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For the sake of Maori children, s59 must go

Media release

13 March 2007

For the sake of Maori children, s59 must go

The Public Health Association said to day that s59 of the Crimes Act must be repealed for the sake of all children but particularly for Maori children.

“Maori child abuse rates and infanticide are unacceptably high,” Director Dr Gay Keating said today.

“Repealing section 59 sends out an important message in this country: violence against children and young people in any form is not acceptable.”

“As long as unrestrained physical force remains an option for disciplining children, some parents will harm their children physically and emotionally. And as we know in the worst case some parents and caregivers scenario kill their children.”

“ The issue is not about parental rights, it is about protecting our children from violence that damages them, and in the most extreme cases kills them.”


Maori child abuse

1998-2003 data (Ministry of Social Development) show rates of abuse for Maori children decreasing from 13.0 per 1000 children aged 0-16 to 11.9 per 1000 children in 2003. These rates are still high compared with non-Maori rate of 5.9 per 1000.

For the period 1991-2000, children most at risk were Maori boys aged less than one.

In 2004 a study by University of Canterbury Researcher Mike Doolan found that:

1. The New Zealand profile of child death by homicide conforms largely with that found in other developed countries;

2. The incidence of child death by homicide in New Zealand has not changed significantly over the past 30 years. However, the rate of child homicide is reducing in over half the countries of the developed countries, while the New Zealand trend has been towards a slight increase;

3. There are statistically significant differences in the rate of homicide of Maori and non-Maori children and the differences have widened over the past 25 years;

4. The child most at risk of fatal violence in New Zealand between 1991 and 2000 was less than one year of age, male, and Maori. He was most likely to die from battering, sustaining head and other fatal bodily injuries inflicted by one of his parents

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