In opening the workshop, Secretary of Internal Affairs (Intaff), Anne Herman said for the past two years the Ministry has been trying to establish everything under that act, “it hasn’t been easy because of the implementation that is attached to this act and the big costs involved.”
“We are proud of the Uipa’anga Kopu Tangata (UKT) or family group meetings that have taken place to help families that are going through issues concerning family matters.
We now also have a budget for Care Order or “Care Budget” of $10,000 for families who are looking after children who have been placed in their care, who have been removed from their parents,” said Herman.
Herman announced Intaff Manager of the Child & Family office – Marukoi (Holi) Kairua, Annafaye Newbigging and Moana Manuelas, “this is the team that is going to take child protection and family support into the future.”
At the strategic planning workshop held the week prior, on the agenda was the vision of where the Ministry is headed; for those who are familiar with Internal Affairs, it is very broad “We deal with family services, consumer services, labour services (beautifying the roads and the island), what we cover is very broad,” said Herman.
Wanting to capture all that Intaff oversees and is part of, the department embraces their slogan – “Strong families, Strong communities,” or “Iti Tangata Matutu”, this reflects everything they do and the reasons why, “we’re doing it to strengthen families and our communities,” said Herman.
Herman acknowledged Crown Law deputy solicitor general Catherine Evans, “who has played a huge part in putting together this legislation.”
In conducting the session, Evans hoped the participants would have a better understanding and working knowledge of the bill, “that you feel like you know what it’s about and you’re going to be able to use it.”
“This is exactly what’s going to happen when you’re going to implement this piece of information; we all have to work together in the best interests of the child.”
The various parts in the act which you’ll probably come across in your work place… now you’ll understand enough to be able to say, this is how you deal with this under the laws,” said Evans.
The Family Protection and Support Act 2017 came out of community discussions and consultations that began in 2010, Ruth Pokura had the role then, working along with Kairangi Samuela of Punanga Tauturu (PTI).
During this time Evans returned home, “we all got together, my role was working with Crown Law and I assisted (getting it through the hoops if you like), the whole thing came out of discussions from the community.”
Formerly the Family Law Bill, the Family Protection and Support Act 2017 is the name the select committee decided on for this piece of legislation that includes the care of children and all different areas of family law including separation, divorce, court orders, parental arrangements and domestic violence.
Evans said, after discussions with the select committee, the outcome was that adoption was too hard, “if we had continued to try and resolve the adoption issues, we would forever be putting this bill together, so we put adoption to the side to deal with it some other time and go ahead with the other provisions; hence why we don’t have a new adoption law, and there is a different unique adoption system here, in terms of two adoption regimes – one in the land court and one in the High Court.
There is a matrimonial property act which was taken from New Zealand and adapted to suit the Cook Islands, but it doesn’t include our land.”
In the initial stages a consultant from Australia visited the island and facilitated the consultations.
Groups were also present that had discussions on what it was needed to have in place to meet the problems of children issues, of adoption and domestic violence.
Meetings were held around the island, a piece of legislation was then drafted that came back to a lot of discussions which the consultants put together, until the legislation went to parliament.
What we have in this legislation is not perfect, but it reflects what the community has said, what they want to have in our laws, said Evans.
The legislation’s primary objective is to improve the protection of our children and our families. Under the support act, a person has the ability to access justice and the courts.
In July 2017 the Family Support and Protection Act was unanimously passed by government into law. It came into force on December 1 that year.