Māori input essential to improve youth state residences - Judge Becroft

By Talisa Kupenga

The Children's Commissioner's new State of Care report says significant improvements to the standards of care across the country's nine youth residence facilities are needed.

Judge Andrew Becroft says given the disproportionate number of Māori, a cultural approach would be essential and could benefit all youth in residence.

The Children's Commissioner says a Māori approach would revolutionise the standard of care in youth residence facilities and could be implemented in as little as two years.

Becroft says,"We think there is a real case to institute a Māori lens and a Māori perspective and a Māori basis to how we're delivering this system. We could turn it on its head and it could be delivered with a Māori world view with some European add-ons." 

The report assessed seven secure justice residences from July last year through to March. It monitored the treatment of young people, protection, material conditions, medical services, activities, personnel and responsiveness to young Māori.

"I think it's exciting we've seen this sort of thing in the rangatahi courts where there's been cultural modifications to the process, a change of approach using a marae. I think working with iwi and hapū at the local level working with iwi leaders there'd be every opportunity to construct a model that much more meaningfully engages our tamariki," says Becroft.

The key recommendations include:

  • A clear vision and strategy for all residences.
  • Developing and implementing a strategy to meet the needs of mokopuna Māori.
  • Increased independent monitoring of Oranga Tamariki residences.
  • An external, independent group to advise residences on best practice.

"We once used orphanages and borstals, we closed them down. There's a real question of whether the way we deliver services at present should continue. History I fear may judge us quite harshly,” says Becroft.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children welcomes the report and says work is already underway to address many of the issues raised.