We advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of children and young people

April 2019 Newsletter: Hearing from children and young people, smoking in cars, OPCAT monitoring, and more...


12 April 2019

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Tēnā tātou katoa,

I want to begin this message by acknowledging the terrible events of March 15. They shocked our nation to its core. Most had thought an atrocity like this to be impossible in our land. But we were wrong. The outpouring of sorrow and solidarity that followed has been as moving as its cause was tragic. The call to us all now is to forge a common community, a community that celebrates diversity, nurtures respect and gives rich expression to manaakitanga, āwhinatanga and aroha.

We have shared a handful of resources, written specifically with children and young people in mind, on our Facebook page. These guides can help children and young people cope with stress and trauma. You can find the links here.

Listening to and promoting children and young people’s voices is a core part of our work. Children’s right to have their voices heard is enshrined in Article 12 of the Children’s Convention. It was exhilarating to see thousands of young New Zealanders across the country exercising their right to express their views about climate change. These protests were student-led and student-organised. They underscored the urgency of the need for action. They were also an example of young people participating in democracy. Under-18 year olds may be too young to vote, but they’re by no means too young to get out and make their voices heard.

Young people’s voices and views have been front and centre in another strand of the national conversation: understanding what we mean by ‘wellbeing’. Late last year, in a project shared with Oranga Tamariki, our staff engaged with children and young people across Aotearoa to listen to and document the views of over 6,000 New Zealand young people. Their comments and concerns have been collected, analysed, and now released in a report, What Makes a Good Life. The report will, among other things, inform the government’s child wellbeing strategy.

All of this points to how busy we have been this year. One gauge of that is the extent of media coverage we have received in the first quarter of the year, over 100 items in print, radio, television and online.

This media coverage has highlighted some significant changes for children in New Zealand. Late last year, The AM Show’s Duncan Garner launched a campaign to ban smoking in cars when children are inside. We actively supported that campaign and were delighted when, in early February, the Associate Minister of Health, the Hon Jenny Salesa, announced the government would ban smoking in cars when children or young people under 18 are present. This is an important step towards New Zealand’s children and young people enjoying a good life.

That’s what we want for all New Zealanders, young, old and everything in between. And it’s something we’re especially conscious of in these hard days following March 15.

Thank you for your interest and support for our work. Please feel free to share this newsletter with family and friends and invite anyone you know who may be interested to subscribe.

Ngā mihi mahana

Andrew Becroft
Children’s Commissioner

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What Makes a Good Life? Report of more than 6000 views released!

At the end of February, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki released 'What Makes a Good Life?' – a report that draws together the voices of more than 6000 children and young people from around Aotearoa New Zealand.

The report found that most children and young people are enjoying many elements of wellbeing right now. To them, a good life is one where they can feel accepted, valued and respected, be happy, have the support of family and friends, have their basic needs met, enjoy good physical and mental health, have a good education and feel safe.

“Really just people who really believe in you is the most essential thing to having a good life. And people who support you no matter what.” - Young person from Wellington

However, up to a third of the children and young people we engaged with indicated they are facing challenges in some aspects of their life. One in ten is facing multiple challenges. These include racism, discrimination, bullying, poverty, violence and drugs.

“There are lots of people telling us what 'child wellbeing' looks like," says Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft. “But the difference with this work is that we have gone to the source and asked children and young people themselves what 'wellbeing' means to them. And they’re painting a pretty clear picture.”

This report will feed directly into the government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. The legislation requires consultation with children and young people – a first for New Zealand law.

To read more about the report, click here.


What is OPCAT?

Since 1989, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner has had a statutory responsibility to monitor how well Oranga Tamariki delivers services for children and young people. In 2007 New Zealand ratified the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and our Office gained an additional mandate as one of several ‘National Preventive Mechanisms’ (NPMs) in New Zealand. Their role is to visit places of detention and make recommendations for improving the conditions of detention or the treatment of detainees so as to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. <p?Our Office’s specific mandate is to monitor Oranga Tamariki secure residences. We also conduct joint monitoring visits with the Ombudsman’s Office to the three Mothers with Babies Units (MBUs) within prisons, operated by the Department of Corrections.

