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The Tragedy Of James Whakaruru

The death of four year old James Whakaruru is a grim reminder of the dangers
facing children who grow up in s severely dysfunctional families. In most of
these families, education achievement is minimal, violence is rife, drug and
alcohol dependency is part of the daily lifestyle, and parental responsibility
is negligible. These are the families where children are maimed and murdered,
not by violent strangers, but by their own family.

According to the Minister of Social welfare, over the last five years, 13
children are known to have died as a result of homicide. Of these only two
died at the hands of a non-family person. Most of these children had been
subjected to what amounts to prolonged torture by the very people in their
lives who should have protected, loved and nurtured them.

The Government's response to this latest death has been a welcome call for an
inquiry into why this little boy, who had been known to the authorities
previously as the victim of earlier violence by his mother's partner, had not
been kept safe. But the Government and all of the other political parties,
except ACT, appear to be reluctant to look at the deeper issues.

Research has now established a clear link between family breakdown and child
abuse and between family breakdown and crime. Yet we fail to look seriously at
policies, which are clearly contributing to family breakdown - we fail to
address the underlying causes of these disastrous outcomes for children.

According to the Children and Young Person's Service, 17 children a day are
seriously abused in this country, with some 90,0000 children a year being at
risk. This is not a small problem we face but a massive one. Such statistics
paints New Zealand as one of the western world's most dangerous countries in
which to bring up children.

Until we look at the underlying incentives that operate in the legislative
framework of social policy, we will never get on top of this problem. We have
a situation where the benefit has produced third generation benefit dependency.
When a system pays people to do nothing, it destroys the sense of
responsibility that goes hand in hand with working for a living and striving to
make a better life for your children.

When a benefit system pays families if they split apart, we wonder why we have
the highest percentage of sole parents in the western world. When a benefit
system pays the mother more if she has more babies then she will have more
babies. According to an answer this week from the Associate Minister of Social
Services, Work and Income, a few women on the DPB have had eight additional
babies. This situations is not right and it was never the intention of the

Women on the DPB are unsupported as they bring up their children and their
children are often denied regular access to their father. In fact, in the case
of little James, his own father was denied access, while the man who killed
him had free access.

The ACT Party believes it is time that the New Zealand Parliament undertook a
comprehensive review of all laws relating to the family. The Australian
Parliament has carried out such a review and produced a series of
recommendations to their Parliament of ways to strengthen the family unit.

If New Zealanders believe that a strong and loving family, committed to
building a decent life for themselves is the best and safest environment in
which to raise children, then it is time to support the family instead of
weakening it and producing the sort of welfare dependency dysfunction that has
contributed to the death of James Whakaruru.


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