Oranga Tamariki and Maori Whanau Wellbeing

NZAP press release

Minister for Children, Honourable Tracey Martin, stated on RNZ recently that Oranga Tamariki would have to partner with Iwi to provide safe homes for children in state care. Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft called this “a revolution in the way the State honours Treaty obligations with Māori in respect with care of children”.

New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists Spokesperson, Lynne Holdem, said: “NZAP welcomes the direction of this morning’s announcement and Oranga Tamariki’s commitment to consult with iwi regarding the tamariki apparently in need of care and protection.”

“Psychotherapists hope that the new policies are resourced with sufficient funding to allow iwi, and other community organisations, to pay providers and clinicians skilled and knowledgeable in matauranga Māori and in family therapy, trauma resolution and attachment behaviour,” Holdem said.

“Tertiary education systems need to do better to prepare health practitioners to respond much more competently to the needs of whanau Maori, tamariki and mokopuna. Building health workforce capability begins at our training institutions.”

“Many therapists trained in Family Therapy are now at retirement age. Training institutions such as the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy training at AUT offer preparation for the kind of early intensive intervention that is needed but predominantly Pakeha graduates may still lack ability to connect with Maori and do not have the deep experience and knowledge that makes for true cultural competency. Courses like this need to be funded elsewhere in Aotearoa and young people given incentives to attend them,” said Holdem.

“A greater investment in Kaupapa Maori research, curriculum development and design to produce the workforce could bring about change and greater accountability from professionals and organisations in terms of Te Tiriti obligations and a preparedness for Maori led initiatives. When this becomes much more visible in our society perhaps then and only then will Maori be able to trust in the services provided,” stated Holdem.

“We are calling for investment in resources and training so vulnerable parents and families, are supported by psychotherapists, counsellors and social workers who have an understanding of the value of Maori tikanaga, matauranga and whakapapa to heal trauma and can also recognise the needs of each whanau and make interventions that are skilled and culturally attuned,” she continued.

“Many uplifted children, in State care, have difficult behaviours as a result of neglect and trauma so whanau or caregivers need training from child and family therapists to manage emotional escalations in order to give the child a chance to develop secure attachment. This can happen in settings where both the mother and the children are uplifted and the mother supported to address her own trauma and develop reflective capacity and the ability to respond to the needs signalled by the child. Kaupapa Maori organisations, such as Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki or Hoki ki to Rito in South Auckland, could be resourced to provide the intensive wrap around services required by these whanau,” she went on to say.

“A damaged child comes from a damaged whanau and the whole whanau needs a combination of support to enable them to address their basic needs, resolve addiction issues and heal from traumatic experiences so that they may have a greater sense of agency and whanau capability to provide safe home environments for tamariki and mokopuna,” said Holdem.

“NZAP supports the new revolution in Oranga Tamariki and recognises Māori iwi will develop their own responses to help and heal their whanau. Let us hope that government is able to provide sufficient funding for this to be the kind of early, intensive, and wrap around service that will prevent further State uplift of tamariki,” she stated.