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Standing Up For Children

Isn't New Zealand a great place to bring up children? A new book from the Children's Issues Centre says not necessarily.

The book, Advocating for Children: International Perspectives on Children's Rights, arises from a major international conference at the University of Otago in 1999. It comprises a selection of papers by leading commentators and researchers from New Zealand and around the world and produced by an editorial team based at the Children's Issues Centre, led by Professor Anne B. Smith.

Much of the material covered is highly topical, such as consent in child health. This issue is discussed in a chapter by Pat Tuohy, chief adviser in child and youth health with the Ministry of Health, and Beth Wood, health adviser for the Royal NZ Plunket Society. They explore the ethical obligation to seek informed consent from children, the inconsistencies of New Zealand law in this area, and questions of privacy and self-determination for teenagers.

Another issue that has received media attention in New Zealand in recent times is cultural differences in punishing children. Is it really part of traditional Samoan culture to beat children? Aiono Dr Fanaafi Le Tagaloa disputes this notion in her chapter on the rights of the Samoan child.

Maori children's rights are bound up with the socio-economic status of Maori as a whole, and with population trends, as Cindy Kiro explains in a chapter on Maori tamariki and rangatahi. The economic reforms of the last fifteen years have had a profound impact on the lives of Maori children, contributing to poverty and its associated hardships. Irene Rizzini from Brazil illustrates how similar social and economic changes elsewhere in the world contribute to children's distress.

Throughout the book there are references to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides an international benchmark for children's rights. One chapter, by lawyer Robert Ludbrook, is strongly critical of the New Zealand government's lack of action in implementing the principles of the Convention.

Law lecturers Mark Henaghan and Pauline Tapp have contributed a chapter on the legal conceptions of childhood and the extent to which children's voices are heard in family law. Why does our legal system permit a ten-year-old to be tried before a judge and jury for murder, and yet be very reluctant to accept as valid the wishes expressed by a child about family matters which affect them, as in custody cases? This is one example of the discrepancies in the judicial system.

Babies and young children are especially in need of advocates. In discussing their rights, Professor Smith emphasises the importance of affordable, accessible, high quality childcare, paid parental leave, good family support services, and sensitivity to children's perspectives. She also quotes studies showing that children are capable of participation in decision-making from an early age.

Advocating for Children is of interest to a wide range of professionals who work with children, such as lawyers, teachers, health professionals, social workers, researchers, policy analysts and police. It is also of general interest as children's rights raise important social justice issues which many members of the public will want to follow.

The editors hope that Advocating for Children will encourage those who read it to respond to the plea made by the late Laurie O'Reilly, former Commissioner for Children, for people, institutions and societies to take more responsibility for children's rights.

Contents Introduction Anne B Smith 1 Trauma and children's rights Nicola Atwool 2 Children with disabilities: Equal rights or different rights? Anne Bray & Sue Gates 3 Children's rights education: Implementing Article 42 Katherine Covell & R. Brian Howe 4 Children's rights in the ecology of human development James Garbarino 5 Judicial and legislative conceptions of childhood and children's voices in family law Mark Henaghan & Pauline Tapp 6 Assessing the impact of the economic reforms on Maori tamariki and rangatahi Cindy Kiro 7 The rights of the Samoan child Aiono Dr Fanaafi Le Tagaloa 8 Victims of tokenism and hypocrisy: New Zealand's failure to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Robert Ludbrook 9 The sociology of childhood: Children's autonomy and participation rights Berry Mayall 10 Parents and children: Legal reform to facilitate child participation Gary Melton 11 Children's democratic rights: Are we ready? What we can learn from young workers Per Miljeteig 12 Urban children and families in distress: Global trends and concerns Irene Rizzini 13 Children's rights and early childhood education: The rights of babies and young children Anne B Smith 14 Consent in child health: Upholding the participation rights of children and young people Beth Wood & Patrick Tuohy 15 Summary: Where do we go next? Robert Ludbrook

About the Editors Professor Anne Smith is Director of the Children's Issues Centre, University of Otago, and is an applied developmental psychologist with a particular interest in social development and in ecological and sociocultural influences on children. She is interested in the sociology of childhood and incorporates children's own constructions of their experiences into a broad range of research studies. She is the author and editor of numerous books and papers. Megan Gollop and Karen Nairn are researchers working on a variety of projects involving children's rights at the Children's Issues Centre, and Kate Marshall is a part-time administrator at the Children's Issues Centre and part-time lecturer in psychology at the Otago Polytechnic.

Advocating for Children International Perspectives on Children's Rights Edited by Anne B. Smith, Megan Gollop, Kate Marshall, Karen Nairn Paperback, 232 pages ISBN 1 877133 90 6 $39.95, published June 2000

CONTACT For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Philippa Jamieson, University of Otago Press, tel (03) 479 9094, fax (03) 479 8385, email philippa.jamieson@stonebow.otago.ac.nz, or contributors listed below.
Contact telephone numbers for the New Zealand contributors:

Children's Rights - overall Professor Anne Smith (03) 479 5087 Family Law Issues: Professor Mark Henaghan (03) 479 8842, Pauline Tapp (09) 373 7999 extn. 8025, or (09) 817 5984 (home) Maori Issues: Cindy Kiro (09) 443 9666, or (09) 834 6536 (home) Consent in child health: Pat Tuohy (04) 496 2000, Beth Wood (04) 474 1535 Disability Issues: Dr Anne Bray (03) 479 8081, Sue Gates (03) 479 8080 NZ's failure to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Robert Ludbrook (09) 620 6867 Children and trauma: Nicola Atwool (03) 479 9019 Babies & young children: Professor Anne Smith (03) 479 5087

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