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Hon Steve Maharey Speech - An Agenda for Children

Hon Steve Maharey
11 April 2001 Speech Notes

An Agenda for Children


Speech to mark the launch of the Children's Agenda Discussion Document


Welcome.

It’s great to see you all here.

It has certainly been a morning of extremes as you can see by my less than formal attire.

Laila Harré and I have just left the Aro Valley school holiday programme where we launched the Agenda for Children consultation.

I don’t think we could get more polar opposites than a kids school holiday programme and a parliamentary briefing.

Although I suspect some members of the public might disagree.

What a refreshing opportunity to spend some time in an environment saturated with vibrancy and the excitement of children at the start of their holidays.

Unfortunately it can be a rare event for politicians such as myself to get the opportunity to hear first hand what young people think about growing up in New Zealand.

I can tell you they have a lot to say and a lot we need to hear.

One young chap in particular was very enthusiastic about his views on being a young person in New Zealand.

The feedback this morning from the kids on the programme was very encouraging and convinced me that we are heading down the right track with an Agenda for Children.

I can assure you a great deal of work has been achieved since we met last year at the Seminar on Children’s Policy where the initial work on an Agenda for Children was done in conjunction with many of you here today.

The contribution of the members of the reference group appointed shortly after this seminar has been invaluable in helping the Ministries of Social Policy, and Youth Affairs move along on this very important initiative.

I think that you will all agree that in the past it has been uncommon for the government to take account of the views and insights of children and young people.

So you might ask why focus on children now?

Its because we are tired of seeing too many children suffering the effects of poor housing, bad health, family violence, and learning difficulties – the whole gamut of disadvantage imposed by the jeopardy of poverty.

This cannot go on.

In order for our child policy to be effective we need to know what issues children and young people are facing in their lives and what this mean for the future.

What better way to find out than to ask those who know.

By talking to children, young people, their parents, and organisations who work with them and people such as yourselves, we can take steps to ensure our policy is reflective of the needs of some of our most under-represented members of society.

The Agenda for Children discussion paper encourages us all to take collective responsibility for protecting and promoting children’s interests, rights and needs.

Over the next 10 weeks these booklets launched today will be the basis for discussion by various organisations and individuals working with children and young people.

As you can see both the Children’s Discussion Pack and the Discussion Paper for adult groups, and individuals with an interest in children’s issues are certainly eye catching.

The booklets set out early government thinking on a vision, principles, key goals and possible priority action areas for child policy.

At the same time, hundreds of children and young people aged 5-17 years will be asked about what makes New Zealand a good place for them, what would make it better, and what they consider to be the important issues for children and young people.

Given what I saw and heard this morning, I am sure there will be an influx of responses from young people wanting to let us know their views.

This Government believes that a broad, child-focussed approach to policy and the delivery of social services is essential to protect the interests of the child. This approach must also reflect the richness and cultural diversity of our country.

By adopting a two pronged approach incorporating both social policy and research the Agenda will provide a plan for work by Government over the next five years.


I know it may take some time to reverse the impacts of the economic reforms over the last decade. But by setting achievable goals the Agenda will realise its vision of making New Zealand a great place for children.

It is not far fetched to conceive a vision where children are viewed as valuable and respected members of our society. Where they live free from poverty and violence, that services are funded and delivered in a way that responds to their interests, rights and needs.

I don’t believe this is some utopian view, majestic in its vision but unattainable in reality.

However, its success is dependent upon co-operation across all government policy sectors. This is a promise the coalition government made when it came into office – that we would foster a relationship with the community based upon respect and openness.

Already a number of different initiatives that dovetail with the Agenda for Children are making a difference in the lives of New Zealand children.

Work on the Child Health Strategy, the Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Education and various other initiatives to address disadvantage like Family Start and Social Workers in Schools.

Complementing the Agenda for Children is the Ministry of Youth Affairs Youth development Strategy Aotearoa that Laila Harré will launch later this month.

She will expand on this shortly, but I can assure you that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Social Policy are working in tandem on these key projects.

Before I hand you over to Laila I want to express my gratitude to the enormous contribution of the Working Party Reference Group, and the various organisations and individuals committed to improving the lives of our children and young people

Your energy and vision makes a difference.

ENDS

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