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Scrapping Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act: An assault on Māori

A guest post by Kendra Cox (Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou)

Last week, Minister for Children Karen Chhour’s Oranga Tamariki (Repeal of Section 7AA) Amendment Bill had its first reading in parliament. Iwi, hapū, hāpori and whānau Māori have been fighting against this possibility since it was put firmly on the agenda when the coalition agreement of the three-headed taniwha was made public late last year. The repeal of 7AA has been a project of Minister Chhour’s and the ACT party since 2022 – and indeed a prior version of the current Bill was voted down by the house without making it to first reading in July 2023.

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The wrecking ball swings

We have just lost 9% of Oranga Tamariki staff in order to help reduce spending so that good Kiwis can get the tax cuts promised by the coalition Government. I am reminded of those pandemic casualty images where 5,000 people are standing in a field and then one in every ten is slowly faded out of view. This image is profoundly disturbing but it is the justification provided by the Minister – that this decimation of the physical and intellectual resouces of our state child protection and youth justice agency will make our ‘at risk’ kids safer – that is truly bizarre: “Hello … ? … is anybody home? … this doesn’t make any sense”, except perhaps in the alternate universe of hard-right ideology. The origin of the word ‘decimation’ lies in ancient times when every tenth soldier was put to death to punish and deter insurrection in rebellious Roman legions. There is an element of truth signalled in this analogy. Public servants are potentially powerful and rebellious.

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Truth matters

I try to tell social work students that they need be aware of the relationship between the big picture of politics and power (the policy settings that influence the way that opportunites and resources are distributed) and the small picture of individual circumstances. We are slow to learn from our history; patterns repeat in slightly altered form and in Aotearoa New Zealand we are on a regressive course politically, with tax cuts and benefit sanctions designed to redistribute wealth upwards to the already wealthy and privileged. In this post I would like to explore some wider questions about the socio-political construction of ‘truth’.

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Unpicking the appeal of the populist right

It does not take a miracle of intellectual analysis to realise that we live in challenging times, locally and globally. Geopolitical tensions are running high in the face of war in Europe, the brutal and unconscionable Israeli assault on the people of Palestine, and the gob-smacking possibilty of a second Trump presidency. This list is not exhaustive and the escalating threat of climate catastrophe looms over us all.

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Saying “No” to a degraded form of social work


A call to action from two social work colleagues involved with Social Workers 4 Change in Ireland. The RSW collective stand in solidarity with them. Please read and sign the petition.