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Day of Families a chance to acknowledge diversity

14 May 2000

International Day of Families a chance to acknowledge diversity

The International Day of Families provides New Zealanders with an opportunity to celebrate the growing diversity of the family says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

Speaking on the eve of the International Day of Families, Mr Maharey said that children and families were central to the policy agenda of the new Labour/Alliance Government.

"Our policies clearly acknowledge that the family has been changing rapidly and will continue to do so (see attachment).

"The days when the 'family' meant 'mum, dad and the kids' are long gone.

"Today our society is made up of many different kinds of families. And the many cultures that make up our society have their own view of what makes a family. These changes need to be reflected in law and policy."

Mr Maharey said that many new initiatives involving children and families were being developed such as:

 a seminar involving leading children's advocates to set a five year policy agenda;
 a discussion paper on the Guardianship Act which will lead to changes in the law;
 work on adoption and intercountry adoption;
 changes to the Matrimonial Property Act which will have implications for same sex couples; and
 policy on paid parental leave.

"I am working with the Ministry of Social Policy on a framework for family policy which will go to Cabinet and will assist the Government to develop a very far reaching policy agenda.

"The framework has at its centre the recognition that every child has the right to be dependent and to grow up in conditions which enable them to become a dependable adults.

"Our approach does not privilege one family form over another. However it does ask that all children receive the love, nurturing and discipline they need to achieve their potential as adults.

"We also place strong emphasis on children being able to be supported by both parents even if the immediate family breaks down.

"Parents are responsible for their children both financially and emotionally. Fathers in particular have to see themselves remaining part of their children's lives.

"A great deal of work that the Government wants to do will touch on issues such as fathering, co-parenting, support for people to work through difficulties and remain together, assistance to establish new arrangements if a family does break down, parenting skills and sound sex education."

Mr Maharey said that he hoped New Zealanders would use the International Day of Families to discuss their own family.

"The facts are that families in all their forms are vital to our success as a nation. There is no doubt that a large number of the problems arising in our society occur because too many families are themselves experiencing problems.

"It is time for New Zealanders to take stock of what is going on and realise that the more they commit themselves to the wellbeing of children and families the more likely we are to live in a prosperous and socially progressive society," Steve Maharey said.


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