folk that are bringing them up and they’re not being properly resourced in the way that non-Māori get resourced for bringing these babies up. Is that making sense?

J: A little yeah but it’s beautiful to hear you say the words that yeah

P: Our old people shouldn’t have that. They should be collectively supported and they should be honoured and loved and thanked. I said to my boy if we were back in the old days son, that baby, his baby, would be coming to me. And he said, “You know what Mum, I’d be ok with that”. He said, ‘You brought me up in a beautiful way”. He said, “But nah I want him to myself”.

J: But he understands that mana of whāngai in terms of…

P: He does. He was lucky I’ve put him into, kohanga started around the time he was born, and I put him straight into it. That was my my gift back. I was just starting to find out about whakapapa reclamation – what that means. And to stand in your own mana means to stand in your own truth and honour yourself. All you’ve got to do is stand. You don’t go back to being on your knees. And that’s powerful.

If I could say anything it’s to our people: Stop believing that the state has Māori interests at heart. Stop selling your your ngakau. Stop hocking off your arses to uplift and support the state transactions – transacting our babies along that that conveyor belt. Wake up. Decolonise. Unsettle yourselves. Learn who you are and why you came into this world. That you came from the love of thousands, and those thousands are not wanting you to be a cog! Be a spanner for your people, not a cog for the state. And give us back our babies. Stand up. Have a voice. Challenge the system. Wake up to yourselves. Free yourself, and your own family members. Your own whānau. You don’t have to be cogs of the state. You can still have a voice and collect your pay. We can do it for ourselves. We can look after our own child protection needs. We can even, when we’ve got nothing – less than 4% of the land is ours.

Now I think that we can turn things around. There are some things that I can see coming out of the Adern government that are starting to change things. But that’s going to take a long time. And it’s slow, and it’s kind of drip feeding in a lot of places. And Royal Commission – it’s a great big shiny canon with that’s been given powder puff to fire – you know as ammo. So I haven’t got a lot of faith in it. But we have to keep on fighting. Never give up. Never, ever give up. Never, never lie down. Cos once you lie down, then you know you’re useless. You’ve bent over. You may as well just roll over and die – well that’s the way I feel. I’ll be doing this till I die, and I keep on getting rewards. I love my life. I’m married to a beautiful woman. I’m a Mum of a wonderful young man who respects women, who respects his whakapapa, loves his wife and child. And I think I finally can see that, that’s the example of the potential for everyone. You potentialise yourself when you stand in your own mana. I don’t know if I can offer anything else.

J: Thank you thank you for speaking up and everything you do.



OPENING THE SPIDER BOX: A perspective on naming child abusers

When it comes to social media trolls and harmful hateful people who are of the same low vibrational energy as the pedophiles/child abusers I am writing about. And I have no problem ‘outing’ them.

When it comes to naming my childhood abusers, that is a different story. I could give you all the reasons from an experienced social worker, counsellor, psychological, emotionally intelligent, survivor and healer perspective, why we should ‘out’ our abusers but there are implications and real struggles involved with this.

This korero is framed in a way that, hopefully allows people a lens through which, they see some of the implications involved with naming abusers; that they might miss if this lens was not offered. It is how I contribute to making a difference, and to how we create healing solutions and pathways forward.

So the questions are, what use is there in naming my childhood abusers now that they are dead? What are the consequences of this for others as well as myself? And, if I am encouraging others to name their abusers, don’t I also have an obligation to do so? I had this conversation with my brothers, (pictured below) whom I grew up with in abusive state care.

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

Survivors of NZ state care
Four blonde blue eyed Ngāti’s entering state care. March 31, 1968.

“I have spent 50 years on this earth coping with this shit that resides in my chest so much it constricts by breathing. I can still feel their smothering weight on me. It’s as imprinted into my body memory so deep, it is a part of me. Hell, I can’t even differentiate between what is memory and the coping mechanism. What would be gained from naming my abusers when they are all dead anyway?”

