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Newman calls on Govt to support Starship Hospital

Newman calls on Govt to support Starship Hospital

Friday 25 Jan 2002 Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social Welfare

Starship Hospital's one-stop-shop initiative to help reduce child abuse deserves the support of central Government, ACT's Social Services spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said in a speech prepared for delivery to a meeting in Whangarei tomorrow (Saturday 26^th).

Speaking at the Northern Regional meeting of ACT New Zealand, Dr Newman said it was shameful that the Government had not supported the grass roots move by the Starship child abuse team to provide better co-ordination between state agencies working with abused children.

"The one-stop-shop concept has been well researched and long planned. It is a common sense solution to the lack of inter-agency collaboration, which was clearly identified by the Commissioner for Children as contributing to the death of toddler James Whakaruru.

"Official figures released to me this week by the Minister of Police show that nine children were fatally abused in the year 2000. There is a chance that by working together and sharing information, some of those children would have been identified as being at risk - and could have been saved.

"I believe it is absolutely disgraceful that the Government has not supported this move to enable medical staff, police and child welfare practitioners to work under one roof.

"Instead of being supportive the Government turned its back on the project. They grudgingly agreed it could go ahead just so long as it didn't cost them anything. The $300,000 cost of establishing the unit had to be raised privately.

"Fortunately, with generous public support, the project is now able to get off the ground, although another $100,000 is still needed. Surely a Government that can find $50 million for a Maori television station should be able to find $100,000 to house state agencies working with abused children.

"The Government has its priorities wrong. Child abuse is one of the biggest problems this country faces. The evidence is now very clear that children from abusive backgrounds are the ones who are more likely to get involved in criminal activity, and as parents, they are more likely to be violent and abusive to their own children. It is a cycle that must be broken.

"ACT applauds the Starship initiative, and would even like to see it extended to include education workers as part of a one-stop-shop team, since child abuse is often first noticed by teachers. Further, we would suggest that a key goal should be the reduction of child abuse, using mentors, parenting help, and other forms of support, targeting those families whose children are most at risk.

"Back in 1987, Professor David Fergusson of the Christchurch School of Medicine, through his Christchurch Child Development Study which has followed the fortunes of 1,265 New Zealand children since 1977, warned policy makers about the effect of family structure on the well-being of children: he said that they should `be cautious about accepting enthusiastic claims about the desirability of alternative family structures until the viability or otherwise of these structures has been assessed on the basis of carefully collected empirical evidence'.

"He went on to state that `the dismal statistics emerging from this longitudinal study tend to suggest that this enthusiasm may have been premature or misplaced... While the traditional nuclear family may have limitations as a child-rearing institution, it is open to very serious debate as to whether the alternative of short-term family structures which involves successive transitions between single parent and two parent families will prove to be as effective as a child-rearing institution'.

"A closer look at the information provided to me by the Minister of Police shows that of the nine children who were fatally abused in the year 2000, eight were killed by separated or de-facto parents, with none being killed by a married mother or father.

"According to our Government, however, New Zealanders should be celebrating the emergence of alternative family types, including sole parent families, cohabiting couples, homosexual unions, as well as extended families. The fact that they are promoting the view that the nuclear family unit - consisting of a mother, father and children - is on the way out, and that children do equally well in any of these alternative family structures is worrying. If present trends continue, by the year 2010 a half of European and over three quarters of Maori babies will be born into families where there are no fathers. Unless there is a firm commitment by government to focus on supporting families with children and preventing child abuse, New Zealand's problems will continue to grow", Dr Newman said

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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