COMMENT:

It's not often when you're watching television that you see a news item and you cheer and think 'well that's about time' - but it happened last night.

I was watching TVNZ's Sunday programme. Jehan Casinader was presenting a piece on Oranga Tamariki. But it wasn't like the media we've been seeing on the child agency lately. It was covering the thorny issue of child uplifts, but this time from the point of view of social workers.

This is something that has been sorely missing ever since Melanie Reid's 40-minute video of an attempted uplift in Hawke's Bay in June. That video shocked many and provoked a series of protests around the country.

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At these protests, social workers have been labelled baby snatchers and kidnappers and accused of creating a new "stolen generation". It's become a nationwide movement calling for the state to stop stealing Maori children, and the protests are being led by Maori including elders such as Tariana Turia.

We now have four, count them four, reviews of Oranga Tamariki, most centring on the role of Maori whanau in these children's survival.

Casinader's piece showed a Bay Of Plenty Oranga Tamariki agency going into lockdown because of protesters' threats, and fears for the safety of the social workers. This is a deep irony. Our kids are safe in our hands but social workers are not. Violence runs deep.

But what made me whoop was when we finally heard from Maori social workers defending themselves and the agency against the non-stop negative press the protesters and the media have summoned against them.

In their own words, these Maori social workers explained how they are proud to work for Oranga Tamariki; how they are developing new models of care, built on tikanga Māori.

How they support vulnerable children and reunite them, safely, with their whanau. And how they already partner with iwi to allow children from those iwi to be diverted away from the state-run system. Another programme is being launched this week with Tainui.

We see the danger the social workers put themselves in by caring for kids in dangerous homes. Their fear and dread as they approach a broken home.

One social worker on the programme said social workers were accused of destroying families. But, she said, families were "already destroyed when we get there".

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Another said if Maori really wanted to improve the situation for vulnerable kids they should direct their anger towards the real cause of child abuse which, he said, was the "three Ps: poverty piss and P", not Oranga Tamariki

The media on this has all been one-sided, from Melanie Reid's documentary which purposefully left out half the story, to the coverage of all the protests. The squeaky wheel of the protesters has been heard far too much on this issue, as if we have forgotten there's two sides to every story.

So well done to Jehan Casinader and the brave social workers he spoke to. And to the social workers making a positive difference in New Zealand, I say thank you. Because it is thankless work that not enough people acknowledge.

This article was first published on Newstalk ZB.