A report on the experience of whānau in the Family Court recommends changing the behaviour of the Judiciary and professionals involved in the Justice system, and ensuring professionals working in the court have a sound knowledge of Tikanga and te reo Māori.
The report - Te Taniwha I Te Ao Ture-Ā-Whānau - Whānau Experience of Care and Protection in the Family Court – has received the full support of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa – the Maori Law Society.
The report covers experiences of whānau Māori in Family Court proceedings throughout Aotearoa under the care and protection provisions of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. Care and protection proceedings involve decisions about the risk of harm to children and young people, including whether they should be taken into state care.
“The personal stories shared in this report shines a light on the lived experiences of whānau Māori in our judicial system, in particular the Family Court jurisdiction,” says Stephanie Northey, on behalf of Te Hunga Rōia Māori.
“The reports highlights the need for whānau-centered and tikanga Māori-based approaches in order to bring about opportunities for transformative change. It also provides very practical and tangible options that provide a way forward through solutions that embrace the partnership envisaged by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
The report proposes three options towards transformational change.
The first focusses on changing the behaviour of the Judiciary and professionals involved in the justice system, including ensuring the attainment of a sound knowledge of Tikanga and te reo Māori as non-negotiable for professionals working in the Family Court.
The second option is to hold Family Court proceedings on a Saturday which allows for more whānau to attend and be part of the solution.
The third proposal requires the Government, Iwi and the community to establish a board, comprising at least 50% Māori members, which will facilitate care and protection proceedings in place of the Family Court.
“Time for change is upon us. Māori are disproportionately represented throughout the Justice System in Aotearoa. Tamariki Māori make up only 25% of all children in Aotearoa, however, they represent 68% of the children in state care,” says Ms Northey.
“We cannot ignore the grim statistics any longer and immediate action must be taken to rectify this situation for tamariki Māori and our whānau. Whānau have spoken and provided very clear feedback that the current Family Court system is not working and have provided recommendations which must be implemented.”