The New Zealand government has announced that the removal of ‘at risk’ children from their families will end, after Maori families complained that the process, known as ‘uplifting’, racially discriminates against them.

Speaking on Wednesday, Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis said the government will “end uplifts as we have known them,” accepting all the recommendations made in a report on how to fix the child care and protection system. The process will only be used as an absolute last resort going forward.

Documents on the ministry’s website showed that 1,334 children were taken into care between 2019 and 2020, with around 60% of them from the indigenous Maori community. Maori families had previously complained that the practice racially discriminated against them and furthered a legacy of colonization, referring to children forcibly removed as the “stolen generation.” That phrase is a reference to the Maori split up from their families as children under the Aboriginal assimilation policy.

The decision comes more than a year after New Zealand was accused of “unprecedented breaches of human rights” by the head of a Maori-led inquiry into the country’s child services agency, Naida Glavish.

Glavish’s inquiry was one of several that began in the wake of a protest in 2019 by thousands of Maori people over the Children’s Ministry’s attempt to seize a baby from a mother shortly after birth. At the time, activists had gathered in front of the country’s parliament to demand authorities take their “hands off our tamariki” – the Maori word for children.

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