A Voice From the Ambulance at the Bottom of the Cliff

Dr Lance O’Sullivan is a doctor from Kaitaia, Northland. He is also an author, public speaker and public health advocate. Recently he explained why he supports Oranga Tamariki’s policy of uplifting children. His view is in complete contrast to Rihi Te Nana and others who think that the answer to Maori child deaths is to create a Maori system and to have Maori control over tamariki rather than the state.

[…] Dr O’Sullivan said he’s got different views on the situation based on his previous work as a doctor in Northland.

“Children must always be safe and whatever that takes, I have looked after a baby who was murdered during my time I was an emergency doctor in Kaitaia.

“Two-year-old child was killed, murdered by her mother, I spent two hours trying to save her and she died in the CT scanner at Auckland Starship hospital.

“I have been traumatised by that, by child abuse in New Zealand, the first question always has to be the safety of the child.”

He said his opinions on Oranga Tararimki may differ from others that have been expressed in the media recently, as he’s of the belief the service should be beefed up.

“I think it’s a vastly underfunded underresourced service.

“It should have the powers of the police, of the GCSB, of Ministry of Social Development, health and education all rolled into one…

In other words, he wants more power to protect children from their abusive families. Oranga Tamariki does not need to do things differently they simply need to be better resourced to do what they are already doing.

“They need four times the budget than what they’ve got at the moment, I think if I know of a child that’s in an at-risk environment they should be removed as soon as possible.”

How refreshing to read about someone who isn’t interested in the politics of the situation or the optics of what they do, he just wants to save the child.

It’s disappointing to see the current abuse the agency is facing, rather than focusing on ensuring the safety of children, Dr O’Sullivan said.

“When I had this child die in Kaitaia two years ago I would have loved to have had a rally, I would love to have had a hui and had all the leading names of Maoridom come along to protest and cry out about the death of another Maori child, there was no such thing.

“I think I would like to see greater effort put into preventing child deaths than attacking an agency that to be honest has been set up to fail.”

Cartoon credit: SonovaMin