Oranga Tamariki are words Alexandra man Tony Jarvis finds hard to hear.
On Monday, he and five others staged a protest outside the Alexandra office of Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children, as part of nationwide action aimed at getting child uplift issues on to the political agenda in the last week of the election campaign.
Mr Jarvis said he was protesting for a ‘‘stolen generation’’ that he was part of.
He was taken from his mother in 1961, and he claimed to be one of the last Maori babies to be taken in New Zealand under the Adoption Act 1955, which treated Maori in the same way as non-Maori.
The Act led to closed adoption, and thousands of Maori were left with no way of accessing their ancestral roots.
‘‘I find the name Oranga Tamariki offensive, that they can use that when I, as Maori, was stripped of my identity.’’
His childhood was characterised by psychological and physical abuse and mental health issues, including his being institutionalised in Cherry Farm psychiatric hospital for five weeks as a nine-year-old, he said.
No amount of rebranding of the ministry removed the emotional scars. ‘‘They changed their name but they haven’t changed the culture,’’ Mr Jarvis said.
He cited negative coverage of the agency, its processes and management — especially when it came to removing children from their parents.
‘‘I am here taking a stand to stop this barbaric and inhumane practice.’’
Oranga Tamariki lower south regional manager Christine McKenna said the agency acknowledged the small number of people protesting in Alexandra.
‘‘They have every right to protest, and we only ask that they are respectful when doing so.
‘‘We all want the same thing in the end, and that’s for children and young people to be safe.’’
No child was ever removed from their parents unless there were concerns of a serious nature, she said.
‘‘Every hour, about 10 people contact Oranga Tamariki with concerns about a child but only a fraction of those children will come into our care.’’
Oranga Tamariki worked hard to keep children safely at home or with their family wherever possible, and staff came to work determined to keep children and young people safe from harm.
‘‘Protest action can be confronting and upsetting for our staff, as well as children, families and partners visiting our sites and offices.
‘‘Our first priority today has been for their safety and wellbeing.’’