Māori Law Society backs calls for Family Court changes

The recommendations include new approaches to care and protection proceedings

Māori Law Society backs calls for Family Court changes

Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, the Māori Law Society, has voiced full support for the recommendations of a recent report that calls for “comprehensive” and “urgent” changes to how whānau are treated in the Family Court.

The report, Te Taniwha I Te Ao Ture-ā-Whānau, Whānau Experience of Care and Protection in the Family Court, reveals first-hand experiences of whānau in care and protection proceedings, which involve decisions about the risk of harm to children and young people, including whether they should be taken into state care.

“The personal stories shared in this report shines a light on the lived experiences of whānau Māori in our judicial system, in particular the Family Court jurisdiction,” said Stephanie Northey, The Law Shop director, on behalf of Te Hunga Rōia Māori.

“The report highlights the need for whānau-centered and tikanga Māori-based approaches in order to bring about opportunities for transformative change,” she said. “It also provides very practical and tangible options that provide a way forward through solutions that embrace the partnership envisaged by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Among the report’s main proposals include changing the behaviour of the judiciary and professionals involved in the justice system, and ensuring professionals working in the court have a sound knowledge of Tikanga and te reo Māori.

It also calls for Family Court proceedings to be held on Saturdays, allowing more whānau to attend and “be part of the solution.”

The report also urges the Government, Iwi, and the community to establish a board, comprising at least 50% Māori members to facilitate care and protection proceedings in place of the Family Court.

Despite Tamariki Māori making up only 25% of all children in New Zealand, they represent 68% of children in state care, the report said.

“Time for change is upon us,” Northey said. “Māori are disproportionately represented throughout the justice system in Aotearoa.”

“We cannot ignore the grim statistics any longer and immediate action must be taken to rectify this situation for tamariki Māori and our whanau,” she added. “Whānau have spoken and provided very clear feedback that the current Family Court system is not working and have provided recommendations which must be implemented.”

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