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Making Life Better For Children - Maharey Speech

13 June 2002 Hon Steve Maharey Speech Notes

Comments at the launch of New Zealand’s Agenda for Children. Johnsonville School, Wellington.

Introduction

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Thank you, Johnsonville School, for hosting us today to celebrate the launch of the Agenda for Children.

The Agenda for Children sets out this government’s vision for children.

The Agenda for Children’s vision for New Zealand

The vision is that New Zealand is a great place for children.

That means children need to be cared for and protected, respected and valued and given every opportunity to reach their potential.

The Agenda also sets out a concrete plan of action for Government to make sure things happen to bring this vision into reality.

Developing the Agenda for Children

One of the reasons why I’m so excited about the Agenda is that it has been informed by an excellent consultation process.

One of the first things we did in developing the Agenda was to ask children to tell us about the positive and negative aspects of being a child in New Zealand. We also asked about their ideas on what improvements could be made to their lives.

We wanted to know the things that children valued and what was important to them in their everyday lives.

We also consulted with interested adults who work with and for children to tell us what they thought government priorities should be to make life better for children in New Zealand.

I have to say that the response we received was fantastic, and the views and ideas we heard were extremely valuable. We heard from over 7,500 children in all and over 400 adults.

And can I pay a special tribute to the students and teachers of Johnsonville School. Pupils in every class at the school sent us comments and contributions in different forms.

This was a wonderful effort. Each of you has played a part in the development of the Agenda by sharing your views and ideas with us.

What children and adults said

It is often said New Zealand is a great place to bring up kids – we have a clean, green country, we have lots of space, we have a good education system, health care and personal freedoms that people in some countries can only dream about.

And most children we heard from agreed that these were some of the really great things about being a child in New Zealand. The fact that we have no snakes also scored reasonably high!

But children also told us about some negative things for children in New Zealand right now.

One of the key concerns we heard from children was that they didn’t feel adults listened to them or took them seriously. Other common concerns related to bullying in schools, and to other kinds of violence in their lives and in society generally.

Some children and many adults also raised concerns related to lack of money – that some families did not have enough money to buy the basics and that some children were growing up in poverty.

And the most common suggestion, from children, for improvement, was more things to do, more places to go, especially things that are cheap or free.

From adults, the most frequent mentioned negative aspect about New Zealand as a place for children to live was child poverty.

What happens now that we have an Agenda for Children?

So how will the Agenda for Children address these and other issues? Well first of all the Agenda will raise awareness within government, and in the community about what children want and need for healthy development.

But the Agenda goes further than simply raising awareness of children’s issues and ideas.

It sets out seven key action areas, including reducing bullying and ending Child Poverty, and this Government is committed to addressing each of the seven issues – in fact work has already begun.

This is a real example of Government listening to children’s concerns and taking action.

So you will be hearing a lot more about the Agenda for Children over the coming months– as we address the issues you raised.

And because the Agenda is just the start of getting Government more in tune with what children are thinking and saying – you will have more opportunities to express you views – because your views matter.

You are the seeds from which will grow future leaders, parents and teachers. But we also value you as children today, as very valuable young participants in society.

We want you to enjoy life as children in this beautiful country of ours.

This Government is strongly committed to making this country a better place for children. In my view, the Agenda for Children is an important step in the right direction.

Ends

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