Saturday, June 22

The silence on domestic violence and child abuse by the Māori elite

Earlier this year I wrote a piece, that was a follow-up to one written by Dane Giraud.

After that, I wrote another piece about the need to have the hard conversations.

And yet here I am, banging those same drums….again. 

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything but when you’re this riled up about a topic and have been vocal about it on social media, it makes sense to follow that up and explain further what the issue is, doesn’t it? 

In recent weeks we have seen war break out overseas where innocent lives, including those of children, have been taken. And while the killing of innocent people is always tragic no matter where it happens, in the world a little closer to home at the same time we have also seen news of the homicides of at LEAST 57 children since Oranga Tamariki was created in April 2017.

So shocking is this agency when it comes to the welfare of children, Oranga Tamariki can’t even tell us how many children have been murdered but leaked internal documents show half of these children had a record with Oranga Tamariki before their deaths.

So what is the issue? For me, the issue is, in part, the deafening silence within what has been described at times as the Māori elite.

These are the politicians, media, and well-known types who jump on the bandwagon whilst promoting their “Maoriness” for the next ‘crisis’ that will help line their pockets.

Two prime examples of the ‘Māori elite’ are Mihingarangi Forbes and Te Pāti Māori.

In both cases, these people have remained silent recently over the murders of the children in this country and the failures of Oranga Tamariki.

I’ve gone back through the social media pages of both Mihi and TPM and I can not find one post acknowledging the deaths of baby Ru or any of the other children whose deaths have been subject to this information leak. Yet they seem to have plenty to say when it comes to what is happening with the Israel-Gaza war with calls to stop killing children and cease fire now. TPM even went so far as to make a video that had some people thinking it was about the child abuse that occurs in NZ. If you watch the whole thing you’ll see this is not the case at all.

Again, let me stress that I’m not condoning war and innocent deaths overseas but when people in positions of power use their platforms to grandstand then it needs to be spoken about every time they ignore the issues at home. 

Te Pāti Māori campaigned for votes using Māori children and whanau yet were silent regarding people wanting change to stop whanau closing ranks when a Māori child is murdered, such as what we saw in the Kahui case.

In part, I suspect because they’ve also been vocal in wanting to abolish all prisons by 2040. What is left to do but ‘say nothing and hope the problem goes away’ when you can’t commit to telling your own voter core base you’ll push for tougher prison sentences when you want to rid the country of prisons altogether? 

Mihi, on the other hand, is one I’ve had run-ins before on X. According to her, she doesn’t feel safe discussing Kaupapa Māori on X and yet if you go through her page in the last few weeks you’ll find lots of posts to do with Māori. It seems Mihi picks and chooses what she deems safe Kaupapa Māori based on what she believes or is paid to believe.

A search through Mihi’s X page will show numerous posts about Oranga Tamariki but in recent years things have become less frequent and Oranga Tamariki no longer appears to be under Mihi’s scrutiny like they were in November 2019 when she called OT out for holding a press conference and not inviting The Hui. In the last 3 weeks, she hasn’t mentioned Baby Ru or the leaked Oranga Tamariki documents once. 

John Tamihere, party president of Te Pāti Māori and CEO of Waipareira who, back in December 2003 when he was the Associate Māori affairs minister, called the Māori child abuse statistics a disgrace. 20 years on, he and his party are now silent on child abuse amongst Māori. 

Call me a cynic, a sceptic, or even a conspiracy theorist but it’s hard to believe this silence from these people hasn’t been bought when we take into consideration Mihi has worked and does work for organisations that have benefitted from the Public Interest Journalism Fund set up by Labour or that Waipareira and Whanau Ora (both headed by John) have both financially benefitted from funding Labour made available to them over recent years as well. 

In a recent post Mihi made where someone stated she wouldn’t comment on NZ killing children, her response was to rubbish this claim: she does do stories on DV and child abuse. For me, being paid to do a story on these issues isn’t the same as holding a personal view and calling out this kind of behaviour. It isn’t enough to say “I do stories”. 

What we need are journalists who are going to shine a spotlight on these issues and stop sweeping them under the carpet. If you’re doing these stories, use your personal page to state your personal opinions because it’s important people hear your thoughts on the stories you’re doing, no matter how hard that truth may be to hear. If we don’t get honest and shine a light on these issues, how are we supposed to fix them? Time constantly proves ignoring the issues doesn’t fix them.

What we need are politicians who are going to take child abuse and domestic violence seriously and set laws in place that currently see criminals get little more than a slap on the hand with a wet bus ticket because far too often we are seeing violent criminals get off lightly who then go on to commit further violent crimes. Or we see cases like the Kahui twins where the whanau close ranks and nobody has been punished for it. This kind of behaviour needs to be stopped and lawmakers have the ability and need to make it happen. 

Bring in a 3 strikes law that would see criminals have to do their full sentence after 3 convictions. Encourage the justice system to make use of section 116 of the Crimes Act which carries a 7-year maximum term for conspiring to defeat justice and charge family for not cooperating in a homicide inquiry. 

Domestic violence and child abuse don’t discriminate and aren’t a Māori only issue but when Māori are used by politicians and media like TPM and Mihi, it’s only fair that these people are called out when something negative happens with Māori people and they stay silent. 

Papa Pita Sharples was right back in 2006 when he slammed the Kahui whanau and I have no doubt that were he still in politics today we would have a far different Māori Party than we do as Te Pāti Māori. Papa spoke about the silence of the Kahui whanau. He spoke of the shame these crimes bring on all Māori and I know he wouldn’t have shied away from speaking on recent matters either. I would even venture so far as to say he would be ashamed of Te Pāti Māori for their silence.

One of the biggest things I was taught in life was to make sure you clean your own backyard before looking over the fence at your neighbours. 

It seems there are those who weren’t taught the same lesson.