The Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board report released this week paints a picture of pre-colonisation nirvana. There's a heavy emphasis on Maori because Maori children dominate among OT's caseload, and the Board members are all Maori.
It begins with a section called, TE AU O TE KANOHI MĀORI, which translates as 'The Maori Eye'.
It states "...the reality for tamariki Māori " was they "were nurtured and treasured as the centre, the pito, the magnetic pole of Māori society in pre-colonial times."
"We recognise that of course Māori are not unique in treasuring their tamariki as the strength and centre of their culture and their economy, and of the wealth and health of all their futures. This is a common scenario across humanity and particularly in pre-industrialised economies where the health of the collective was what mattered. It is our view that the processes of colonisation, bringing urbanisation and commodification of people as units of production has broken that down. Inevitably transported to Aotearoa New Zealand with settlers from industrialising Europe, a view of organising family as individual units with tamariki as a subset - and in some Victorian eyes to be seen and not heard - has been imposed."
People were also "units of production" pre-industrialisation. They did back-breaking work in fields and their survival depended on the climate's co-operation. A pining for our agrarian past isn't prevalent among the general population.
Individual family units were not imposed on Maori. For decades Maori remained predominantly rurally-based and lived on and around maraes. But as they moved to the towns and cities for better paying jobs (turning their backs on working as agricultural units of production) they began to arrange themselves similarly to Europeans, just as they had adopted European dress and housing.
The report goes on to complain about the misrepresentation of warrior culture which apparently actually existed for the protection of children.
"An example has been the portrayal of this role as the warmongering, aggressive leader of the community. While the depiction may have become self-fulfilling for some, the primary role of a warrior was to provide for the community and to keep it safe from harm."
Safe from what harm? Other warriors seeking to violently plunder and pillage for starters.
So here we have yet another report which starts from fallacy. Let's be generous. Half-truths.
How Maori lived before colonisation was much better. Children were safer being raised by the collective. Therefore a return to that way of organising Maori society is the solution.
"While the context of the 21st century is different from that of pre-colonisation, views shared with us from hapū, iwi and Māori organisations indicate that these responsibilities and structures must be rebuilt so that the whānau can once again be self-determining."
The Minister Kelvin Davis has accepted every recommendation summarised as:
-Decision making and resources to be shifted to communities, with children and whānau at the centre of the system
-A new operating model, with better support and training for social workers
-Without notice orders (uplifts) to be only used after proper engagement with whānau
I find it ironic that one Maori Minister wants to centralise control for the benefit of Maori (Three Waters) while another seeks to decentralise control for the benefit of Maori (Oranga Tamariki).
Lindsay Mitchell is a welfare commentator who blogs HERE.