He went onto say, “when you name them, you ‘out’ their wives and their children, their mokopuna. It literally blows whole families apart, and not to name them is just as explosive. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

“I also think about the other survivors who went through those institutions and faith-based homes. It outs them too; when the cops go in there asking questions. It implicates the staff whom knew we were being abused, because we told them and they did nothing. And when we told our social workers they never took us seriously, and if they did it was easier for them to ignore it. And we know because our case notes say never believe damaged children from broken homes, especially Māori who crave attention.

How abusive caregivers close ranks to protect each other and turn it back on small beings. They blame you for inviting the abuse and then chastise you for telling about it. And all the good touch bad touch teaching in the world does not keep a child safe. If an abuser wants to abuse he will…the stench of their disease thick like molasses, so much so, we become bloodhounds to it. They all stink of the same blackness. For fucks sake, I was innocent before they drafted me into their web.”

“I knew, they knew what was happening to me because even their own kids treated us like damaged goods. Bullying us, telling us we were nobody’s children; enabling others to feel entitled to hurt us. I always felt like I was no more than discarded rubbish. And I know you worry sis about all of those blokes, their money, power and friends (church elders, police, judges, lawyers, Freemasons) who used to take us on weekends and holidays. What will happen to us if we name them…who the fuck will believe all that?”

My brother and I talked a lot about the biology of how our bodies hold onto memories. And how we as small beings at the time, suffering abuse fallout (PTSD or whakapapa trauma) cope with that. An example of this is, the locking of me in a box with spiders and now, how the mere mention of the word “spider” makes me wretch and run for the outdoors. The experience becomes chrystalised into the cellular memory and survival resonses, coping mechanisms, result. Much like a grain of sand in an oyster can be pearled as a protectant. Opening ones self up, can be like opening the spider box that you have spent your whole life sitting on.

My point is, be mindful when expecting victims/survivors to out their abusers. Kia tupato of those who refer to themselves as “experts”. Remember that lived-experience is always essential to solution finding. For example Māori at the table on research that impacts them, or lived-experience of sexual abuse on inquiry panels looking into sexual abuse. Or academic expertise on sexual abuse survival that is reliant on the testimony of sexual abuse survivors. And survivors should absolutely be the heart of the New Zealand Royal Commission into Historical State Abuse. They should be able to see themselves reflected back in terms of all appointees.

We need to think all of this through and find the safe pathways for victims, survivors and offenders. It takes time to heal. You don’t just out an abuser and expect to be healed. Going through a taimaha takes time. Healing back our whakapapa from the present moment is one powerful way and includes gentle unlayering, working with free will, choice and deep consent. We who walk the journey to enable others to return their hara to the light. Returning the toxicity (abuser gene) back to the Universe where she disperses it into the time-less, space-less everything.

But the first and most essential action is to stop the blaming, hating, listen to the korero and the spaces between, move with wairua. And with the absolute commitment to being brave and stepping up to end the cannibalistic feeding off the light of our mokopuna. Respect the pathway coordinators, the sisters who are leading in this and supporting those who are naming these low-vibration beings.

Let’s peel back the ‘rings’ into circles of life.

Paora Moyle

We all survived

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Zealand government not only fails in their obligations to te Tiriti o Waitangi but also to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The declaration recognises “the right of indigenous families and communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well-being of their children, consistent with the rights of the child.” Secondly, the declaration recognises “the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.” Let’s call it what it is, not “cultural genocide” but straight up genocide!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Paora Joass Moyle

Image (with permission) from Robyn Kahukiwa

Adding to the conversation on the herstorical abuse of children in NZ state care

Tēnā koutou katoa. My name is Paora Crawford Moyle. I spent 14 years in state care and I have 27 years of social work experience behind me. I speak out a lot on the gaps within New Zealand child protection, particularly in relation to mokopuna Maori over-representation.

This kōrero is for Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu and also for those who have passed on from this life with no acknowledgment for the abuse they endured. It is also for the many of our disabled whānau who are often left out of this conversation.

Recently we learned of Labour’s commitment to an ‘independent’ Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care. So while we are talking about the kind of Inquiry we might have, I thought I would take the opportunity to put a key points.

