It’s not often when you’re watching television when you see a news item and you cheer and think 'well that’s about time', but it happened last night.
I was watching TVNZ's Sunday programme and Jehan Casinader was presenting a piece on Oranga Tamariki. But it wasn’t like the media we’ve been seeing on the child agency lately. It was covering the thorny issue of child uplifts but this time from the point of view of social workers.
This is something that has been sorely missing ever since Melanie Reid's 40 minute video of an attempted uplift in Hawkes Bay in June. That video shocked many and provoked a series of protests around the country.
At these protests social workers have been labelled as baby snatchers and kidnappers and accused of creating a new “stolen generation”. It’s become a nationwide movement calling for the state to stop stealing Maori children and the protests are being led by Maori including elders such as Tariana Turia.
We now have 4, count them 4, reviews of Oranga Tamariki and most are centring on the role of Maori whanau in these children’s survival.
So Jehan’s piece showed a Bay Of Plenty Oranga Tamariki agency going into lockdown because of protesters threats and the fears for the social workers safety. This is a deep irony. Our kids are safe in our hands but social workers are not. Violence runs deep.
But what made me whoop is when we finally heard from Maori social workers who were defending themselves and the agency against the non stop negative press the protesters and the media have summoned against them.
In their own words these Maori social workers explained how they are proud to work for Oranga Tamariki.
How they are developing new models of care, built on tikanga Māori. How they support vulnerable children and reunite them, safely, with their whanau.
And how they already partner with iwi to allow children from those iwi to be diverted away from the state-run system. Another programme is being launched this week with Tainui.
We see the danger they put themselves in by caring for kids in dangerous homes. The fear and the dread as they approach a broken home.
One social worker on the programme said that social workers are accused of destroying families. But, she says, families are already destroyed when we get there.
Another said that if Maori really what to improve the situation for vulnerable kids then they should direct their anger towards the real cause of child abuse which he said was the 3 Ps: poverty piss and P not Oranga Tamariki
The media on this has all been one sided from Melanie Reid's documentary which purposefully left out half the story and then the coverage of all the protests. The squeaky wheel of the protesters has been heard far too much on this issue as if we forgot that there’s two sides to every story.
So well done to Jehan and the brave social workers he spoke to. And to the social workers that are making a positive difference in New Zealand, I thank you. Because it is thankless work that not enough people acknowledge.