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

December 2016 Christmas Newsletter

Newsletters

20 December 2016

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Tēnā koutou katoa

Warm Christmas greetings to you and all your family/whānau. I hope you can have a refreshing and relaxing break with time to reflect on both the year past and the year ahead.

As for the year past, from our point of view here at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, there have been some significant changes. I took over this new role as from 1 July this year. In doing so, I pay tribute to the highly principled and courageous and committed contribution made by my predecessor, Dr Russell Wills, for whom we all have so much respect.

I have found the role absorbing, challenging and rewarding. It is at times full of hope and joy, sometimes with real concern, but always with a sense of obligation to do better for our 1.1 million under 18-year-olds, but at the same time with optimism that we are able to make some real changes.

This year we can reflect on a very helpful State of Care report, produced by Dr Wills and his team. The office has also been very involved in the work of the Investing in Children organisation, which has begun to design and shape the new entity to replace Child Youth and Family – Oranga Tamariki.

Later in the year there was the very exciting news that almost all 17-year-old offenders will be within the jurisdiction of the Youth Justice system. This will remove an enduring stain on New Zealand’s otherwise good youth justice record internationally.

And just a few days ago, the annual Child Poverty Monitor was released. This is a collaborative project, funded by the JR McKenzie Trust, documented by the Otago University’s Child and Epidemiology Centre, and produced by our office. While the position with child poverty in New Zealand has got no worse, this years’ report shows very clearly that the position has not improved. Whatever way we cut it, at least 85,000 to 90,000 children live in significant, severe and deep poverty. The extent of the problem this year has shaken me. The Monitor was released at the Auckland City Missions’ office, outside of which snaked a queue of over 200 people waiting for emergency benefits, Christmas food parcels, and presents for children. This is not the New Zealand that we wish to live in.

While the great majority of New Zealand’s children do very well, and internationally outstrip many of our western world counterparts, the most disadvantaged 10-20% of our children are as badly disadvantaged if not more so than our counterparts. This represents a real challenge for us.

As we experience the Christmas break, it is certainly a time to think about how we can more practically assist and help our most disadvantaged New Zealand children. After all, whatever our faith background and values systems, the origin of the Christmas story is the birth of a child into poverty who subsequently went on to make a remarkable impact on the world. One that has never ended.

Surely all children born into New Zealand should have the same opportunity to make their own impact and grow to responsible and well-rounded adults.

So, as to the future, there are significant challenges for us all. I am privileged to be part of an excellent team here at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. They are highly dedicated, expert and committed. We look forward to rolling our sleeves up in 2017 and continuing the work that we have started.

It is appropriate as we reflect on the year past and the year to come, to remember the words of a whakatoki or proverb:

Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini.

My strength is not mine alone, but the strength of many.

And for those who are fortunate enough to be able to travel and holiday in another part of New Zealand, or overseas, the 600-year-old words of Leonardo de Vinci have some challenge for us. He said:

“Every now and then go away, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be sure; since to remain constantly at your work will cause you to lose the power of judgment… Go some distance away because the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen."

Judge Andrew Becroft

Children's Commissioner