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

When I read a headline Abused Males Want a Royal Commission and I see the media coverage on the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Conference recently held in Christchurch, I wonder if other wāhine survivors like myself feel like our specific experiences are marginalised? Thus, I wanted to make the absolute point that female survivors want a Royal Commision just as much as male survivors do. And “As many boys as girls were sexually abused. About 57% of the men we saw had been sexually abused and 57% of the women.” Findings from New Zealand’s Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS).

Apart from the recent Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu piece on the Hui, female state care survivors (or care leavers) are almost entirely excluded from the Inquiry conversation. It is vital that women as a survivor group with specific experiences are not left out of the setting up of an Inquiry. Why? If you know anything about children and abuse disclosure you will know that Māori and women are less likely to speak out about their abuse due to the intersectionality (what I refer to as the double whammy) of racism and misogyny/sexism. Yet we know that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually abused before the age of 15. An international survey found that New Zealand had highest rate of any country examined and the results showed, for the first time, that Māori girls suffer twice as much sexual abuse as non-Māori girls.

Female survivors of state care abuse have reported experiencing forced internal inspections for venereal diseases (VD) and forced contraception. I was forced to take contraception which there was no need for because I was not sexually active at the time and later I was only interested in girls. I also remember conversations about sterilizing two whangai disabled sisters based upon an assumption that menstruation would be traumatic for them. Although it was very behind closed doors, we know it happened. And just last year we again had forced sterilisation being tabled by Anne Tolley as a method of birth control.

As for forced internal inspections, Sonya Cooper who has been supporting survivors for more than 20 years stated, “Attached are a number of documents we were provided with by media, regarding the VD checks undertaken at the Girls’ Homes…Last month, for the first time, MSD accepted that a client was exposed to abuse by way of medical examinations performed by a doctor which were conducted in a manner which was outside the guidelines of the time. MSD stated that while it did not accept responsibility for the actions of the doctor, it accepted that the client was exposed to this abuse while in its care. Prior to this, MSD had failed to accept that such examinations were abuse, or failed to answer this allegation when presented with it.” (Personal communication from Cooper Legal, 16 November 2017). These practices were horrific and very traumatising for girls and young women. They have impacted generationally upon our whānau, from which we have not healed.

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

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

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

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

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

Abuse of children also happened in religious based care

I was made a state ward and placed by the state into religious based care. From the outside these places looked like any ordinary homely setting but within a week of going into care the abuse began. The vetting of caregivers was not a priority because the assumption was that they were ‘good’ Christian folk. As a consequence we were very vulnerable to predatory adults and we know that 60% of all victims of historic sexual abuse were abused while in religious based care.

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

Any Inquiry must be independent

An inquiry must be independent of the Ministry of Social Development or Ministry for Children. Otherwise it is NOT independent and risks repelling survivors akin to putting Judges robes on their rapist. It risks retraumatising victims and surviors.

An Inquiry MUST be able to compel witnesses and access un-redacted documents; must not have a cut-off date; must deal with compensation/restitution and structural change to our systems. It must include all institutions and children’s homes of any description (either run by churches, charities or the NZ state) and all forms of abuse not just sexual (a big mistake made by the Australian Royal Commission which excluded many thousands of survivors). Personally I think that only a Royal Commission of Inquiry like that of the will do because then it is able to hold Ministries/sytems to account for their multiple and continued failings.

Hei aha, if we have to have the Minister for Children leading it then like Māori Women’s Welfare League did last week, I urge her to consult widely and to give it time. Rushing through the terms of reference by mid Jan next year just leaved out the most important people and again protects the abuser. Consultation must include survivors, survivor groups and organisations with a history of involvement in or supporting those in state care. Ensure that provision is made for lived-experience to be at the change table. It must include a variety of lenses especially when considering previous reviews and recommendations such as Puao te ata tu.

Finally, I am just one voice, a wāhine toa survivor…Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu. I claim the right to be at the change table, to be valued as an ‘expert’ on this kaupapa by virtue of lived-experience. We are hero/shero’s who came to show you what you need to learn. I might be one voice but I speak powerfully on behalf of hundreds of who have been rendered silenced. WE ARE HERE, not to be further victimised and ‘saved’ but to be the living testimony and centralised, collective voice of change.

For those supportive of a Royal Commission of Inquiry here is a survey intended to help shape the Inquiry terms of reference. Or email your views to the Human Rights Commision – Subject Line: “Independent Inquiry into State Abuse”.

