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Courageous child advocates named Public Health Champions

Public Health Association media release
Embargoed until 9pm Tuesday 4 September 2012

Courageous child advocates named Public Health Champions

Two of New Zealand’s “most dedicated public health workers” have been recognised for their huge contribution to the wellbeing of New Zealand’s children. Tonight in Wellington Alison Blaiklock and Cindy Kiro were named the Public Health Association’s Joint Public Health Champions for 2012.

Public Health Association (PHA) President Monica Briggs paid tribute to the pair at the annual PHA Conference dinner, saying no one could argue for more worthy recipients.

“Alison and Cindy have long been courageous advocates for the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children. Their passion and determination to make New Zealand a better place for young people to grow up is an example to us all.”

She said both Alison and Cindy have impressive records when it comes to child advocacy and wellbeing – pedigrees of which they could both be very proud.

The theme of this year’s PHA Conference is Equity from the start – valuing our children, and the Public health Champions were chosen in alignment with that theme.

Alison Blaiklock was the founding chairperson of Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, which has fought tirelessly for the rights and wellbeing of children. She was also a founding member of the Child Poverty Action Group, and was executive director of the Health Promotion Forum for eight years before retiring earlier this year. In 2007 she received the Child Development Foundation’s Kiri Award, which recognises the efforts of someone who has made a significant contribution to the betterment of children.

She is now studying tropical medicine and public health and hopes to work for child health in a developing country.

While “overwhelmingly honoured” to accept the Public Health Champion Award, Alison says she is reluctant to list some of her proudest achievements over the years.

“They aren’t really my own achievements. Everything that has been achieved on behalf of children has been the result of real team efforts.”

Cindy Kiro has worked for more than 20 years in the health sector. In 2003 she was offered the role of Children’s Commissioner, making her the first woman, the youngest person and the first Maori to hold the position. She retired in 2009 and was appointed Head of the School of Public Health at Massey University. One of her proudest achievements was the repeal of the Section 59 of the Crimes Act which provided a legal justification for using force against children.

Cindy said accepting the Public Health Champion Award was a genuine honour.

“I’m also really chuffed to be sharing it with Alison. We’ve worked together for the health and wellbeing of children for a number of years.

“Alison and I were on the organising committee for the first conference on child poverty in New Zealand, and were also researchers together for UNICEF’s investigation into the impact of New Zealand’s economic reforms on children.”

Ms Briggs said that while there are many who are also worthy of recognition and praise, the courage and determination of these two made them standout choices for the annual Award, especially at a time when there is a growing awareness about the importance of addressing child wellbeing in New Zealand.

“Alison’s and Cindy’s achievements are shining examples of what can and has been done to improve the situation for these most vulnerable members of society. But recent reports and investigations in New Zealand reveal we still have a long way to go.”


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