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

December 2018 Christmas Newsletter


17 December 2018

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Tēnā tātou katoa,

As Christmas draws closer, it is the perfect time to reflect on the year, on the achievements of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the achievements of others, and think ahead to the future.

Many important things have happened over the course of the year, so here is a list of my top 5 highlights:

  1. It was with a sense of deep satisfaction that we saw the introduction of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill – a concrete commitment from the government to alleviate the conditions too many of our children face. The Bill itself was modelled on a template developed by this Office during the time of my predecessor, Dr Russell Wills. This legislation, due to pass its third reading before Christmas, imposes on the government of the day an unprecedented obligation to consult with children on the formation of a nationwide Child Wellbeing Strategy. Once passed, the Act will require the Government to set targets for child poverty reduction, monitor the effectiveness of policy, and report back to the electorate.
  2. Our Mai World initiative has achieved real success in influencing others to be deliberate in hearing from children and young people, to listen to what they have to say, and to take it into account in decision making. Our Education Matters to Me series of reports has been a real highlight this year. Since this series of reports was released, we have had stong demand for advice from government and non-government organisations, as well as individuals, on best practice in engaging with children and young people.
  3. This year I’ve taken on the role of Chair of the Guardians of the Education Conversation committee. Inequities in educational opportunity are a key priority for the Office. In all the discussions the Guardians have had so far, it is clear there is significant concern with unfair and poor outcomes for too many of those in the education system, especially for Māori and Pasifika. These messages have been consistent with what children and young people told us through our Education Matters to Me series.
  4. The campaign to ban smoking in cars where children are present has found renewed impetus in the last few months. Something like 9 out of 10 New Zealanders support smoke-free cars for kids and the Health Select Committee in 2016 also recommended the ban. We’ve been told by the government that they are working on a ban and we look forward to that coming to fruition.
  5. Our most recent report in our State of Care series, Maiea te Tūruapō, makes a compelling case for the phased closure of the national care and protection residences and the development of community based care options. The report also identifies the experiences we would hope young people coming into community based care would enjoy before they enter a community group home, while they are there and as they transition back to their families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities.

We look forward in 2019 to seeing a Wellbeing Budget providing tangible and transformative differences in the lives of children and young people, especially those living in poverty.

Ngā mihi nui o te tau hou!

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Child Poverty Monitor 2018

On the 10th of December, the 2018 Child Poverty Monitor was launched in Auckland.

For those who don’t know, the Child Poverty Monitor is a partnership project between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the JR McKenzie Trust and the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service at Otago University.

This year's Child Poverty Monitor put a spotlight on four critical areas in a child's life where poverty continues to have an adverse impact: health, food insecurity, education and housing. In summary, the Monitor reported:

  • Children in New Zealand’s most disadvantaged communities are twice as likely to end up in hospital as children living in the most advantaged communities.
  • Around one in five New Zealand children – that’s more than 160,000 kids - live in households without access to either enough food or enough healthy food.
  • 68% of students from the most disadvantaged communities achieved NCEA level 2 in 2017, compared to 93% from the most advantaged communities
  • 39% of households in the lowest income quintile spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs compared to 14% of households in the highest income quintile.

This year was the 6th annual release of the Monitor. Lack of quality data on income and material hardship from low income families with children from the Ministry of Social Development this year meant we were unable to report on child poverty trends as such.

However, the concrete character of the impacts of child poverty we reported on this year resonated with New Zealanders across the country and received very significant media coverage.

We appreciated the support of Lisa King of Eat My Lunch, which hosted us in Auckland for the launch.


Child and Youth Wellbeing Engagement - What's happening now?

In October and November 2018, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki Voices of Children and Young People team engaged with more than 6000 children and young people to hear their views on what it means to have a good life. 5607 children and young people completed an online survey and 423 were spoken with face to face through a series of focus groups and interviews. The engagements will inform the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy currently being developed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. A full report sharing children and young people’s views on what makes a good life will be published in February 2019.

On the 25th of October, 60 young people were invited to a picnic with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Premier House. The Office was lucky enough to hear these young people voice their opinions and concerns directly to the Prime Minister. Their voices will help inform the development of the government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. It was a great day!

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State of Care series

Our October 2018 State of Care, Maiea te Tūruapō, brought together 21 experiences that young people in state care living in community based group homes, told us were most important for them and their whanau. ‘Help me to learn about my culture and my whakapapa’ (Experience 11) was a central theme in our conversations with young people. It is heartening to hear that the young people’s lived experience is being actively applied to inform the development of a greater range of community based care options for young people with high and complex needs. And as the report states, decisions about what the future ‘post Section 7AA’ landscape of services and care for tamariki and whanau will look like, need to be made in strategic partnership with local iwi and Maori organisations.

In 2019, we will be releasing two new reports in the State of Care series. Both will reflect the voices and experiences of young people in care. The first will focus on children and young people in Care and Protection. The second will focus on young people in Youth Justice facilities.

Our intention is to bring the experiences of these children and young people into the spotlight and provide an opportunity for their voices to inform the future design of services for children and young people in state care or custody


In the news

Congratulations to our Director of Strategy, Rights and Advice - Donna Provoost - one of this year's Harkness Fellowship recipients. The $30,000 fellowships from Fulbright New Zealand allow mid-career public sector professionals to undertake research projects in the US. The aim is to gain insights to inform government policy in New Zealand.

“With the support of the Harkness Fellowship, I plan to bring new insights to our policy work on the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy,” Donna says. “I’m excited to have this opportunity to contribute to better lives for kiwi kids.”

Donna will undertake research at the University of Oregon’s Center for Translational Neuroscience and the Harvard Center for the Developing Child. She will explore how neuroscience, psychology and related disciplines can better inform policies to improve the well-being and resilience of children.

Kirsten Sharman, a member of our Strategy, Rights and Advice team, is working on her PhD on early language development. Her study will investigate the ways parents and caregivers of 9-12 month olds interact with their babies using language, both through talking and singing.

“Even though nearly everyone learns to speak at least one language fluently, we still don’t know exactly how children do it. It’s amazing when you think about it!" says Kirsten. "One thing we do know is the way parents and caregivers interact with babies is very important for language learning, as well as for other aspects of their development.”

If you are interested in participating in the first phase of Kirsten’s study, a survey of parents/caregivers, please email her at K.Sharman@auckland.ac.nz

Two Swedish poverty and wellbeing specialists, Professors Carina Mood and Janne Jonsson, visited our Office in September to share their perspectives on poverty mitigation. Professor Jonsson spoke with RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about how to improve child wellbeing.

A 12-year-old girl writes how the Black Ferns and women’s rugby inspires her.

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Recent publications

Rights: Now!

A primary school education resource introducing children and their teachers to children’s rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Children’s Convention). The resource has a specific focus on a child’s right to have their say, participate and be heard on issues that affect them.

Annual Report

The annual summary of activity and achievements for the Office of the Children's Commissioner for the financial year 2017 - 2018.


Look out for

The Child Poverty Reduction Bill is due to pass its third and final reading. This historic legislation has cross-party support and we will be watching its implementation closely.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner will release a full report sharing children and young people’s views on what makes a good life in February 2019.