Paora Crawford Moyle

Excluding essential Māori knowledge in social work: The enhanceR2P project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video of original challenge to the project team:

Questioning my right to even call myself a social worker

Guest blog by Annie Joass.

Tena 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 toku whaea

Ko Barry Bradley toku matua

Ko Paora Moyle toku hoa rangatira

Ko Annie Joass toku ingoa

No reira, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa

I’m a big believer in reflective practice; it keeps us alert, aware and accountable if only to ourselves. In that vein, this piece of writing is nothing more than a reflection on my place in social work in Aotearoa in 2017. I’m compelled to write it because being a social worker of 20 years plus hasn’t led me to a place of confidence or faith in my own capability to work with people. It’s actually led me to a place of deep uncertainty, to questioning my right to call myself a ‘social worker.’ Also to the uncomfortable feeling that I don’t belong in a profession, which is in my opinion, doing more to impose and perpetuate oppression and structural racism, than not.

Currently I work across two organisations. One is charged with the education / training of social work students and the other is a provider of social work services. Our client group in both institutions is predominantly socially and financially disadvantaged people, mostly tangata whenua. Whilst this has always been a source of tension for me because my people and I have personally benefited from the systemic, violent oppression of the very people I am professing to be able to help. (I know this is not news to anyone)…but what is really getting stuck in my craw is that now more than ever, I am being asked to work within a system of continued structural oppression that is getting tighter, meaner and leaner. Here’s how I see it playing out.

Firstly, in my role as an educator I am required by my organisation to be a paid up member of the Social Work Registration Board (soon to be mandatory). The Social Work Registration Board is the government body that holds statutory responsibility for ensuring professional standards within social work. I and many other Social Workers pay this government agency money and here’s what they do with it. They make decisions about the social work qualification framework, which are discriminatory, and barrier building against Mᾱori and financially disadvantaged students accessing social work education. Whether intended or not, the consequences are far reaching and will have a profound impact on the profession.

The insistence of the Social Work Registration Board that all social work qualifications must be gained via a 4 year degree, instead of a 3 year degree or even a 2 year diploma, has effectively locked out an entire cohort of students who can’t afford to study for 4 years. In particular students over 40 who now only qualify for 3 years full time student allowance supported study. This affects many more Mᾱori than non-Mᾱori who are far more likely to have been excluded or dis-advantaged by New Zealand’s inherently euro-centric education system. Many of these students have returned to education later in life and more often than not require or are being directed to some form of pre-degree tertiary skills course. The result is 6 to 12 months of their 36 months funding is used with some students facing the choice of self-funding up to 2 years of their social work education now. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the demographic most likely to be affected by this disastrous combination of policy.

This leads me to the actual registration process itself where the next hurdle has been erected. I wouldn’t recommend trying to be social worker these days if you have criminal convictions or a vulnerable background (history with the department, such as a former state ward). Students with previous convictions are struggling to get a straight answer out of the Social Work Registration Board before they engage in study and are told each application will be reviewed on its merits at the time of application, which is now at the end of a very expensive 4 year degree. Who are most affected most by this? Mᾱori. We have overwhelming evidence that the judicial system in this country is at its core biased against Mᾱori, we know that Mᾱori are far more likely to be arrested than non-Mᾱori for the same offense, we know that Mᾱori are far more likely to be convicted than non-Mᾱori for the same or similar offense and we also know that many of the best social workers are those with lived-experience of the issues our clients are dealing with.

“From 2010-2014, police and justice figures show Maori made up 51 per cent of prison sentences, 40 per cent of prosecutions and convictions. And yet, over the same period, Maori made up only 30 per cent of those who received pre-charge warnings – in other words, were let off – compared to 57 per cent of Påkehå. Of those who got to court and were offered diversion – a system which enables offenders to escape a record – Måori made up only 20 per cent. In other words, if you’re caught with cannabis and you’re Påkehå, you’re more likely to receive a pre-charge warning or get diversion. If you’re Måori, you’re more likely to be convicted and sent to jail.”–our-law-is-not-colourblind

Ok, let’s assume you do manage to get registered in spite of some of these things. The bar now appears to be set higher again if you want to work with MSD as part of the re-structure to the Ministry of Vulnerable Children actively weeding out staff with a vulnerable background and replacing experienced New Zealand social workers with Canadian, British or South African imports. Then add into this mix the stringent new Vulnerable Children’s Act vetting policy. Basically, if you’ve ever ‘f’ed up, no matter the circumstances or length of time passed since, you’re out.

