Quick Exit

The Cracks in the Dam independent report highlights the long-running social and economic forces that lie behind the placement of tamariki into care in Aotearoa.  

The Royal Commission has funded a number of independent experts to submit reports exploring issues relevant to the Inquiry’s work. Cracks in the Dam was written by researchers Max Rashbrooke and Angie Wilkinson and peer reviewed by Professor Tracey McIntosh MNZM and Dr Emily Keddell.  

The report finds that, when looking into the appalling treatment of tamariki both inside and outside institutions, it’s tempting to seek explanations within an individual family or whānau. However, it notes other factors also play a huge role and are much harder to perceive. 

Cracks in the Dam tries to show that these forces act on families and whānau like the weight of water and gravity on a dam, creating cracks that build up over a long time but may not become visible until the last minute. This metaphor speaks to a worldview that sees actions as being the result of subtle, interconnected social forces. 

The report seeks to understand why tamariki were placed in care, noting that placements are strongly influenced by wider forces. Social, cultural and economic structures exist outside individuals’ direct control, and can greatly raise the risk that tamariki will be placed into care. 

It examines the effects of those forces on the whole population but with a strong focus on Māori who have been disproportionately harmed by those forces. As a result, Māori are vastly overrepresented in care institutions with tamariki Māori accounting for about two-thirds of all care placements. 

Although the report is not designed to produce recommendations it notes that, while there is no one policy that will prevent child abuse, social and economic forces at the highest level need to be redirected so as to reduce poverty, deprivation and discrimination. It further states that social and economic settings need to ensure families have affordable, stable housing, better medical services, and decent early childhood care and education.  

Cracks in the Dam concludes that these services could help form a protective environment for all children, their families and their whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

**Disclaimer: The opinions, findings and recommendations expressed in independent reports are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Royal Commission.** 

Cracks in the Dam

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