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

March 2021 Newsletter: Life in Lockdown, child poverty and more...


23 March 2021

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E aku nui, e aku rahi, tēnā rā koutou katoa,

Ka rere ngā whakaaro tuatahi ki a rātau mā kua wheturangitia. Haere, haere, haere atu rā. Rātau ki a rātau, a, ko tātau te hunga ora ki a tātau, huri noa te motu, tēnā rā koutou katoa.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 arrived in Aotearoa, and nearly that long since we last got in touch. Like most of you, COVID-19 has shaped much of our work over this time. Although there’s still a lot of uncertainty ahead, we are excited about the future.

Aotearoa has shown the world how, by coming together, we can protect each other from the virus. We now have a once-in-a generation opportunity to steer a better course for our children’s future, building on what we have learned about what worked for tamariki and rangatahi over the past 12 months.

During that time the Office has stepped up our work listening to and engaging with young people and reporting on what matters most to them - including during the lockdowns. You can learn about some of what we have heard below.

Meanwhile, we have continued to work on our own te Tiriti o Waitangi journey. This 181 year old agreement between two peoples provides direction for how the State can better respond to care and protection concerns for mokopuna Māori, and it is transforming our entire approach - including in the way we lead.

Glenis Philip Barbara (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Uepōhatu, Clan McDonald) was appointed as Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children in October last year and together we are working to demonstrate a shoulder-to shoulder partnership in the leadership of the Office.

We believe that, by taking a Te Tiriti based approach to all our work, we’ll be better placed to advocate for solutions to tackle the social and economic disparities facing mokopuna Maori, while building our capability to tackle racism as it impacts on the lives of all children and young people.

We hope you’ll join our office in advocating for all children to remain at the centre of New Zealand’s thinking and planning as we continue to navigate the pandemic and look to build a better future for everyone. As we’ve both said a lot over the past few months: COVID-19 must be a reason to do more, not an excuse to do less, for our tamariki and rangatahi.

Mā whero, mā pango ka anga whakamua – we will get through this together.

Judge Andrew Becroft and Glenis Philip-Barbara
Commissioner, and Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children

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Assistant Māori Children's Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara (left) & Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft (right) Source: Radio New Zealand

Te Kuku o Te Manawa

The Children’s Commissioner announced in June 2019 that his Office would undertake a thematic review of the policies, processes and practices of Oranga Tamariki relating to care and protection issues for pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months. Through our review, we came to the clear conclusion that to keep pēpi in the care of their whānau, Māori must be recognised as best placed to care for their own: this involves by Māori, for Māori approaches that are enabled by the transfer of power and resources from government to Māori. Read the full report. The Children's Commissioner was requested to submit the reports from this review as expert evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal Urgent Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki. He gave evidence alongside Assistant Māori Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara. Read the submission.

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The Children's Commissioner and Assistant Māori Commissioner present Te Kuku o Te Manawa at a press conference held in our office

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Presenting evidence at the Waitangi Tribunal, shoulder to shoulder

Life in Lockdown

We surveyed more than 1400 tamariki and rangatahi aged between 8 and 18 about how the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns impacted them. Life in Lockdown asked young New Zealanders about their living situation, relationships, learning, general wellbeing and how they spent their time during lockdown. “The survey highlighted how COVID-19 can make existing inequalities worse, but also revealed some surprising upsides of lockdown, such as how much tamariki and rangatahi valued spending more time with their whānau,” Commissioner Becroft says. Read the full report.

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After a year like no other, our message has consistently been that COVID-19 must the reason to do more for our tamariki, not an excuse to do less. While the Governments’ targets to reduce child poverty were broadly on track prior to COVID-19, Treasury is now predicting there will be significant increases in material hardship as a result of the crisis. We need to decide, collectively, whether to accept that or to make changes that will protect children from the fallout of COVID-19. Increasing family incomes must be a start. Read more.

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Child Poverty Monitor partners at the 2020 launch at the Beehive: Dr Mavis Duncanson (Otago University), Glenis Philip-Barbara, Andrew Becroft and Robyn Scott

Getting it right: Children’s rights in the COVID-19 response

Earlier this month, as part of a collaboration with our partners in the Children’s Convention Monitoring Group, earlier this month we released our report Getting it right: Children’s rights in the COVID-19 response. The report recommends ways to better implement children’s rights in the Government’s response to COVID-19 and beyond. Let COVID be the reason to do more for tamariki, not less. Read more.

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What’s coming up?

Together with the Ministry of Education, we have been working on a project to strengthen our understanding of how schools and kura can provide safe, inclusive environments free from bullying for their students.We will be releasing two more What Makes a Good Life? summary reports that provide a closer look at what we heard from tamariki and rangatahi Māori, and disabled children and young people.

Follow our new socials!

We have launched our Instagram account (@childrenscommnz). Be sure to check it out for great photos of what we get up to in the Office and on the road doing work!

Our Assistant Māori Commissioner, Glenis Philip-Barbara has joined Twitter! You can follow the Assistant Māori Children’s Commissioner (@MaoriCCNZ) for more views and opinions.