Finally, if you are one of the lucky few that qualify to become a registered social worker, here’s the kicker; you can’t un-register. So if you can’t find a position as a social worker and have to work in a lower paid role such as a support worker, you still have to pay your APC of $380 per annum or run the risk of being investigated (in case you are using any of your social work skills and knowledge in your low paid job.) And should you find yourself the subject of such an investigation there’s a good chance you will also find yourself named and shamed in the Social Work Registration Board newsletter. I have had the rationale for this explained to me in this way “we can’t allow NGO’s to employ someone for their social work skills and refuse to pay for their registration”. Those naughty, greedy NGO’s, they’re always on the take aren’t they. Please follow the link below to the example downloaded from the SWRB Website.


But seriously, what’s the up-shot of all of this? Fewer Måori Social Workers eligible to train and / or practice. And if we think back to what the ground-breaking report Puao Te Ata tu (1988) had to say on the largely white-streamed department, it gives us insight into the impact policy like this is going to have some 40 years later.

“The most insidious and destructive form of racism, though, is institutional racism. It is the outcome of monocultural institutions, which simply ignore and freeze out the cultures of those who do not belong to the majority. National structures are evolved which are rooted in the values, systems and viewpoints of one culture only. Participation by minorities is conditional on their subjugating their own values and systems to those of “the system” of the power culture.”

“One of the major criticisms of the Department concerned the numbers of Maori people employed. People believed that more Maori people, particularly mature people, well grounded in both Maori and Pakeha lifestyles were needed in both the front line and as decision makers. Maori staff often complained that they were used as window dressing and expected to share the knowledge of their culture whenever required without having this knowledge recognized as a work-related skill.”

“Because of the insistence on academic qualifications for many positions in the Department, Maori people saw this as effectively locking the gate against Maori applicants. People asked for qualifications to be interpreted broadly. Life experience, fluency in Maori language and ability to relate to another cultural group should be qualifications for certain positions. These skills should be recognized in classification, salary and grading. “

The question I have then is this? Do we really think that making social work education longer, more expensive and less accessible, in addition to increasingly tighter restrictions around who will meet the requirements for registration, is going to enhance the integrity of our profession?

In thinking about my other role as a frontline social worker I find I feel even more confused. My role involves working with women who are vulnerable, pregnant or have small children who are struggling with addiction and mental illness. Many of these women will be impacted by the multi-generational trauma associated with colonisation. They will be impacted by poverty, lack of meaningful opportunity, lack of participation in the mainstream “legitimate” capitalist culture of non-Måori. It will be my job to support these women to make change in their lives, so that hopefully the “cycle” will end their and their babies will grow up loved, cared for and happy. Good goal to have.

So how does this get achieved? Well, ideally being able to work systemically, having the time and space to work with the multi-faceted issues impacting the woman, her whanau, hapu and iwi if necessary. Having the time to understand and harness the strengths within the whanau to make lasting change. But here’s why I’m afraid that won’t work; the Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

I would like to highlight the two most problematic areas for those of us who want to ensure that tamariki Måori aren’t transacted through the system in greater numbers than ever.

The removal of the “whanau first” provision from the Act means that Social Workers are no longer compelled by the Act to seek placement within whånau, hapu or iwi (although I have been reassured that it’s “encouraged” I am not encouraged). This may seem subtle but it is not when it is coupled with the addition of an amendment, which states that “if a child is removed from the care of the whanau, then permanency within a loving stable home should be achieved at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Reflect for a moment on the fact that the Ministry is overwhelmingly staffed by Påkehå and Tau iwi social workers who even if they do understand the intrinsic importance of whakapapa to a Måori child, may not have the skills to do this (remembering that Måori Social Workers are not going to be coming through in greater but smaller numbers). Combine this with the new preference for hiring Canadian, English and South African Social Workers in the Ministry, who may or may not be skilled social workers, but I seriously doubt are competent and capable whakapapa chasers. This work takes time, it requires a deep appreciation of the importance of whakapapa within te ao Måori, and it is information given and received only in the presence of trust.

