In conjunction with the release of the well-informed Ministry, Oranga Tamariki comes the privately funded care and advocacy service, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai. That provides children with another advocate where they are not sufficiently being listened to or being consulted within the ministry. The idea was proposed at a dinner regarding philanthropic support, governmental support, judiciary support and most significantly the support of care and experienced children. It was set out so that the children of tomorrow, or in actuality it is the children of today, would be able to benefit from the knowledge that no budget cut, no policy change, no political shit storm would change the nature of the advocacy service. that most importantly, the voices of young people would remain the highest priority. That in itself is an incredible thing.
Last Saturday, the 1st of April 2017, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai was launched in Auckland, New Zealand, at a privately owned venue called Woah! Studios. Which I won’t go into too much detail symbolically but it is important to mention that it was started by a man who had this crazy idea to transform a broken down warehouse into an incredible landscape architecture with a functioning auditorium that could seat a few hundred people. Analogically, it could be compared to VOYCE, as being something that has transitioned from being a broken down system and taken into becoming something beautiful, something with momentum and something with a huge capacity and most importantly function.
The launching of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai means that where the Ministry for Vulnerable Children fails to act within its duties to keep the interests of the child at the centre of everything, they can be disputed by law. Part of the process of creating the new advocacy service was designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development. that it was recognition from a governmental point of view that as a system they historically have not done enough to protect the interests of thousands of children in care. That the previous organisation, Child Youth and Family, failed on many occasions to deliver a service that was designed with children at the centre. That the previous system introduced time and time again these patch job excuses, 14 times to be exact over a period of 20 years, rather than stepping down from the horse, recognising that there are significant problems that need to be dealt with from an overhauled perspective, giving the reigns back to the people, as a democracy you would expect that sort of provision in the first damn place, and then finally being consistent and transparent in the service they are providing thousands of children in care.
It’s incredible to see that after such a long time ministers and people in authoritative positions have failed to see how blatantly obvious our problems as a country actually are. That power and money time and time again have been considered more important than human life. That we as a nation have one of the worst track records in the developed world for child abuse both sexually and circumstantially. That as a people we must take responsibility forever over the life interests of our youths in the care of oranga Tamariki. This is the call to arms that has been sent out from last Saturday. That every child under the care of the new Ministry, Oranga Tamariki, be hailed as one of the most significant pieces of change ever made in New Zealand history.
A bit of NZ history. In the early 20th Century, NZ was the first country in the world to allow women voting powers within their elections, then there was the recognition of cultural significance by making Maori officially recognised as one of our national languages, then there was the implication of legalising gay marriage in 2013 which inspired other countries to follow suit, now finally is the implication of a ministry designed for kids, by kids with an advocacy service that returns the Mana of a child back to the child. Mana, meaning power/authority over one’s life. That as a country we are leading the path to kicking ass when it comes to not only our scenery but by recognising that we have a huge problem with looking after our kids. The new advocacy service provides a culmination of years of hard work from amazing people within the new organisation, to the amazing commitments made by philanthropic and corporate entities. Their involvement in the process is truly incredible.
It’s funny that we talk about businesses having a major stake in the procurement of the new advocacy service. It sparks a light in the eyes of right-handed conservatists who think that these businesses have an interest only in profiting from the sustainable image of publicly showing that they care about children. But they do care. In the last few years, these corporations have come to grips with the recognition that there is more to business than money. That their investment in children sparks a trust that encourages leadership development for tomorrow’s voices.
When I took part in a hackathon last year, aimed at the research and creation of a digital platform that children within the care of Oranga Tamariki would be able to connect with the people behind VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai. I was placed in an environment of mixed opinions. Some people were aware of the changes to the ministry, others not so much. It was a huge challenge to many who were there from the various tech departments who had the right heart for the job but didn’t hold the necessary knowledge to be able to tackle such a massive issue, giving a clear path for children in care to be able to have a voice. It was a huge learning kerb for me personally because it meant that I had to be a dynamic part of the change giving my accounts to these people in order to expose the severity of misguided opinions. That the most important thing was knowing that some people, while they themselves are really educated in the normal way of understanding kids in care, that the whole normality was actually the thing in question. That the normativity that had been prescribed to the old ministries way of dealing with things was completely out-dated and utterly misguided. That the next was to finding a positive medium, and that was a huge eye-opener for everybody at the hackathon which was truly a blessing in disguise for me to be a part of.
If we can imagine, that in 20 years, that there are no children in the care of Oranga Tamariki. I just want to point out that this is completely and utterly beautiful. This was the goal set out by the new chief executive of Oranga Tamariki, Grainne Moss. Whose primary target was understanding the needs of young people in care and pro-actively creating a New Zealand without any children in care? That is a pretty fascinating reality. The most impressive part about the entire idea is that with the new ministry, Oranga Tamariki, and the new care advocacy service VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai operating in a functional way, that this idea can seriously become a reality, to a bare minimum take the number of kids in care down from being 5500 all the way down to less than 50. Then that is something I can be proud to have been a part of.
Below is the link to the VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai interviews with the Youth’s who made it all happen.