What is a Maori child

Maori protest against "child theft" and construction project

When a 19-year-old gave birth to a son in mid-May at Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings, New Zealand, the joy was short-lived. Without prior notice, employees of Oranga Tamariki, New Zealand's Ministry of Children, showed up at her puerperium to transfer the newborn into government care. The reason: child endangerment. The young mother had only had another baby removed from the authorities the year before under similar circumstances. Now the young woman refused to hand over her child. After tough negotiations between Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for the Welfare of Children and Young People), the police, midwives and the young mother's family, it was decided that she could keep her child - for the time being.

The case highlighted the situation of many Maori families in New Zealand and marked the start of the "Hands Off Our Tamariki" protest movement. Representatives of the indigenous population of New Zealand have long complained about the disproportionately high number of Maori children in state care facilities. The Maori make up about 15 percent of New Zealand's population, but over 60 percent of the children in state care are Maori. Documents show that the Oranga Tamariki picked up an average of three Maori babies less than three months old each week over the past year. That is twice as many children as from non-Moral families.

"Stolen Generation"

Oranga Tamariki uses four indicators to determine whether a child could be at risk. These include the mother's level of education, the family's reliance on state benefits, possible parental prison sentences, and cases of abuse or neglect in the family. In the case of the young mother at Hawke's Bay Hospital, there was talk of domestic violence and the father's daily cannabis use. These are allegations that the families of those affected reject.

Representatives of the "Hands Off Our Tamariki" protest movement criticize the agency's actions as discriminatory. The destruction of Maori families is an aftereffect of colonialism and shows parallels to the treatment of indigenous peoples in other countries. In Australia, until the late 1960s, indigenous children were systematically torn from their families and forcibly integrated into the white majority society. The children affected became known as the "stolen generation". In New Zealand, thousands of Maori protested nationwide on Tuesday against the practices of the Oranga Tamariki, which they perceived as discriminatory. An open letter of protest from Hands Off Our Tamakiri was signed by 17,000 people.

Protest camp against construction project

It wasn't the only Maori protest on Tuesday. At the same time, people took to the streets to demonstrate against a construction project near the city of Auckland. Hundreds of demonstrators pitched their tents in Ihumātao, an area south of Auckland. The site had been Maori settled since the 14th century before a private family bought the land. Since affordable housing is scarce in Auckland, New Zealand's Fletcher Building acquired the site in 2016 with the aim of building several hundred residential buildings there.

Maori representatives reacted to the plans with violent protest, as Ihumātao has a high spiritual, cultural and historical value for them. A protest movement also formed here under the name Soul (Save Our Unique Landscape). Since then, activists have been camping on site to prevent the development. New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered a construction freeze last Friday until a mutually satisfactory solution can be found. The protesters do not believe in that and stay where they are. (Ricarda Opis, July 31, 2019)