Care and protection of tamariki Māori in the family court system

Tania Williams, Jacinta Ruru, Horiana Irwin-Easthope, Khylee Quince, Heather Gifford - te Arotahi Series Paper


This paper urges the government and nation to give effect to long-standing Kaupapa Māori models for developing the new required evaluation measures aimed at reducing the disparities for Māori children and young persons who come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children. Section 7AA(2)(a) will soon come into force in the recently amended and renamed Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 / Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989 due to reform measures in 2017. This provision, which is effective from July 2019, has great potential to change care and protection decision-making for tamariki Māori. Section 7AA(2)(a) will require the chief executive of the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children to ensure that the policies and practices of the Ministry have the objective of reducing disparities by setting measurable outcomes for Māori children and young persons who come to its attention.

To realise the opportunity in section 7AA(2)(a), a Kaupapa Māori approach to the Ministry’s evaluation is urgently required to positively disrupt the systemic undermining of Māori and their whānau. This paper provides context to enable better understanding of the opportunities now presented in section 7AA(2) by outlining first our work in Te Ao Māori and then the urgency for reform as illustrated by the statistics. Next, this paper surveys briefly what the Family Court does and the legislation central to this paper before presenting an overview of some key Kaupapa Māori models. A short discussion follows about how some other countries are approaching these issues. The paper concludes with some short notes focused on our suggested approach moving forward.