There are a total of nine secure Oranga Tamariki residences in New Zealand. Five are care and protection residences and four are youth justice residences. Oranga Tamariki contracts the management of one care and protection residence to a non-government organisation, Barnardos NZ.

During each OPCAT monitoring visit, we assess the facility's compliance with seven OPCAT domains:

  • Treatment
  • Protection system
  • Material conditions
  • Activities and contact with others
  • Medical services and care
  • Personnel
  • Responsiveness to mokopuna Māori

While we have found no evidence of torture in our places of detention where children and young people live, the quality of treatment is variable. If you are interested in our findings, these are published every year by the Human Rights Commission, who collate information from each NPM and produce an annual OPCAT report.


Police pursuits IPCA review

Last month, the police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), looked into 268 police pursuits from 2017 and made eight recommendations to police, which largely focused on training and technology. The Children’s Commissioner was disappointed the review failed to offer any immediate change to police policy regarding the pursuit of young drivers.

The Commissioner is working with police and the IPCA on the policies surrounding pursuits, and will be advocating for piloting a non-pursuit policy when children and young people are involved, unless there is threat to life or a major crime is in progress. This position gained a lot of media attention, so you can read further coverage here and here.

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Earlier this year, the Children's Commissioner met with Justice Mata Tuatagaloa, the first woman judge in Samoa, and first woman permanently appointed to the Supreme Court of Samoa. From L-R: Peter Foaese (OCC), Commissioner Andrew Becroft, Justice Mata Tuatagaloa, Telesia Siale (OCC/Ministry of Justice) and Arieta Taito (OCC).

In the news

  • The Children’s Commissioner wrote an op-ed on the recent student-led climate marches across the country, and the world, emphasising that we should all stop and listen to what they have to say.
  • This moving open letter from a 13-year-old Muslim girl from Australia, in response to the Christchurch terror attack, to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shows just how important it is to listen to the voices of children and young people.
  • The Australian Senate is currently looking into the issue of lowering the voting age to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote. This article asks some experts what they think about lowering the voting age.
  • This story from Seven Sharp shares the challenge three young South Auckland boys faced when commissioned to paint a massive mural at a school in the central Auckland suburb of Mt Eden.
  • Ezekiel Raui has been recognised by Forbes as a young leader of influence. Check out this report by Te Karere.


Recent publications Child Poverty Monitor - Technical Report

The 2018 Child Poverty Monitor Technical Report provides the sixth consecutive annual report on implications of child poverty in New Zealand, and progress toward achieving selected Sustainable Development Goals that are relevant to children. This report is published by the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service at Otago University and is part of the Child Poverty Monitor project undertaken by OCC, Otago University and the JR McKenzie Trust. Submission on the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy

We have provided lots of input at different stages and have been pleased to see it reflected as the government's Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy has developed. In addition to the input, we have had to date and the engagement we have done with children and young people, this submission summarises our views on the development of the Strategy so far.


Look out for

We will soon be releasing two new reports in the State of Care series. The first will reflect the voices and experiences of children and young people in Oranga Tamariki’s Care and Protection residences. The second, called 'Supporting Young People on Remand to live Successfully in the Community' will present the findings from a recent youth justice focused monitoring review.

Bullying-Free New Zealand week is 13 – 17 May. This year’s theme is 'Whakanuia Tōu Āhua Ake! Celebrating Being Us!'. It is a great opportunity for students to celebrate what makes them unique and for schools to build environments where everyone is welcome, safe and free from bullying. Read more about how you can get involved here.

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The Children's Commissioner attended the National Library's Whānau Day event on Waitangi Day.

Follow the Commissioner on Twitter

The Children's Commissioner has joined Twitter! You can now follow the Children's Commissioner for more views and opinions.

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