Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Newman: Letting The Light Pierce The Darkness

Muriel Newman – The Column Feb 11th

Letting The Light Pierce The Darkness

This week the Column considers the actions of two Family Court judges who tried to remove the shroud of secrecy from their courts, and discusses what is needed to truly care for our most vulnerable children.

Three years ago, Family Court judge Peter Boshier – who will soon take up the position of Chief Family Court Judge – took the unusual step of inviting the media to cover a hearing involving two Northland boys and the local branch of Child, Youth and Family.

Judge Boshier opened the doors to his court for one simple reason: he was outraged by the department’s ongoing failure to carry out the court’s order – so outraged, in fact, that he threatened to charge its managers with contempt of court.

Just last week, Family Court judge Tim Druce continued the judicial name and shame campaign by ordering a judgement – over the same CYF branch’s failure to carry out the court’s orders concerning a 13 year-old Northland at serious risk of criminal offending – to be released to the media and the public.

Judge Druce’s decision was made in order to expose “the continuing inability of the Department to provide appropriate services to children and young people with severe behavioural difficulties”. A state of affairs which he wanted to be made a matter of public record.

The judgement slated CYF’s failure to provide the services and assistance the boy needed. The department was “unable to specify the persons or organisations who were to provide the services and assistance required, nor was it able to specify details of the services and assistance to be provided”.

While CYF’s lawyer opposed the judgement’s publication, the child’s counsel was enthusiastic: “the need to identify shortcomings in the provision of Governmental and community services is of benefit to government agencies and to the country.”

In justifying his decision to publish the hearing, Judge Druce stated that “release of decisions such as this plainly are one of the many ways by which social policy decision making and implementation of those decisions can be assisted.” In other words, he wanted to use this exposé of incompetence as a means of forcing the Government to improve its child welfare services.

The Labour Government has allowed New Zealand’s child welfare service to under-perform for far too long. Four years after taking office – and many damning reviews later – CYF’s ongoing failure has exposed the Government’s hypocrisy: while claiming to care about children, Labour allows the agency dealing with our most vulnerable to operate at such a level of crisis that judges are forced to go to the public in an attempt to orchestrate change.

If Labour really cared about children, then Prime Minister Helen Clark would take CYF in hand and exercise some positive leadership. Her ambivalence toward child welfare – reflected in her failure to sort out the problems in CYF, including the appointment of a junior Minister to the portfolio – is indicative of a government whose caring is only skin deep.

In my mind, this situation is completely unacceptable and must be turned around. CYF is charged with providing support to ensuring that children at risk of violence and abuse are protected. This means, not only providing care and protection if abuse has taken place but, pro-actively working with such families to prevent the abuse occurring in the first place. Further, the agency must play its part in working with police to ensure that child abusers are brought to justice.

The problem, however, is that much of this department’s work goes on behind the closed doors of family homes and the secret Family Court – leaving the public unaware of the extent of its failings. This is why the Prime Minister can condone CYF’s failure, safe in the knowledge that most of the details are hidden from the public. But if these failings were no longer secret, but exposed to the public on a daily basis – as they would be with an open Family Court – the drive for change would be immediate and profound.

The benefits brought by an open court, especially in reducing child abuse and improving the operation of government child welfare agencies, have been well documented. Claims that such changes would cause the sky to fall in are ill founded.

If Miss Clark made it her goal to ensure that CYF performed well, then child abuse in New Zealand would decline – and, since CYF has youth justice responsibilities, youth offending would drop as well.

In order to facilitate this improvement, the New Zealand Family Court should be changed from being a closed court to an open court. In opening up their courts, judges Boschier and Druce have added weight to my campaign for openness.

If we truly cared about New Zealand’s disadvantaged children, then we would open our Family Court along the same lines as the Australian Family Court. Enabling judges to suppress individuals’ identities and close the court on a case-by-case basis – rather than maintaining a constant shroud of secrecy – would give the public a proper opportunity to assess whether family law is being enforced fairly and whether government agencies are acting in a competent manner.

Judges Boschier and Druce have served the public well by boldly opening up their courts. With Judge Boschier about to head the Family Court, I sincerely hope that the drive for change will gather momentum. If it does, then the benefits will flow. We will see, not only a long-awaited decline in the escalating rate of child abuse but, less adversarial litigation between parents warring over custody and access cases, who see that mediation is a better option.

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Peters/Ardern Triumph

There are a lot of good reasons to feel joyful about this outcome. It is what so many young voters – the best hope for the country’s future – wanted.

Far more important than the implications for the Economy Gods ( is the dollar up or down? ) last night’s outcome will also mean many, many vulnerable New Zealanders will have a better life over the next three years at least.

Yet the desire for change was in the majority, across the country..>>>More


Reaction

Labour on its agreement |Peters: Post-Election Announcement Speech | Greenpeace “cautiously hopeful” about new Government | ACT - Madman on the loose | E tū ecstatic | Chamber welcomes the outcome | Greens on their joining Govt | EDS welcomes new govt | Immigrant groups worry | Feds ready to engage new coalition government | Labour Ministers of the Crown announced

 

Climate: Increasing Greenhouse Emissions Hit NZ

New Zealand is seeing impacts of excess greenhouse gas emissions in our climate and oceans, according to the latest national report from the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ about the state of the atmosphere and climate…More>>

ALSO:


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>

ALSO:

Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>

ALSO:

Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>

ALSO:

Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>

ALSO:

Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election