Let’s say that you are working with a Mum who hasn’t managed to make adequate changes in her life before baby comes along. And that through good relationship building and focusing on strengths within the whånau, you have found a whånau member who is willing and able to love and care for baby in the interim. This whånau member must be fully cognizant of the fact that they will be thoroughly vetted, police checked, and monitored if they are to receive any financial resources for the care of that baby through the Ministry. Any previous convictions are looked at; a raft of information is gathered (which now also can be shared with the new data sharing requirements of the Act about to come into law). And not only is the whånau member vetted but their mates are too. Anyone who will visit the house regularly. I am genuine when I ask this question. Who would seriously want this level of intrusion in their lives? I would think twice about it whether I had anything to “hide” or not.

The risk of not finding suitable kin-placement however is now amplified with the clearly stated intent within the amendment of the Act which relates to achieving permanency within a loving stable home at the earliest possible opportunity. This equates to fast-tracking children to permanency. It isn’t stated implicitly in the Act what these timeframes will be exactly but it is underpinned by the belief that a permanent loving home is better for a child than temporary care regardless of whether the home is kin or not. Now someone cynical might construe this as being driven by fiscal goals rather than what is best for the child because when permanency is achieved, financial contributions for the child’s care from the State ends. I have been told by Ministry workers that the guidelines are 6 months for a baby and 12 months for an older child. Also when permanency is achieved that is the end of any hope that the child will ever return to the care of their mother.

So when I think about the kinds of young women I will be working with, women with multiple, complex issues affecting their ability to be a stable, loving parent at that time and knowing that making real and lasting change takes time because overcoming addiction, trauma and abuse is not something that happens overnight. It could take Mum 6 months to a few years to get her life back on track. But under the new amendments her chances of being able to get baby back at the end of it are nil if permanency has been achieved. Unless she gets her shit sorted within a prescribed timeframe she will never get to be a mother to her own child.

This is the space we now have to work in between. And it’s going to be tight, my prediction is at times it’s going to feel like we just have a finger in the dyke. Holding back the wall of harm, which feels like a State determined to punish women, and babies who only need time, resources and support. What does that do to her? What does it do to the child? The whånau, hapu and iwi? It perpetuates and reinforces the myth that Måori are intrinsically in-capable parents, it also denies the impact of historical trauma and it re-traumatises another generation. The State has become the abuser.

At a personal level I know exactly what it does. I am adopted, both of my children came into my care via the Ministry and my partner grew up in state care. I have lived with the loss, the complexity and the hurt of not knowing anyone you look like, not knowing why you do the things you do, where your mannerisms came from. I’ve seen it in my girls even when their connection to their birthparents was retained; it is still not the same. When whakapapa is severed it damages your physical and mental health at a primal level and it’s a long road back to strong sense of self from there, more often than not via addiction, incarceration and mental health issues.

So my hope is that as a team of social workers we can hold the space. That we can work in a way where risk to baby is not denied but openly discussed and managed. Where alternate care within whanau, hapu and iwi is recognised as being best for baby (if baby really can’t be with mum) but also resourced accordingly and with open-ness and trust, and where potential whanau carers are not afraid to put their hands up. Where Mum could have the time and space to address the root cause of her pain, to heal, to grow, to learn and where eventually she becomes a leader and mentor to other Mums. Where there is always hope for tamariki Måori to return fully to their birthright, their whakapapa, their true home.

In writing about and discussing these racist, oppressive policies with every social worker, politician and student whom I come into contact with, I’ve realised that co-mingling with my self-doubt and confusion is a small but growing sense, that maybe being a dog with a bone, someone who won’t shut up or just live with it, is in fact an OK place to be. Maybe I am meant to be here after all.

Yeah, fuck it. I’m not going anywhere. Too much to do!

By Annie Joass

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If that isn’t institutional racism, what is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As she writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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