Eye-open­ing day in the life of Tama

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

An­other child mur­dered, Hinekawa Topia – one of triplets. And the fa­ther who killed her also ad­mits wound­ing an­other of her twom­onth-old sib­lings in the three weeks be­fore Hinekawa died of head in­juries at Whanganui in the weeks af­ter last Christ­mas.

Thomas Ta­matea Ariki-Nui McGre­gor will be sen­tenced in the Whanganui Court in the week be­fore this Christ­mas.

McGre­gor and his then-part­ner Tif­fany Topia took Hinekawa to Whanganui Hos­pi­tal af­ter she stopped breath­ing. She couldn’t be re­vived and an au­topsy found a nonac­ci­den­tal head in­jury.

So much about it, so ter­ri­bly fa­mil­iar. Again and again. Year af­ter year.

What sort of life lies ahead for the two sur­viv­ing triplets?

Read­ing it, I was re­minded of the Auck­land and Waitem­ata district health boards’ joint sub­mis­sions to Par­lia­ment’s Maori Af­fairs Se­lect Com­mit­tee In­quiry into ‘‘the de­ter­mi­nants of well­be­ing for Maori chil­dren’’, March 2012: From that text: E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga karangarangatanga tan­gata Ko Ta­maki Makau­rau tenei E mihi atu nei ki a koutou, Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou ka­toa.

Ki a tatou tini mate, kua tangi­hia, kua mi­hia kua ea

Ra­tou, ki a ra­tou, haere, haere, haere.

Ko tatou enei nga kanohi ora ki a tatou

Ko tenei te kau­papa, Hauora Maori, mo a tatou tamariki

Hei huarahi puta, hei ha­pai tahi mo tatou Hei oranga mo te ka­toa. No reira tena koutou, koutou, tena tatou ka­toa.

To the au­thor­ity, and the voices, of all peo­ple within the com­mu­ni­ties. We send greet­ings to you all.

We ac­knowl­edge the spir­i­tu­al­ity and wis­dom of those who have crossed beyond the veil. We farewell them. We of to­day, who con­tinue the as­pi­ra­tions of yes­ter­day to en­sure a healthy to­mor­row for our chil­dren, of­fer you greet­ings.

Em­bark­ing on a jour­ney through a path­way that re­quires your sup­port to en­sure suc­cess for all.

In both Waitem­ata and Auck­land DHBs, many ill­nesses that Maori chil­dren suf­fer are avoid­able. Be­fore birth, Maori pepi (ba­bies) are more likely to suf­fer from poverty, low dis­pos­able fam­ily in­come, re­duced ac­cess to an­te­na­tal care and ex­po­sure to cig­a­rette smok­ing.

Maori pepi are less likely to live to cel­e­brate their first birth­day than Euro­pean and other New Zealand ba­bies, due to higher rates of pre­ma­ture birth, low birth weight, sud­den in­fant death, and death from in­jury.

Maori pepi and tamariki (chil­dren) are more likely to be ad­mit­ted

tena to hos­pi­tal for a pre­ventable ill­ness, eg, whoop­ing cough, rheumatic fever. Taita­mariki (teenagers) are more likely to be ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal and to die of in­jury.

Maori child mor­tal­ity is mostly as­so­ci­ated with res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases, in­jury and sud­den in­fant death – and most re­cently abuse.

Ill­ness comes largely as a re­sult of so­cial-re­lated be­hav­iours and cir­cum­stances. This is true – the name has been changed to pro­tect his pri­vacy.

Tama is a 21-year-old Maori liv­ing in West Auck­land. Born to a young mum, he didn’t know his fa­ther as a child.

Tama re­mem­bers sleep­ing rough in bus shel­ters at 2, ex­po­sure to Child Youth and Fam­ily ser­vices, and has lived with var­i­ous rel­a­tives, shift­ing fre­quently dur­ing his child­hood. He didn’t com­plete high school and is unem­ployed.

Tama has four step­broth­ers and two step­sis­ters. He is the fa­ther of three chil­dren, aged 4 and 2 and 2 months old. Tama now lives with his step­fa­ther and three step­broth­ers in West Auck­land af­ter a pe­riod rough sleep­ing in a car un­der a bridge.

Tama’s part­ner and chil­dren live be­tween Tama’s step­fa­ther’s house in West Auck­land and her fa­ther’s in South Auck­land. Tama and his part­ner don’t have a car or phone. His house­hold doesn’t have a car. Two ben­e­fi­cia­ries within Tama’s house­hold sup­port six adults and four chil­dren.

Tama’s 2-year-old suf­fers from asthma. When the lit­tle boy be­came un­well Tama took him to the lo­cal gen­eral prac­tice.

On re­turn, he was un­clear what, if any, spe­cific ad­vice or in­struc­tion the doc­tor had given. Three hours later his son be­gan to cough in­ces­santly and be­came dis­tressed.

At 8.30pm Tama asked a neigh­bour to drive him and his sick son to an ac­ci­dent and med­i­cal clinic.

Tama had never been to a clinic be­fore. His son was pre­vi­ously ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal for asthma.

Tama is shy and ad­mits feel­ing un­com­fort­able in the clinic set­ting. He ad­mits to feel­ing whakama (em­bar­rassed) if he strug­gles to un­der­stand some­thing dur­ing a clin­i­cal con­sul­ta­tion.

Tama’s neigh­bour helps him fill forms and tells re­cep­tion that the child is strug­gling to breathe.

The re­cep­tion­ist says un­der-6s are free but there may be charges for the child if the neb­u­liser is used.

Nei­ther Tama nor his neigh­bour have any money with them.

The nurse in­tro­duces her­self. The neigh­bour ex­plains that Tama’s the fa­ther, the mother is at home car­ing for small chil­dren, hence the neigh­bour be­ing there for sup­port.

The nurse speaks di­rectly to the neigh­bour. The 2-year-old has very low oxy­gen lev­els and a high heart rate. A doc­tor is called to the child straight away. The boy is given ven­tolin with a neb­u­liser.

The 2-year-old re­sponds well to the ven­tolin neb­u­liser. The neigh­bour asks ques­tions and dis­cusses the an­swers with Tama.

He be­comes more re­laxed and re­spon­sive with the nurse who of­fers to show him how much ven­tolin can be ad­min­is­tered overnight, what to watch for and in what cir­cum­stances Tama must seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion for his son.

The nurse dis­cusses the three other med­i­ca­tions pre­scribed.

Tama is whakama (em­bar­rassed) be­cause he has no money to pay for the pre­scrip­tion.

Tama’s child im­proves sig­nif­i­cantly. On the drive home, Tama thanks his neigh­bour and ex­plains that he is un­com­fort­able in such set­tings be­cause he of­ten doesn’t un­der­stand. Tama thinks that some­times he is treated dif­fer­ently to other par­ents in clin­i­cal/hos­pi­tal set­tings as he is young and Maori.

Many of the most vul­ner­a­ble Maori chil­dren are chil­dren of young par­ents, not un­like Tama. They are dis­ad­van­taged ed­u­ca­tion­ally and eco­nom­i­cally – enough money to pay for food and power is an on­go­ing chal­lenge.

They have no ac­cess to trans­port or phones and are transient, liv­ing in of­ten over­crowded mul­ti­ple dwellings. Ac­cess to health ser­vices con­tin­ues to be a sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier for many Maori whanau.

Is this the life the sur­viv­ing Whanganui triplets, and so many like them, face? And the life their fa­ther lived be­fore he be­came a statis­tic – as a child mur­derer.

What is our an­swer?

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