Care of Children Act 2004: Continuation of Cultural Assimilation


  • Alison Cleland



This article argues that the cultural assimilation of Māori family forms, originating in colonial private family laws, continues under the Care of Children Act 2004 (COCA). It finds that the opportunity to draft a law that was respectful of tikanga Māori and te Tiriti o Waitangi was lost when legislators ignored all the critiques of the operating principles and processes of the Pākehā legal system, provided by Māori during the 1980s and 1990s. The article argues that cultural assimilation continues through court decisions, since COCA principles require priority to be given to parents, with a corresponding marginalisation of whānau, hapū and iwi. The article concludes that incremental reform would be unlikely to achieve legislation that is fit for a bicultural Aotearoa New Zealand. It advocates for a transformational Māori-led family law reform process, guided by te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi and by tikanga Māori.


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How to Cite

Cleland, A. (2023). Care of Children Act 2004: Continuation of Cultural Assimilation. Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, 54(3), 669–698.