Great dames set their sights on social welfare ministry

A case has been filed in the Waitangi Tribunal by Lady Tureiti Moxon on behalf of the National Māori Urban Authority, supported by the dames who fronted the Oranga Tamariki case.

Speaking exclusively to Te Ao Mārama, Moxon says taking the claim up with the tribunal is the only option for Māori to be heard. She was speaking for Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Turiana Tuira, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Merepeka Raukawa Tait.

“The benefit has never been enough. To actually keep a family clothed, a roof over their head, food on the table or being able to pay their bills, never. They've always had to struggle,” she said.

The claim addresses the Crown's failure to acknowledge the historic issues of loss of land and culture and the overarching effects of colonisation.

She says the benefits system and processes have been harmful to Māori over generations.

“For a lot of people going on the benefit is actually quite a traumatic experience. It's quite traumatic. And yet they're made to feel even worse about that, that they're undeserving of a benefit, undeserving of being able to participate,” she said.

“It's how we're viewed, how Māori are viewed, that we're just takers, we never give anything. Cripes, we gave this whole country over,” she says.

Devolve power

Moxon made an application to have the case heard under urgency but this was denied.

“They've said that basically they're trying to do something, they're trying to work on it. We've been hearing that for 100 years.”

As with Oranga Tamariki, the solution for the dames is devolving power and resources.

“The only way we can change the whole system is by allowing Māori to take care of themselves and by sharing resources by splitting it 50-50.”

The dames are clear on the big job ahead but what continues to drive their efforts is the overall health and wellbeing of Māori. Moxon acknowledges the years of work put in by the dames.

“They've seen what's been going on with our people. We've all seen it, whether it's in health in terms of health inequities, whether it's in Oranga Tamariki stealing our children, whether it's in MSD keeping our people under the poverty line. Whatever it is, it's wrong.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni today declined to comment.

However, given the benefit increases that came into effect today and with 50% of Māori children still living in homes where a benefit is the primary source of income, Moxon believes there is a lot to be done to pull whānau out of poverty.