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Speech to Child Poverty Action Group briefing

Hon. Laila Harre
March 21 2001 Speech Notes
Speech to Child Poverty Action Group briefing
4.15pm
Beehive Theatrette

Good afternoon, and a warm welcome to the many views and experiences you bring to this briefing.

I am thrilled by the turnout, because it will allow wider dissemination of a report that for many might have sounded like a midsummer night's dream when it was released in January, but for children in poverty represents a chance for real debate about how to make life better.

I would like to start by thanking the Child Poverty Action Group for their willingness to share their expertise with us. You will all be familiar with their recently released report - Our Children the priority for policy.

You may not be so familiar with the people behind the report, and that is what today is all about. So I'd like to welcome Susan St John, Claire Dale, Mike O'Brien, Alison Blaiklock and Sharon Milne.

When this report was released in January I made the observation that it showed that real action to stamp out child poverty would require a shift in the way we prioritise and distribute resources. Now, as an Alliance MP, I can handle that.

But as an Alliance MP I can report that redistributing resources to poor children might be something we'll cheer for as a country, but not necessarily something we'll vote for.

I wanted to see this report discussed in this institution because all of us here – whether in government or opposition – can make a big difference for children by leading public opinion towards an acceptance that their interests are paramount.

Before I hand over the floor I would like to bring you up to speed with how the Labour-Alliance Coalition is progressing its policy and research agenda for children and young people, and how the non-government sector fits into the scheme of things.

Most of you will be familiar with the Agenda for Children that is currently under development. This will provide a framework for the development of government policies and services relating to children up to 18 years.

A discussion paper relating to the Agenda is to be launched next month, and this will be your chance to contribute to the government's vision for children over the next five years.

The Agenda for Children will include a separate consultation with children and young people. We want their views on whether New Zealand is a good place to live, what is good and what is not so good about being a young person, and what could be done to make life better for them.

This may sound simple, but up until now children and young people have never been asked how they perceive their position within their social environments. Consideration of the views of the child is a fundamental tenet of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it's beyond time it was given due consideration.

The work we are all involved in recognises that childhood need not be viewed as a passive time of life, and there is now more understanding of the way children themselves influence family dynamics.

And as noted in the Child Poverty Action Group's report, one of the most serious barriers we face when it comes to effective policy making is that statistics relating to children are almost non-existent.

The same can be said for our young people, and dovetailing in to the Children's Agenda will be the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa. The aim of the strategy is to improve the way government and wider society actively supports the positive development of our young men and women.

It may be hard to take, but we have to be honest about just how disadvantaged too many children are.

As stated in UNCROC, disadvantage has a major impact on the ability of children to exercise and enjoy their rights. As adults and policy makers it's up to us to create the conditions for this to happen, not to decide which of their rights children should have access to.

Today we will hear some home truths about being a child in New Zealand. I look forward to working with you all towards making home a place that all New Zealand children truly want to be.


ENDS

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