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Let’s take a lead from Mandela on child poverty

Let’s take a lead from Mandela on child poverty
A Christmas message from Brendan Horan

The festive season is upon us and for most of us plans are well underway for Christmas Day and the holidays we will share with whanau and friends into the New Year.

This is a time for children and as the proud father of two happy and healthy children, Kiahi and Leilani, it’s wonderful to see the sheer joy on their faces as they anticipate the visit of Santa and being surrounded by the people that cherish them most on Christmas Day.

But for very many New Zealand children the next few weeks will be a desperately bleak time as the swirl of gift buying and giving, of stocking up and excessive consumption, emphasises to them the deprivations they are required to put up with as a result of the poverty they are trapped in.

This sad truth was brought home to us this week when the first Child Poverty Monitor report (www.childpoverty.co.nz) was released by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. It contained some deeply disturbing facts.
• There are 265,000 children living in poverty in NZ today. That is one in four children.
• 17% of children go without the basic things the majority take for granted. They are constantly hungry, cold, alone, sad.
• One in 10 children lives in severe poverty that often results in hospital admission.
• Three out of five children living in poverty will live this way for many years.
• The poverty rate for Maori and Pasifika children is double the rate for pakeha. Half of all children living in poverty are Maori or Pasifika.

We should all be truly ashamed by this. How can we as a nation, held up as progressive and with one of the better performing economies in the developed world, be failing those that need us most to this extent? And the trends show no sign of abating.

The Expert Advisory Group that the Children’s Commissioner brought together for this exercise has identified the very many things that have contributed to this, and have offered up a very robust set of well-considered recommendations.

It is up to this and future Governments to address this abysmal situation and take up these recommendations. But we as parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents need to do our part as well by speaking our minds and taking action in our communities.

No child of Aotearoa should go toward this or any other Christmas without joy or hope in their heart. So let’s spread the aroha a little further and embrace those in need.

The final word on this should go to a truly great man who passed this week, Nelson Mandela. While remembered first and foremost for the part he played in pulling down the apartheid regime in South Africa and bringing democracy to his people, Mandela was a staunch advocate for the under-privileged and poverty-stricken.

One of his most famous quotes on this subject is one we should all heed this Christmas:

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”


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