Aaron Smale

Ngāti Porou and Pākehā (Irish, German, Danish, English)

Aaron is a freelance journalist who has had work published in Stuff, NZ Herald, North & South, Mana, NZ Geographic, Al Jazeera and the Guardian. In 2019 he was an Ochberg fellow at Columbia University’s Dart Center, a fellowship focused on the reporting of trauma. He has won a number of awards for his work including Feature Writer of the Year (2020) and Best Investigation (2021) in New Zealand’s national media awards. He is currently a PhD candidate, researching Māori children in state custody.

Indigenous children in state custody

"Canada, United States of America, Australia, and Aotearoa New Zealand have several factors in common. We all have a population of Indigenous peoples who are marginalised, exploited and ignored. We were all colonised by the British. As indigenous peoples we have all suffered the same fates and bear the same scars. Our traditional languages, family structures and cultural and religious beliefs have been, and continue to be deliberately eroded. Traditional birthing, health and wellbeing structures were attacked, destroyed, and renamed. Our children continue to be the subject of ongoing colonial policy that has become a multi-billion dollar growth industry in each country, for non-indigenous peoples and ensures intergenerational trauma for indigenous populations, which is ongoing, even today.

Colonial constructs of Indigenous children and families pervade the practices of child protection and detention intuitions. We argue that such constructs inform a carceral logic that underpin the state’s interventions across the settler colonies of Aotearoa, Australia, the US and Canada. This contributes to high levels of child removals from families in the child protection system and the incarceration of Indigenous children in youth detention. We call for a radical response that decolonises the deficit discourses towards Indigenous children and displaces state institutions with self-determination and sovereignty."

Aaron Smale