Marchers call for family support first

Carrying placards and singing waiata, about 100 protesters marched up Princes St, Dunedin, yesterday to press home the message ''Hands Off Our Tamariki''.

Led by a police car with flashing lights, the marchers filled the northbound lane walking from the Exchange to the lower Octagon, where they further sang and discussed their concerns for about 80 minutes, until about 3pm.

About 40 pupils from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Otepoti, a Maori immersion school at Fairfield, joined the march, flanked protectively by adults.

The Dunedin protest was among several recent protests throughout the country, including yesterday outside Parliament in Wellington.

There, one of the protesters, Dame Tariana Turia, said that Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children must immediately cease its uplift of Maori children.

Dunedin protest co-ordinator Kylie Taggart said the Dunedin march and rally had helped to raise community awareness of the need for Oranga Tamariki to stop seizing children, and for more support to be provided to enable children to be retained within whanau, hapu or iwi.

Dunedin protest co-ordinator Kylie Taggart at the head of yesterday's Hands Off Our Tamariki protest march in Dunedin. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Dunedin protest co-ordinator Kylie Taggart at the head of yesterday's Hands Off Our Tamariki protest march in Dunedin. Photo: Gregor Richardson

''It was great. We had a lot of support,'' Ms Taggart said of the protest.

''It's given us a really good platform to start from,'' she added.

''What we're looking for mainly here in Dunedin is the wraparound supports that should be in place'' before any thought was given to taking away children.

Stronger and more holistic family services were needed, and the seizing of children was clearly an issue for Pakeha as well as Maori, she said.

One of the protesters, Piupiu Maya Turei (26), who is expecting her first baby in September, said: ''I started having nightmares'' about having her child taken by Oranga Tamariki, after an attempt to seize a baby in Hastings in May.

Another Dunedin resident, James Makoare, who moved to Dunedin from the North Island in 2017, said he had three children, the oldest of them 5 years old, and he had also had similar nightmares.

Ms Turei appreciated the support gained from fellow protesters.

''Because other people are also concerned, it helps me to relieve the anxiety.

''Now it's not just me.''

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