Closure of the Kaiwhakaoranga Service is a cruel decision

Jenny Salesa
Wellington, June 10, 2024

The March 15 (2019) Terrorist Attack was such a tragedy for Aotearoa New Zealand, especially for our Muslim community.

In the days, weeks and many months that followed, we came together as a country in support of the victims and their families. It was the right response, and it was noted and admired by many countries because it was quite different to how other nations have dealt with previous terrorist attacks.

Importantly, it seemed we had a shared agreement in our response to the terrorist attack: that it wouldn’t be political, but a deeply personal response, and one centred around the needs of the victims.

It is really unfortunate, though, that this National-led coalition government has little regard for the needs and voices of the victims and their families and has decided to end the Kaiwhakaoranga Specialist Case Management Service from 1 July 2024.

The Kaiwhakaoranga Specialist Case Management Service is led by the Ministry of Social Development to enable members of the affected community to access support, including injured, survivors, witnesses and their whānau affected by the March 15 terrorist attack within the two Christchurch mosques.

The service negotiated on behalf of the affected community with multiple government departments including, but not limited to, ACC, IRD, Immigration NZ, NZ Police, Kāinga Ora and the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice and for Ethnic Communities.

It co-ordinated the service response to remove the difficulties of navigating complicated bureaucratic processes, finding and accessing the right support, language barriers, and the mental stress of navigating government departments after the attack.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 15 March Terror Attack made many recommendations on how the government should support the affected community. One of the recommendations the Labour-led coalition government implemented was the Kaiwhakaoranga Specialist Case Management Service.

Michal Klajban by Wikimedia Commons

Gamal Fouda, the Imam of Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque, has written to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, stating, “The lack of transparency and communication surrounding this decision is not only disappointing but also deeply concerning.”

“It shows a lack of consideration for the survivors’ and their families’ continued hardships and obstacles in the wake of such a horrific incident,” Fouda added.

Insha Aziz, who lost her husband in the attack, said the closure of the Kaiwhakaoranga Specialist Case Management Service was “daunting”. I empathise with Aziz when she expresses that the “grief and challenges of rebuilding our lives after a terrorist attack do not disappear overnight, and ongoing support is necessary”.

ACC support for spouses of victims who were killed has expired for some families, and Kāpuia (the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque attacks) has also closed on 9 June 2024.

I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that our most vulnerable members in society are protected and supported when they need assistance.

Leaving families and victims of the terrorist attack without the support they need is not what we stand for as a country and it is not what we vowed to do after the attack.

It is really disheartening to see the pleas of our Muslim brothers and sisters to the government to provide them with the bare minimum support, when the government themselves should be seeking to understand the affected communities to better assist them.

The affected communities’ needs are serious and ongoing after what they endured on March 15.  Families, children and individuals will undoubtedly struggle to get their lives back on track, and it is not only wrong, but wholly unjust for the government to be abandoning and walking away from the victims at a time when they still desperately need support.

Jenny Salesa is Member of Parliament elected from Otahuhu-Panmure Constituency. She is the Ethnic Communities Spokesperson for the Labour Party and writes a regular Column in Indian Newslink.

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