New Zealand’s Maori protest over ‘stolen chil­dren’

Fiji Sun - - Aust/nz News - Welling­ton: ne­­[email protected]­

Thou­sands of Maori peo­ple protested across New Zealand last Tues­day calling for an end to the prac­tice of tak­ing at-risk chil­dren away from their fam­i­lies, as ten­sions grow be­tween the indige­nous com­mu­nity and the Gov­ern­ment. Chil­dren fac­ing harm have been moved into state care for decades de­spite crit­i­cism from many Maori peo­ple, who be­lieve the process is racially skewed and a legacy of coloni­sa­tion.

Most of the chil­dren taken into state care are Maori. News­room, an on­line news site, re­ported re­cently that of­fi­cials from the chil­dren’s min­istry, called Oranga Tamariki, tried to take a new-born baby away from her mother in hos­pi­tal.

The re­port sparked pub­lic out­rage and is po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing for Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern, who is known glob­ally for her com­pas­sion­ate style of gov­ern­ing but is also ac­cused by her crit­ics of ig­nor­ing do­mes­tic is­sues.

Tues­day’s protest co­in­cided with an­other stand-off with thou­sands of Maori pro­test­ers in Auck­land, New Zealand’s largest city, over plans to build a hous­ing project on land they be­lieve is sa­cred. Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers gath­ered in front of par­lia­ment last Tues­day shout­ing slo­gans and car­ry­ing plac­ards that said: “Hands off our tamariki” - the Maori word for chil­dren. Protests were also held in other ma­jor cities.

Pro­test­ers call the chil­dren New Zealand’s “stolen gen­er­a­tion” - a ref­er­ence to indige­nous Aus­tralians forcibly taken from their fam­i­lies as chil­dren un­der an of­fi­cial pol­icy of as­sim­i­la­tion. Oranga Tamariki said in a re­port last week more than a hun­dred chil­dren had been harmed while in state care in the first three months of the year.

The twin dis­putes present a chal­lenge for Ms Ardern’s Labour-led coali­tion, which needs to keep its Maori vot­ers ahead of an elec­tion next year.

Maori seats are part of Labour’s sup­port base and played a big part in Ms Ardern’s 2017 elec­tion win, said Bryce Ed­wards, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor at Welling­ton’s Vic­to­ria Univer­sity.

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