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Let whānau lead in kids' care

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OPINION: In 1983 a policy was launched from the departments of Māori Affairs, Social Welfare and Justice, called Matua Whāngai.

It drew on the best practice that generations of Māori have been cared for and nurtured within their extended family kin. Matua Whāngai derived its authority from Māoridom in refocusing on its own cultural strengths. The intentions were clear: take Māori out of institutions and place them into the care of whānau-iwi.

"Whānau means the act of giving birth to, taking care of, or being taken care of, or connecting to. It has active connotations rather than being merely a description of a passive family unit."

Three years later in July 1986, Puao-te-ata-tū landed on the table of then Minister of Social Welfare Ann Hercus. That report promoted a philosophy of self-help; it also gave a name to institutional racism. Chairman John Rangihau concluded: "At the heart of the issue is a profound misunderstanding or ignorance of the place of the child in Māori society and its relationship with whānau, hapū, iwi structures".

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