Eastern Courier : March 16th 2011
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When will this tragic, inhumane bashing and kicking of children stop? This time Ricki Leigh Scott Ngatai kicked his partner's two-year-old son to death for wetting his pants. Another name in this country's role of shame.. Look at the circum- stances. The killer, jailed for a minimum 17 years, was stoned, regularly beaten by his own step- father and believed chil- dren should harden up''. Over the years he had been in a drug scene which normalised brut- ality where violence is not just okay but is downright cool''. His victim Karl Perigo- Check was the youngest of his mother's seven children. He never stood a chance. The real father of little unprotected Karl is doing time for the gang drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua in Wanganui in 2007. Karl's mother was in a secret relationship'' with her son's killer and the pair of them were uncomfortable about who knew''. Presumably because word might get back to her trigger- happy husband in jail and/or his vicious drug gang mates. Heard enough? I cer- tainly have -- time and time again, too often with Maori, drugs and gang involvement. Any child violence is totally unacceptable. But some incidences are much worse than others. From a telling speech by Paula Bennett to Maori leaders last August -- I've filed it as my Bible: Bennett: It's time to face up to the fact that Maori children and Maori babies are being beaten, abused and killed and it's time it stopped. It's time to look within iwi and hapu and have a back-up whanau for children in care. It's time to recognise young women who are heading for a life of des- peration and poor parents -- and turn it around. Let's call it like it is. Let's be clear -- in New Zealand we know that Pakeha hurt and neglect Pakeha kids. Pacific hurt Pacific. And there are Maori who are beating, abus- ing, neglecting and in extreme cases even kill- ing their children at a rate higher than we all want. For me it's not about comparing ethnicities, it's about addressing this most serious of issues at all levels and for all eth- nicities. So leaders I appeal to you all because our babies are being hurt. Last year 56 Maori chil- dren were hospitalised because of abuse. Of nearly 21,000 substan- tiated cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, 11,003 were Maori and four died. Those four dead Maori children account for half of all the child deaths by abuse last year. Only a quarter of New Zealand's children are Maori yet half of the children killed through family violence are Maori. Every five days a child under two is hospitalised because of abuse. Every year eight children are killed by those supposed to love and care for them, often their own family members. Those deaths and that serious abuse is unimaginable. So I'm here to ask you as leaders, our kaumatua of Maoridom, to work with me.'' Paula Bennett then outlined a plan for a much greater involve- ment by whanau and iwi and she said: I need you to help me because I can't do this alone. I am one voice in Cabinet and I need the many voices you can lend within your communities. I want these children in families, not in care. I know you'd like to see more Maori kids placed within their wha- nau and iwi. So how about this? What if we identified whanau now who wanted children and are able to take them? What if we asked iwi to look within themselves and ask what can we do? What if we developed a way to have them checked and ready to go? So children in care now and those in the future don't have to be placed by Child, Youth and Family but can be placed by iwi with iwi who're ready to take them. I want to know if you'll back me in this. AndbythatImean-- will you put your hands in your own pockets and commit some resources to a joint effort? Because, quite frankly, the gov- ernment doesn't have all the money for it right now. But I would like you also to consider being a part of the sol- ution. So I'm putting the ideas on the table here among this circle of leaders. The first one is to fund a whanau finder' in Child, Youth and Family regions. Their role will be to track down external whanau who can play a role in decisions around care for the children. It has the potential to be a powerful tool and I believe will have real results both in increas- ing the number of Maori children placed within whanau or iwi place- ments. Another idea is for Child, Youth and Family to work on new marae- based family group con- ferences for children under nine. Some family confer- ences are already held on marae. But I'm talking about both increasing these numbers and as an option to all whanau with young children. It's really important because it means Maori children are hosted in a culturally appropriate environment and that means something to them. Moving early and get- ting the right services and supports into wha- nau at the centre of the solution before things reach crisis point and helping them work towards independence is absolutely the way to strengthen our whanau. I need you as respected leaders to back me on this, to go back to hapu, iwi and your wha- nau and say it's time to face up to this.'' Paula Bennett is right. These children are not only entitled to the pro- tection of the state but also the aroha of their whanau. The last time I challenged the Maori Party leaders on these deaths, they assured me that some magic com- munity health system, Whanau Ora, was the answer. How? When? And who by? How many more Maori children like little Karl have to die violently before they act?
March 11th 2011
March 18th 2011