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Malachi Subecz death: Te Pāti Māori renews calls for heads to roll

Author
Adam Pearse, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 21 Oct 2022, 3:26pm

Malachi Subecz death: Te Pāti Māori renews calls for heads to roll

Author
Adam Pearse, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 21 Oct 2022, 3:26pm

Te Pāti Māori is renewing calls to sack Kelvin Davis as Minister for Children and introduce mandatory reporting of abuse following the death of 5-year-old Malachi Subecz.

Malachi died in hospital of his injuries on November 12, 2021, following repeated abuse by his caregiver Michaela Barriball.

An investigation by Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier found Oranga Tamariki failed to take the "bare minimum" action over safety concerns about Malachi after his wider whānau raised concerns about his welfare at the hands of his carer.

"I can only describe Oranga Tamariki's response as a litany of failures," Boshier said.

This week in the House, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi asked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern if she would ask for Davis' resignation "given that no officials have been stood down, let alone fired".

Ardern said she would not. She said they were awaiting the practice review, but she would also always draw a distinction over what it was the minister held personal responsibility for.

Now, Te Pāti Māori's other co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is again calling for Davis' resignation from the children's portfolio.

"This week, when we called on Minister Davis to resign, we provoked the ire of Māori ministers in Government. How dare we demand accountability for our mokopuna?

"Until we are given transparency, until Kelvin Davis stops withholding information as to exactly what went wrong and how he will fix it, we have no faith in him as a minister.

"Oranga Tamariki is fundamentally broken and needs to be dismantled. Until then, we demand changes and for Minister Kelvin Davis to step down."

Minister for Children Kelvin Davis. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Minister for Children Kelvin Davis. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Davis said what happened to Subecz was reprehensible.

"No child should ever be subjected to abuse. I am determined to get to the bottom of this, and have been from the outset.

"There are reviews underway. I have not seen a draft of either, and it would be inappropriate for me as Minister to be involved in any of the drafting process.

"Since becoming Minister for Children I have worked to change [Oranga Tamariki]. These changes are not simple or easy, but are necessary for turning this waka around for our tamariki; this includes devolving decision-making and resources to communities."

Ngarewa-Packer also voiced her support for enforcing mandatory reporting requirements on Oranga Tamariki to ensure when abuse occurred, police were notified.

"If Oranga Tamariki had done their job they would have found a history of abuse and immediately initiated a safety check," she said.

"Instead, they ignored all of his whānau's concerns even after receiving photographs of facial bruising inflicted by the hands his caregiver.

"Oranga Tamariki failed in their legal obligations to report this abuse to the police and then continued to stand by their inaction."

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Oranga Tamariki has been approached for comment.

Ngarewa-Packer alleged that 11 middle management roles within Oranga Tamariki had been "disestablished" following Malachi's death.

She questioned whether that had been done in lieu of systemic change.

"Will this just be another incident where staff take the blame so the Government can wash its hands of any blood and continue as normal?"

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